[edit November 24, 2014]
Before I begin an article on Thanksgiving let me clear up any confusion about what you may have been told about the gut-filling holiday that began in 1621. Poor documentation of the first holiday allows for people to speculate its meaning and traditions. I prefer to accept a more modern explanation as to the traditional themes Thanksgiving offers.
Many Americans associate Thanksgiving with Native Americans and white-bonnet pilgrims splurging around a food-filled table. The story of Thanksgiving is told as a harmonious event that involved two (very different) cultures uniting over bounties of food, except that many staple turkey day dishes would not have been available for harvest in the earliest Thanksgiving feasts.
Call me curious, but what other information has been distorted?
The originator of the November holiday was a woman named Sarah Josepha Hale. Hale, editor and author of the legendary “Mary Had a Little Lamb” nursery rhyme, spent 40 years advocating for a national, annual Thanksgiving holiday.
Hale’s idea for the holiday stemmed from the years leading up to the Civil War. She wanted to use Thanksgiving as a way to promote unity through hope and belief in the nation and constitution.
Thanksgiving’s inception was an attempt to mend a nation torn by a civil war.
President Lincoln was savvy to the idea, declaring the last Thursday in November as the day of Thanksgiving. Seventy-five years after Lincolns Thanksgiving Proclamation, presidents who followed also honored the tradition and day.
Until President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The last Thursday of November fell on November 30 in 1939. The date caused problems for retailers that complained to FDR siting a meager 24 shopping days till Christmas would not be sufficient enough to make large profits and pleaded for Thanksgiving to be moved one week earlier. It had been determined that the majority of consumers did Christmas shopping after Thanksgiving and retailers yearned for an extra week of shopping so consumers would spend more.
FDR conceded and declared the date of Thanksgiving to be Thursday, November 23, the second-to-last Thursday of the month. The decision was significant due to the depression.
As if the history of Thanksgiving isn’t puzzling enough, we add hours of planning, cooking and cleaning in honor of the day. Before you stress thinking about preparations for the food and football-filled day let me propose creating a Green Thanksgiving this year and every year thereafter.
Allow me to coax you into loving this environmentally-friendly idea with these gems:
Buy organic: Organic food is 50% higher in vitamins, minerals and overall nutrients than non-organic. You must double the amount of non-organic foods to meet health benefits supplied by organic nutrition. Consuming mass produced non-organic goods expose you to 2x the amount of chemicals and pesticides than organic produce. Toxins used to “protect” crops leak into its own soil, contaminating the grown and possible the ground water.
Purchase an organic, heritage or meatless turkey: Conventional turkeys, aka Broad Breasted Whites, comprise 99.99% of supermarket turkeys. Birds shrink-wrapped in Butterball plastic, are produced by USDA scientists for maximum meat-production at an affordable price. Mass produced turkeys lead a miserable existence in dark, jam-packed spaces and are excessively over-fed making the bird unable to support its own weight.
On the other hand, heritage turkeys are the real deal. They roam freely across farmland, allowing them to maintain an active lifestyle and are given 2 times as long as conventionally-raised turkeys to reach slaughter weight. Exercise and slower growth makes a better tasting bird.
Organic and meatless turkeys are another worthy choice.
Shop local: It should not take Thanksgiving dinner 1500 miles to get to your table. Supporting your local farmers market will ensure the food you purchase travels a short distance producing a fresher harvest. Click to find a farmers market near you.
Be conscious of packaging: Purchase products with the least amount of packaging and avoid goods with wrapping that cannot be recycled. Check the package for its recycling number and aim for numbers 1 or 2.
Remember reusable shopping bags: Reusable bags can be easily forgotten, especially as the big day nears and your to-do-list is longer than your smartphones contact list. Grocery store plastic bags rip and tear along with wreaking havoc on the environment. It is only a matter of time before they are obsolete.
Gulp green: Toast with a glass of organic or biodynamic wine in recycled glasses. Support the cork industry by choosing organic wine without a plastic or twist off top, rather, cork instead. The cork industry is becoming jeopardized as the plug becomes less popular due to cheaper synthetic alternatives. The production of cork provides a number of scarce, high-paying agricultural jobs that remain in the world.
Consider soy: Soy candles are an eco-friendly option for decoration and ambiance. Take your pick of a variety of soy candles such as pillar, votives and floating candles to impact your day with glow. Candles not made from soy fill the air with toxins.
DIY recycled decorations: DIY projects add a personal and artistic touch for your guests. Handmade décor makes for great conversation pieces. Fall, nature elements remain a favorite and common theme used as Thanksgiving décor adding a natural touch. Don’t fear the use of construction paper in projects such as the Kids Thanksgiving Table because it can be recycled. Here are ideas to inspire dinner guests:
Car share: If you aren’t hosting, carpool to the fabulous dinner party with a friend or family member. You will kill two birds with one stone and score a designated driver. Score!
Holiday greetings: Are you still buying cliché Hallmark cards? Bust out those crayons and create a thoughtful masterpiece or save paper altogether (and stamp) and email a holiday greeting. In 2012, trite greeting cards are becoming irrelevant and wasteful.
Commit to recycling: Make the extra effort to recycle all paper, plastic, tin and glass from your celebration.
Planning a Green Thanksgiving will expand your knowledge of environmental concerns you didn’t not know existed. Trust me, you do not know all of them!
It is the obligation of mankind to individually lessen destructive behavior on the environment through awareness. The willingness to seek out the truth behind companies that produce an excessive amount of products that fill our grocery stores and relentlessly market us is important for a bright future.
If we won’t be bothered to care for our provider, earth, we become a burden.
Eco-centered traditions are priceless gifts to be handed down, hopeful to evolve as each generation becomes wiser thanks to the information age. Displaying gratitude for one another and the planet by reducing our carbon footprint is something everyone can be thankful for.