How to host a sustainable Michigan Thanksgiving

Michigan is a great place to host a sustainable Thanksgiving. We have a lot of local foods from which to choose if you know what and where to look.

Michigan is a great place to host a sustainable Thanksgiving. A sustainable Thanksgiving would address the multiple dimensions of sustainability such as ensuring ecological integrity, social justice and economic vitality. We have a lot of local foods from which to choose if you know what to look for and where to look.

Think about the local origins of your food and the multiple benefits buying local foods entails. To reduce carbon emissions that harm the environment, choosing local can mean a reduction of food transportation. That means we can find local turkeys, corn, potatoes, beans and breads with relative ease. You can look to see the online application to identify local farms and restaurants that serve Michigan food products. Michigan State University has also partnered with other universities to develop Michigan Market Maker that helps build connections among farmers, restaurants, retail and wholesale outlets. Of course don’t forget that several farmers markets remain open through Thanksgiving.

Buying local not only helps the environment but promotes economic vitality in Michigan. If you would like to reduce the ecological impact further you can look for organic foods with fewer herbicides and pesticides as well as pasture or free range turkey. You can review the kinds of turkeys available in a story developed by Michigan State University Extension.


Photo credit:

Of course, a large part of Thanksgiving revolves around the aesthetics of food. A growing trend has been the preparation of fried turkey. You might consider the disposal of the waste oil that results from deep frying. There are services such as in Kent County that collect waste oil to recycle and/or to turn into fuel such as biodiesel so that the waste oil does not end up in the soil or sewage system. You might consider seeing how a 4-H group developed their own biodiesel program recycling school cooking oil. Sharing recipes from family is a great way to maintain family traditions, but to also look to expand to new recipes that might involve more Michigan products or more healthy products.

To acknowledge native Michigan foods and the origins of the holiday in terms of the hospitality of tribes toward the newly arrived Europeans you can look to include fish such as whitefish or lake trout or wild game such as deer. You can also consider donating some of your newly harvested Thanksgiving venison to those in need through Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger.

Further addressing the social justice origins of the holiday use the opportunity to gather with family and friends to think critically and discuss the meaning of the holiday, and as an opportunity to learn more about Michigan tribes.

Use the holiday to build civic participation and connectedness by inviting your neighbors and perhaps others you don’t know as well, or people that have no one else with whom to share this day. Given the tendency for massive amounts of food that leads to waste, you might consider reducing the volume of food to reduce waste (and also waistlines!), but you can also think of finding ways to donate extra food to those in need. Speaking of which, it is a great time for civic participation by providing for those in need through donations and or service in food pantries, shelters, hospitals, and other health care facilities.

Thanksgiving provides a great opportunity to practice your sustainability in a way that celebrates the holiday while contributing towards ecological integrity, economic vitality, social justice, aesthetic quality, civic participation, critical thinking, systems thinking and personal growth.

Did you find this article useful?