Environmental Thanksgiving: Giving thanks to our environment

Give Thanksgiving an environmental focus by implementing these simple tips that give thanks for our Earth.

Thanksgiving is approaching, and it’s a time for giving thanks for our many fortunes. What better way to show appreciation than to give thanks to the Earth? After all, the Earth provides us with all our needs, from the basics of food and water to the many luxuries we seem to enjoy. Consider these simple ways for engaging youth to give thanks to our Earth and the environment.

Begin by giving thanks for clean air, water and land. These are the basics that all life depends on. Be thankful for the legislation and laws that protect these resources, the individuals who created them and those who enforce them. The Tragedy of the Commons is a grim reminder of what could happen if we don’t have these laws in place. When you gather with your elders over the holiday, encourage them to talk about when things weren’t protected the way they are now. They could talk about when the Cuyahoga River caught fire, or when piles of alewives washed up on the beaches of the Great Lakes, or local sites of environmental pollution. By the way, you can also give thanks for the amount and variety of all other natural resources Michigan has to offer!

Next, consider helping others with their Thanksgiving feast. There are many who are less fortunate than us who could use a little help. Consider volunteering at a food pantry or church. Perhaps you know some others who might be alone for the holiday and would welcome an invitation. You could consider taking some meals to others who would appreciate a full meal. Whatever the case, if you have more than your fill, consider sharing with others.

You can also try to minimize as much waste as possible in your meal preparation. Keep in mind all the excess packaging when purchasing your Thanksgiving meal this year. Many plastics and wraps are unnecessary, are a single use throw-away and won’t decompose, taking up space in a landfill. Don’t forget to recycle all the containers you can. Shop at a local farmer’s market or vegetable stand to avoid all the gasoline used for transporting food. Use reusable grocery bags and just say no to plastic bags. Turkey is the traditional main dish, so look around to identify a local outlet where you might purchase a bird. All these might take a little extra time, but they are worth the effort. Do you think you can make a zero-waste Thanksgiving?

Try not to fill your plate beyond what you can eat. That extra stuffing or cranberries you crave might get thrown in the garbage and be wasted. It is simple to fill your plate with a manageable amount of food and go back for seconds for the foods you really like when your plate is empty. Left for too long, Thanksgiving food will get old and eventually get tossed. Consider sending them home with others to share or donate them to a shelter or pantry. There are other helpful tips to make your Thanksgiving more environmentally friendly. These tips are not only helpful during Thanksgiving, but all year long.

Lastly, give thanks to children and all youth; they are our future. "We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our Children" is a saying that is wise to acknowledge. In doing so, we can all enjoy many more Thanksgivings for years to come.

Michigan State University Extension encourages participation in new experiences that are safe and expose youth to science involvement with 4-H science: Asking questions and discovering answers. Please contact me at baumga75@anr.msu.edu for ideas on spending time outdoors with youth.

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