Americans will spend billions on feeding their guests this Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and New Year's Eve, with most of that money going toward food. Wouldn’t you like that money to go back into your local economy? Here’s how you can buy locally, save some time, and give some love back to the environment during the holidays.
Farmer’s markets may seem more prevalent during the summer and fall seasons, but many markets move indoors during the winter months or farmers sell their organic produce through larger grocery stores. This means that much of your holiday meal can be found locally and in season thanks to local growers. Beans, brussel sprouts, cabbage, eggplant, onions, mushrooms, potatoes, squash, and more are Thanksgiving staples and stay in season throughout much of the winter. Buying locally not only puts money back into your region’s economy, but it also reduces your food’s carbon footprint because many grocery stores ship fruits and vegetables from across the country and even overseas. If you’re shopping at a regular grocery store, look for stickers and signage that tell you where your produce is from - and if it's organic - before you choose. You can also use the U.S.D.A.'s national farmer’s market directory to find a fresh foods market near you.
The Organic Turkey.
Sadly, almost all mass produced turkeys in America are raised in a factory or farm under poor, crowded conditions that involve overfeeding with the aim of producing larger birds, faster. (More) These conditions are deplorable and unhealthy for the animals and the people who eat them, but there are alternatives.
Vegetarian Thanksgiving feasts are always an option, and we’re not just talking tofurkey – check out these delicious vegetarian menus from Gourmet. But if you’re not willing to face a meatless holiday, consider purchasing a Heritage turkey or an organic turkey. These birds are raised naturally, fed organic food, and allowed to grow at a normal, healthy rate. The natural slow-growth method means the turkeys are better for you and your family, plus they taste a lot better! You can often find them at local farmer’s markets, regional farms, and specialty grocery stores. Check out LocalHarvest, an online organic and local food store to find a fresh, organic turkey farm near you or consider purchasing a Heritage turkey. Learn more at Heritage Foods U.S.A. What is an organic turkey? An organic turkey is one that is raised humanely, grass fed, and allowed to roam free (free range).
It’s easy to incorporate local, seasonal foods into your desserts. Sweet potatoes, rhubarb, and pumpkins are in season from late-fall to early-winter in most of the country. If you like to do the cooking yourself, check out these organic pumpkin pie and rhubarb pie and other recipes. They're tasty, healthy and fun for the whole family to prep and bake.
Last, but definitely not least, you can even make environmentally responsible choices when buying alcohol. Technically, beverages can’t be certified as organic because more than 60% of their content is water, but there are many breweries and wineries adhering to organic, environmentally-conscious standards when producing their products. Some companies, like Sierra Nevada, use strictly organic wheat when making their beer. They’ve also implemented a private solar array and are working toward operating with 100% sustainable energy. They even recycle their own wastewater. Is wine on your menu? Consider the carbon footprint of your vino! While it may be easy to find wines from overseas and Napa Valley in the average store, it probably traveled a long way to get there. Try arranging a tasting of local options for your guests, if you're lucky enough to have vineyards in your region. Many parts of the country have local wineries that produce delicious, organic products each season. If close-to-home varieties aren't available to you, check out The Daily Green’s guide to organic wines to help you make some great green, healthy picks.
Have your own ideas for going green during the holidays? Share your tips with us -- we may feature you here! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our comment section below.