A cry for help: How Thanksgiving harms our planet

Thanksgiving dinner table. Karolina Grabowska / Pexels

Alba Rosa | Assistant Opinion Director

Even though Thanksgiving celebrates harvest and blessings with a feast, a problem arises. Food wasted during this time negatively impacts our environment and will continue to do so until we do something about it.

Thanksgiving is the time of the year when the family cooks a variety of dishes that won’t be eaten in their entirety. This is a big problem because leftovers are thrown away and sent to landfills — most likely wrapped in plastic bags — producing a harmful toxin called methane, which is directly responsible for polluting our environment.

We have to change this bad habit of ours and start exploring more sustainable ways to celebrate Thanksgiving.

According to ReFED, a non-profit dedicated to ending food loss and waste, 305 million pounds of food were thrown out during Thanksgiving last year. Throughout the year, 80 billion tons of food were wasted, an alarming amount of greenhouse gas emissions generated — about half a million metric tons of them. It’s the same amount of gas emissions a standard car would generate for 1.1 billion miles.

We should be aware of the environmental damage we’re responsible for. Many of the things we do in our day-to-day likebuying, cooking and preparing food for this holiday, have negatively impacted our environment.

At this point, the planet is crying for help. 

As consumers, we have a role to play in order to help our environment, so let’s start exploring ways to solve this problem as we spread harmony amongst people, which is the true meaning of Thanksgiving.

If there’s food left and you don’t plan on eating them anytime soon, don’t throw it out. Take the opportunity to donate food to the homeless shelters in your area. 

“For many of the homeless, Thanksgiving Day is just another day without food or shelter,” describes The Homeless Voice, a non-profit agency defending the homeless all over Florida. 

And, even though the help is greatly appreciated during the holiday, it’s equally as important to share your leftovers with the homeless on any given day, as food waste and food insecurity aren’t problems that only happen during Thanksgiving Day. And it’s equally as sad.

33.8 million people all over the U.S. are struggling to afford meals for their families. They often go hungry because of their food insecurity, which leads to diet-sensitive sicknesses like diabetes. 

You can also try composting your leftovers. It’s the process of burying food waste, anything that isn’t animal products or oil, in the ground to get rid of the scraps quicker while also having enough nutrients to grow plants. It’s considered a version of recycling.

But you don’t just bury them — there needs to be a balance of materials in order for them to successfully work.

There are many ways of avoiding this habit of ours. But, whatever you do, don’t carelessly throw food away.

Our bad habits have impacted our environment for long enough and, as Thanksgiving comes closer, we must start exhibiting changes in our routines to help our environment. Everything we do counts, especially if you start now.


The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.

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