The carbon footprint of a Thanksgiving meal and how to reduce it



Thanksgiving kicks off the holiday season as the second most celebrated holiday in the United States. Whether your traditions are old or new, the whole country gathers around a table that offers a holiday feast. A new report from Brightly steps down from the Thanksgiving table to examine the sustainability of the national meal, detailing the carbon footprint of each Thanksgiving signature dish.

Brightly’s report ranks carbon emissions based on an average table of 12 people at this holiday dinner. The study points out that the central issue is the most popular centerpiece for the Thanksgiving holiday: Turkey. Turkey is the centerpiece of 81 percent of Thanksgiving tables across the United States, exhibiting a substantial environmental impact for just one day. Other dishes include pork stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie, and mashed potatoes.

Brightly’s report aims to raise awareness over the holiday season by asking people to consider introducing more eco-friendly and plant-based options without abandoning all of their traditional dishes. The report aims to visualize the impact a single dinner party can have on the planet, further advocating for plant-based and eco-friendly solutions beyond the Thanksgiving table.

“No one is supposed to give up their favorite holiday dishes in order to reduce their carbon footprint, but we can all take small steps to make them a greener feast,” said Brightly co-founder and chief marketing officer. Liza Moiseeva. “We recommend making the vegetable stuffing instead of the pork stuffing, using non-dairy swaps in some of your recipes, and cooking the meal all at once. ‘advance to reheat them later, but this increases the carbon emissions associated with cooking. “

It has been brilliantly noted that an average Thanksgiving dinner produces around 103 pounds of CO2. Typically, the Thanksgiving table is dominated by meat and dairy, with significant environmental stresses on the supply system. A recent study from the scientific journal Natural food concluded that meat production is responsible for 57 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, more than double the level generated by plant-based food production. This alarming statistic is a key motivation behind Brightly’s report to promote a nationwide transition to sustainable plant-based foods.

“The shows are on the high end of what we expected, it was a bit of a surprise,” University of Illinois climate scientist and co-author Atul Jain wrote in the published report. in Nature Food. “This study shows the entire cycle of the food production system, and policymakers may want to use the results to think about how to control greenhouse gas emissions.”

How to make your Thanksgiving more sustainable

Brightly presents a six-step solution to the environmental problems that arise from Thanksgiving dinner. The report suggests that U.S. consumers make vegetable stuffing, skip roast beef, cut back on dairy, cook in unison, defrost overnight to save water and energy, and add more vegetables, especially as an alternative to turkey.

The eco-friendly publication determined that a typical 20-pound turkey would account for 64 pounds of the total 103 pounds of CO2 emissions during Thanksgiving dinner. Between the supply chain of animal agriculture and the energy required to cook a Thanksgiving turkey, it ranks as the most environmentally harmful dish on the table.

Experts predict that 4.5 million vegetable turkeys will be served on Thanksgiving. With that in mind, a previous study concluded that a turkey dinner produces twice as many greenhouse gas emissions as a vegan nut roast, meaning that omitting the turkey from the table could reduce by almost half the carbon footprint.

The UN-funded Chatham House think tank released a report earlier this year that says the best thing consumers can do for the environment is to reduce demand for meat and dairy and incorporate more plant-based diets. The report states that “the biggest differences occur between foods of animal origin and foods of plant origin, the latter having a smaller footprint; in some cases considerably smaller. “

Recently, plant-based foods have come to the forefront of international discourse regarding the climate crisis and carbon emissions. The Plants Treaty expands on the Paris Agreement to highlight the environmental benefits that flow from agriculture and plant-based diets. The treaty explains how moving international food systems towards plant-based production could help restore a damaged environment and atmosphere, reducing carbon emissions from livestock.

Switching off foods of animal origin could significantly reduce carbon emissions. Another report found that 20 livestock companies produce more greenhouse gas emissions than three major countries: France, Britain and Germany. The report emphasizes the dangers of consuming meat and dairy products.

Other signature dishes that Brightly suggest to be made plant-based include stuffing (25 pounds CO2), mashed potatoes (9 pounds CO2), cranberry sauce (2 pounds CO2) and the pie (3 pounds of CO2). By cutting back on dairy and meat ingredients, Brightly intends to reduce the disproportionate environmental burden of just one holiday dinner.

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