Thanksgiving's Huge Carbon Footprint 

click to enlarge 123RF.COM, LESZEK GLASNER
  •, Leszek Glasner
When most people think of Thanksgiving they conjure images of turkey and stuffing. Others, however, see the holiday's giant carbon footprint.

Mike Berners-Lee, author of How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything, says air transportation is the real carbon killer over the Thanksgiving holiday, as a typical Boeing 747 burns more than 100 tons of fuel per trip. That adds up quick, considering nearly 50 million Americans travel—many by air—during the week.

“So you end up with an enormous carbon footprint shared out between the passengers," wrote Berners-Lee who is, for the record, a native Brit.

He says the carbon impact of holiday air transportation far outweighs the food. For a 500-mile trip, you would probably have to consume more than 100 pounds of turkey to equal the environmental effects of the flight. So-called "food miles"—the distance your dinner has to travel before it lands on your—table can add up, too.

"Cranberries, potatoes and turkeys for Thanksgiving often travel 1,500 to 2,500 miles from the farm,"
according to the Worldwatch Institute.

That's about 25 percent farther than food items would have traveled only two decades ago.

click to enlarge SUSTAINABLE AMERICA
  • Sustainable America
In 2012, Sustainable America published what it called a "100-mile Thanksgiving"—an effort to source more ingredients within 100 miles of the dinner table. The awareness push promoted local farmers markets, greater awareness of what's in season in each region, and what it called "heritage, pastured or organic turkeys." Sustainable America also urged turkey day celebrants to use real dishes and silverware instead of disposables. "If every family in the U.S. bought one less package of paper plates this year, we could save almost half-a-million trees," 100-mile Thanksgiving authors wrote.

Meanwhile, the Sierra Club's message of "waste not, want not," recommends cooking "just enough," so food isn't tossed into the garbage. Rather, the organization asks consumers to shop wisely, don't try to over-fill the table and package up leftovers.

click to enlarge SUSTAINABLE AMERICA
  • Sustainable America

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