Have a Happy, Sustainable Thanksgiving

Amy Spark, Bow Valley College’s sustainability coordinator, talks about how we can enjoy a more sustainable Thanksgiving.

I met Amy Spark, Bow Valley College’s sustainability coordinator, to talk to her about how we can enjoy a more sustainable Thanksgiving.

“It’s a celebration and feast of abundance, so how does sustainability enter the discussion?” I ask.

Amy pulls out a copy of Drawdown, a New York Times bestseller, billed as containing “the 100 most substantive solutions to reverse global warming, based on meticulous research by leading scientists and policymakers around the world”.

“According to Drawdown reducing food waste and eating more plant-based proteins are two of the top five actions people can take to reverse climate change,” Amy explains.

Buy local

That doesn’t mean forgoing your turkey, or your ham, this Thanksgiving.

To help our local economy, which Amy notes is part of sustainability, buy your turkey or ham from a local farmer, or from one of Calgary’s farmers’ markets. (

“You can consider having a turkey or a ham, rather than both, and increase the number of vegetables you serve, or introduce diverse protein [such as legumes]. This also aligns with better health,” she points out.

Reduce food waste

It can be tempting to cook a large meal, but try cooking for the number of people coming for dinner, rather than offering an overabundance of food that may go to waste.

That said, I have found a way around that by asking my guests to bring containers that I fill up with leftovers for them to take home. It’s very popular. Your friends and family will love you even more for sending them home with delicious food.

I also use the leftovers in meals like Turkey à la King, turkey salad, turkey sandwiches, or turkey-based pasta sauce. And I use ends of vegetables and the turkey carcass for a soup stock.

Go reusable

If you can, avoid using single-use paper plates, plastic cups, and paper napkins. It’s difficult to get away from paper napkins, especially. Amy suggests that you place them on the table for people to use as required, rather than place a napkin at each setting or you can use reusable cloth napkins.

For those of us with a Martha Stewart fixation, Amy recommends using reusable decorations, or getting creative with natural autumn features that you can find in your yard, including leaves, branches, berries, and pine cones.

Fly sustainably

Many of us fly home to another city to be with family for Thanksgiving.

“You can consider donating to local environmental groups that plant trees to offset the carbon footprint of your flight,” she says. She suggests two: Tree Era or Tree Canada Many other environmental organizations would certainly appreciate your donation, too.

Honour the Earth

I ask Amy why it matters that we attempt to celebrate Thanksgiving more sustainably.

“As a community, we need to think about what we are actually celebrating,” she says. “We are celebrating abundance and all that our natural world gives to us. With that abundance comes responsibility. Honour what you receive through the harvest with an ethic of thankfulness and reciprocity.”

Happy Thanksgiving.

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