Making holiday dinners sustainable

While the holiday season is recognized as a time of giving and spending, it is also known as a time of eating, and as a result, it is a time of tremendous waste. The United States Department of Agriculture reports that on Thanksgiving Day alone, one fifth of food prepared by Americans is discarded without consumption. Luckily for the celebrators of the season however, there are simple solutions available to everyone as they seek to “green” their holiday practices in the kitchen.

The most basic level of sustainability in holiday meal preparation presents itself in packaging. Picking brands that use a minimal amount of paper and plastic in packaging their products reduces waste at the source. Buying bulk products that require less packaging materials are also preferable over items packaged as single products. Many “single-use” food containers can be rinsed and used again. In the case that an item is rendered useless, the Wellesley Recycling and Disposal Facility offers a comprehensive set of options to residents in its multi-stream recycling system, where virtually any waste can be disposed of properly.

As for food waste, not all leftovers belong in the trash. Almost any uneaten food will last a set number of days under the right conditions to be consumed at a later date. Many perishables, like meat dishes or fruit pies, can last up to a year when frozen. Cookie and other baking dough will generally last in the freezer for three months or so. Different recipes and products vary in exact lifetimes.

For food waste that will not be eaten in the future, composting can also be an accessible alternative to traditional garbage disposal. Invertebrates, like worms, help organic waste decompose, turning it into compost. To create their own compost collection, composters can gather organic food waste and add worms into a ventilated container with rotation on a regular basis. Correctly-executed composting is particularly important because in a typical landfill the lack of oxygen circulating through materials as they break down causes methane to build up, increasing fire risk and toxic gas presence.

The options for keeping the edible aspects of the holiday season sustainable are endless in number. Just selecting a few of the many and taking small steps towards a more environmentally-friendly December has a demonstrably massive impact when initiated residents throughout the Wellesley community, as well as on the national and worldwide scale.

(Matthew Hornung and Olivia Gieger)


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