by Katelyn To
When you think of Thanksgiving, you probably picture you and your family crowded around a long table, about to devour an extravagant meal. Roasted turkey, fluffy mashed potatoes, warm dinner rolls, tart cranberry sauce… while that sounds delicious, the effect thanksgiving meals have on the environment isn’t as great. The abundance of food, types of food, the methods used to cook it, and even the state you live in are all factors contributing to how your Thanksgiving dinner can affect the planet.
A Thanksgiving meal isn’t complete without roast turkey. Thankfully (no pun-intended) its effect on the environment isn’t as large as you’d expect. Beef, a well-known detriment to the environment, emits about 10.5 times as much greenhouse gases than turkey does, according to the Washington Post. To visualize it, one serving of turkey has around the same impact as driving a car for three miles. Really, it could be a lot worse.
On another positive note, California isn’t as harmful to the environment as many other states. Carnegie Mellon University states that an average 22.2 pounds of carbon dioxide is emitted for every Thanksgiving meal, due to California’s major reliance on natural gas and solar energy. This seems like a large amount, but is not compared to states that use coal power, like Wyoming and West Virginia. However, states that primarily use hydroelectric power and natural gas like Maine and Vermont emit the smallest amounts of carbon dioxide per meal.
In addition, plant-based foods such as pumpkin pie or green bean casserole are less detrimental than meat, because animal manure emits methane and nitrous oxide, and the animals require abundant amounts of food. However, it isn’t the meal that matters, but the way you get to that meal. For example, if your family travels somewhere to celebrate Thanksgiving, that could be worse for the environment than the entire meal. According to Carnegie Mellon University, four people flying 600 miles emits 10 times as many greenhouse gases than the Thanksgiving dinner itself. Basically, if you want to minimize your impact on the environment as much as possible this Thanksgiving, it would be best to stay home. In reality, Thanksgiving meals aren’t as big of a hit to the Earth as one might have thought. They still create a bigger effect than most regular dinner meals, but that is mostly because of the mere size of the meal. If you don’t eat beef and travel a long distance for your meal this year, you are good to go.