Quick Tips for a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Personally, I prefer to call the traditional fall meal a Harvest Feast. There is so much controversy surrounding the history of the “First Thanksgiving” as I was taught in American Schools. In Canada, there seems to be an emphasis placed on the First Nations People and their giving of thanks for the harvest that will see them through the winter months.
I thought I would share some ways that you can shift your get together towards being a more zero waste Thanksgiving celebration.

Zero Waste Thanksgiving TIps

Did you know that in the US the following is wasted each year just from a typical Thanksgiving meal.

  • 172 million pounds of turkey
  • 14 million pounds of dinner rolls
  • 29 million pounds of vegetable sides
  • 30 million pounds of gravy
  • 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes
  • 38 million pounds of stuffing

Plan ahead for a Zero Waste Thanksgiving Meal

Food waste, if it were to be measured as a country, would be the world’s third largest country of green house gas emissions. Planning ahead for the amount of people and their dietary preferences is always a good idea. Don’t assume that everyone is going to take home left overs, or that they will enjoy the way you prepare the food. If they take the food home out of courtesy it may be zero waste for you, but if they end up tossing it, it is still waste.

BUY LOCAL!
When you are shopping, choose items with the last packaging and don’t forget your reusable bags!

Host a “Pot Luck Style” Thanksgiving dinner for less waste

To make this one work, make sure to keep track of who is bringing what. Having some sort of sign up would be optimal. Reasons why this style works is that it takes some of the stress of cooking and storing food from the host. You can ensure that people will cook things the way they enjoy it and there will be less that goes to waste. This can also be a fun way to explore zero waste Thanksgiving get together as you can pick different types of cuisines. I am not aware of any rule that says you have to have the traditional turkey and sides.

Growing up, my Dad’s side of the family used this style. My Grama would make the turkey and some of the side dishes. My Aunts would bring other dishes and deserts.

Zero Waste Ideas for Thanksgiving Left Overs

If you do have left overs, you can keep a stash of containers for people to take food home in. I keep and reuse almost everything, so I am usually the one who shows up to family meals with containers for everyone to take stuff home in. If you brought a dish, you can take home left overs in it. If you’re feeling brave enough, ask everyone to bring their own containers if they want left overs to take home.

Get creative. Stay away from the traditional plastic cling wrap and you’re on your way to a zero waste Thanksgiving Day.

What doesn’t get eaten, compost!

Zero Waste Thanksgiving Decor

It’s fall!
You can keep your decor simple, yet elegant, by working in natural items.
Get creative and create a nature inspired look.
When you’re through, the natural items can be added to your compost.


Obvious Zero Waste Thanksgiving Choices

Skip the disposable plates and cutlery.
If you’re short on dishes or flatware, ask some friends or family if they have anything you can borrow to avoid needlessly buying more. If you will be using them in them in the future and can justify the need, check out thrift stores for pieces that go with what you have.

Use cloth napkins.

If disposable items are absolutely needed, opt for something compost-able.

Why should we strive towards a zero waste lifestyle? Read this post to find out more.

Environmental Books for Preschoolers

We love books in our house.
… to the point where we have numerous book cases overflowing with books, and the kids know that I will almost never say no to buying another book.
I put together a list of environmental books to introduce preschoolers to the environment and environmental issues.

15 Books to introduce preschoolers to the environment and environmental issues

1. Me … Jane by Patrick McDonnell

This book tells the story of a young Jane Goodall and her toy chimpanzee named Jubilee. The young Jane observes the world around her and aspires to grow up to help and live “a life living with and helping all animals”.

Dr. Jane Goodall is a renowned humanitarian, conservationist, animal activist, environmentalist, and United Nations Messenger of Peace. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute to empower people to make a difference for all living things

2. The Lonely Polar Bear Hardcover by Khoa Le

This sweet children’s picture book presents a moving story, set in a fragile Arctic world threatened by global warming. A little polar bear wakes up alone after a furious storm. With his mother nowhere in sight, he makes friends with a mysterious little girl and various animal companions. All of the friends come together in the magnificent polar sky. In the end the little bear sits peacefully, enjoying a winter day lit up by beautiful northern lights. Featuring exceptional illustrations from talented Vietnamese illustrator Khoa Le, The Lonely Polar Bear offers an accessible way to introduce children to climate change issues.

3. I Want to Go Green! But What Does that Mean? by Dr Jill Dunn

This fun, rhyming story for elementary-aged children explores what it means to “Go Green.” The adorable character in this beautifully illustrated picture book takes readers on a silly yet educational adventure as he discovers simple ways to conserve resources and keep the Earth clean.

4. Don’t Let Them Disappear by Chelsea Clinton

Young readers are introduced to a selection of endangered animals, sharing what makes them special, and also what threatens them. Don’t Let Them Disappear talks about rhinos, tigers, whales, pandas and more while providing helpful tips on what we all can do to help prevent these animals from disappearing from our world entirely.

5. Why Should I Protect Nature? by Jen Green

When children take a trip to the countryside, some of them are rowdy and careless, breaking tree branches and scattering trash. But if everyone acted that way, there would soon be no trees, no birds, and the fields would be ugly and unsafe for both animals and people. Part of every child’s development involves asking questions. Today, some of the most important questions kids ask are related to the natural environment. The enlightening and entertaining four-book Why Should I? series demonstrates the importance of protecting nature. Books present brief, entertaining stories that answer children’s questions and feature amusing colour illustrations on every page.

6. Spring After Spring: How Rachel Carson Inspired the Environmental Movement by Stephanie Roth Sisson

I happen to love Rachel Carson.

As a child, Rachel Carson lived by the rhythms of the natural world. Spring after spring, year after year, she observed how all living things are connected. And as an adult, Rachel watched and listened as the natural world she loved so much began to fall silent. Spring After Spring traces Rachel’s journey as scientist and writer, courageously speaking truth to an often hostile world through her book, and ultimately paving the way for the modern environmental movement.

7. Compost Stew by Mary McKenna Siddals

Apple cores, Bananas, bruised, Coffee grounds with filters, used. Just add to the pot, and let it all rot into Compost Stew!

From eggshells to wiggly worms, this delightful recipe in bouncy verse features items–some familiar and some not so–that are fit for the home compost bin and will nourish Mother Earth. Vibrant collage illustrations use recycled and found materials to further a timely message. And to keep young environmental chefs fully informed about composting do’s and don’ts, there’s a note in the back about what’s not fit for the bin.

A great environmental book for preschoolers as it something practical that they can easily do at home to help. It made my youngest excited about composting.

8. My Friend Earth by Patricia MacLachlan

Our friend Earth does so many wonderful things! She tends to animals large and small. She pours down summer rain and autumn leaves. She sprinkles whisper-white snow and protects the tiny seeds waiting for spring. And just as she nurtures the habitats of all the animals — and the lands on which we live — we need to tend to and care for her, too!

9. Hey, Water! by Antoinette Portis

“Portis narrates in a conversational tone — ‘Hey, water! I know you! You’re all around.’ But her story tackles a tricky cognitive task — recognizing an element that masquerades in different states…. The same element can exist in several different forms, the words imply — our senses don’t always tell us the truth about identity. Notes at the end with additional illustrations provide more information about states of matter, the water cycle, and conservation.”

— Publishers Weekly

10. Outside In by Deborah Underwood

Outside is waiting, the most patient playmate of all. The most generous friend. The most miraculous inventor. This thought-provoking picture book poetically underscores our powerful and enduring connection with nature, not so easily obscured by lives spent indoors.
Rhythmic, powerful language shows us how our world is made and the many ways Outside comes in to help and heal us, and reminds us that we are all part of a much greater universe. Emotive illustrations evoke the beauty, simplicity, and wonder that await us all . . . outside.

11. Kaia and the Bees by Maribeth Boelts

Kaia is the brave type. Like hottest-hot-pepper brave. But there is one thing that scares her: BEES! And right now, thousands of bees live on her roof because Kaia’s dad is a beekeeper. Her dad says that the world needs bees and that’s why they are beekeepers. But only he goes on the roof, not Kaia — unless she can find a way to be the brave girl she always says she is.

Buzzing with story-time potential, Kaia and the Bees is an honest and relatable tale about bravery and compassion, as well as the importance of bees to our world and is a great addition to your collection of environmental books for preschoolers.

12. Miss Fox’s Class Goes Green by Eileen Spinelli

When Miss Fox shows up at school riding her bicycle, Mouse asks, “Do you have a flat tire?” “No,” Miss Fox tells her students. “I am going green!” Soon everyone in the class is working to keep the earth healthy. Mouse takes shorter showers (and does her singing after!); Bunny brings a cloth bag to the supermarket; and Possum turns the lights off when he goes out. And Miss Fox’s simple act has ripples even beyond her own students…soon the whole school starts riding their bikes–including the principal.

13. Jane: My First Jane Goodall by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Yes, another Jane Goodall book.
I don’t even remember how it happened now, but my middle kiddo learned about Jane Goodall and was immediately amazed and inspired by her. They even dressed up as Jane Goodall for Halloween and their little sister dressed up as a monkey. It was the closest we could find to a little gorilla costume.

This board book version of Jane Goodall—from the critically acclaimed Little People, BIG DREAMS series—introduces the youngest dreamers to the world’s foremost expert on chimpanzees.

14. Finding Wild by Megan Wagner Lloyd

There are so many places that wild can exist, if only you know where to look! Can you find it? Two kids set off on an adventure away from their urban home and discover all the beauty of the natural world. From the bark on the trees to the sudden storm that moves across the sky to fire and flowers, and snowflakes and fresh fruit. As the children make their way through the woods and back to the paved and noisy streets, they discover that wild exists not just off in some distant place, but right in their own backyard.

A lovely, lyrical picture book with gorgeous illustrations that explores the ways the wild makes itself known to us and how much closer it is than we think.

15. Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya by Donna Jo Napoli

The true story of Wangari Muta Maathai, known as “Mama Miti,” who in 1977 founded the Green Belt Movement, an African grassroots organization that has empowered many people to mobilize and combat deforestation, soil erosion, and environmental degradation. Today more than 30 million trees have been planted throughout Mama Miti’s native Kenya, and in 2004 she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. Wangari Muta Maathai has changed Kenya tree by tree — and with each page turned, children will realize their own ability to positively impact the future.

… and of course

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss

The Lorax inspired me as a child to care about environmental issues.
I even have “Unless” tattooed as a reminder that unless someone cares, things won’t change. My tattoo artist, being a hippie, thought it was one of the neatest things that she had done. It is simple yet powerful.

I am the Lorax. I speak for the trees.

Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.

Dr. Seuss’s beloved story teaches kids to speak up and stand up for those who can’t. Published in 1971, The Lorax is an ecological warning that still rings true today amidst the dangers of clear-cutting, pollution, and disregard for the earth’s environment The Lorax allows young readers to experience the beauty of the Truffula Trees and the danger of taking our earth for granted, all in a story that is timely, playful, and hopeful. The book’s final pages teach us that just one small seed, or one small child, can make a difference. 

This book is always on the top of my list of books about environment for kids, but seems like such an obvious choice that I added it at the end to highlight some new books.

reading the lorax environmental books for kids

There are so many great books that it was hard to narrow it down.
Are there any environmental books for preschoolers that you would suggest?


Pin for later


This post includes affiliate links. If you make a purchase using an affiliate link I may get a few bucks, at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.