Zero Waste Challenge

10 Useful (and Simple) Tips for a Zero-Waste Thanksgiving – Zero Waste Challenge – Week 9

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Another week, another update!

In past updates, I have listed out all the past posts from the challenge. But as we are approaching week 10 here, that list is getting long. Instead, if you are new or want a refresher, I would encourage you to visit this page where you can find all the updates.


Here are our results from the past week:


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This week was the first week I felt like we were really in a good rhythm with our waste, recycling, and collection organic recycling. We STILL don’t have our compost pile set up (ran into some difficulties setting it up), but we are collecting food waste for whenever it gets built.

A couple notes from last week:

  • Our organic recycling was down because we reduced our food waste in general by utilizing the ‘eat me now’ section of the fridge. We also put produce there that needs to be eaten and used all of it! Additionally, last week we composted our pumpkin guts from carving pumpkins, and that contributed to a lot of the waste.
  • Our trash was down again, which is very exciting. In our kitchen, we didn’t even go through a full bag for the WEEK, and our large trash bin that gets collected each week was only half full. Hoping this trend will continue and we can get a smaller bin (and save a little money!).
  • Honestly, I am not 100% sure why the 1.5+ lb increase in recycling is about. We did do some decluttering/organizing and had extra paper to recycle, but I didn’t think it was enough to contribute to that much of an increase.


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Later this week we will be attending our first workshop which is about reducing waste at the grocery store. I am really excited for this workshop because this proved to be a lot more difficult than I had thought! Read my experience with this here. I will post what I learn within the next week or two!



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10 Tips for a Zero Waste Thanksgiving

Start small! Don’t try to go completely zero waste. You may end up feeling overwhelmed and discouraged. Instead, try and implement a couple of things, see how they go and reevaluate after the holiday.


  • If you are hosting and planning on distributing leftovers, check to see if you have plastic takeout containers that you don’t need. Or, you can buy reusable containers from a thrift store, or if comfortable, ask people to bring their own containers! Additionally, you could see if people have any extra they are willing to ‘donate’ to you for leftovers. People often have so many sitting around, they would be happy to make some room! For your own leftovers, pyrex glass containers and mason jars are great for storing leftovers (mason jars can go in the freezer).
  • If you aren’t hosting and you’re comfortable talking to the host/hostess, offer to bring your own. You could also offer to donate some containers for the host/hostess to distribute the leftovers in so they don’t have to use their own.


Have a plan for food

  • If you are hosting – speaking of leftovers, try and have a general idea of what you want to do with the leftover food, whether that is eating within a week, freezing, or giving away. This way you can plan ahead for containers, making room in the freezer, planning which recipes to use leftovers, etc.
  • If you are not hosting – if you end up with some leftovers to take home (lucky you!) make a plan to do something with the food right away. Maybe that is put it in your ‘eat me now’ section of your fridge, freeze it, or think of a recipe to reuse the food.


Make it a theme

  • If you are hosting, suggest to the guests that you want to have a zero-waste Thanksgiving, and ask them to follow suit by paying attention to packaging at the store, bringing their own leftover containers, etc. Or, you could show them this post – hint-hint for tips.
  • If you aren’t hosting and know the host well enough to make a suggestion, suggest doing a zero-waste themed Thanksgiving! Offer to help out wherever you can!





  • If you are hosting, opt to use cloth napkins. You will be able to use them over and over again.
  • If you are not hosting, cloth napkins would make a GREAT host/hostess gift!



  • If you are hosting, have a dishwashing party and get as many people as possible to help out with dishes and more! This way you can feel comfortable using non-disposable dishes knowing they’ll get clean in a flash! For tasks such as wiping down tables, counters, and stoves, opt to use cloth towels you already have, or try bamboo towels in place of paper towels. You will be able to reuse them many times. We LOVE these. Be sure to tell guests where your recycling and compost waste is (if you have one) so they know where to properly dispose of waste.
  • If you are a guest, initiate a dishwashing party right away to let the host relax. Use cloth towels to clean as much as possible (and for drying). Ask the host where their recycling and compost waste go (if they have either), and make sure the proper waste ends up in the right bins.


Buy in bulk

I will preface by saying approach with caution. Zero waste shopping can easily get overwhelming. But as you are shopping, whether you are hosting or just bringing a dish, take a look around and see if there are certain products that you can buy in bulk. Make sure you have a plan in mind as to what you are going to do with the food since there will be a lot of it. I find that meal planning really helps with this!




Source: Element5 Digital


Pay attention to packaging when shopping

I have found that the easiest way to reduce packaging is using reusable produce bags (I like using these). Other tips include trying to avoid single serve items or most convenience foods as they produce a lot of waste! I will talk more about this in an upcoming post, however, for right now, just start making note of the packaging as you are shopping.



Cooking the turkey

If you are hosting and don’t have a turkey pan, instead of buying a disposable one, ask friends and family if they have one you could borrow! Save money and waste. Additionally, you could try to find one at a thrift store. Or, try an alternative method of cooking your turkey (I hear deep frying a turkey is good – kidding – kind of).


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Bringing a dish

If you are not hosting but are bringing a dish, opt for a reusable one to take home, or buy a cute one at a thrift store that you can gift to the hostess afterward.



Decorations are one of those things that are easy to reuse year after year or buy from a thrift store or second-hand store. Another option would be to ask around and borrow some from friends/family. Or, you could bring some hygge’ into your home and decorate with some natural elements from outside. Maybe a grapevine wreath, some dried flowers, berries, etc?




Whether you implement one of these tips or all of them (or maybe you already do them), I hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving!




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27 Comments on "10 Useful (and Simple) Tips for a Zero-Waste Thanksgiving – Zero Waste Challenge – Week 9"

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Katie Braswell

I just recently started using cloth napkins for everyday! I love them! Yes it means more laundry, but it also means a lower grocery, less waste! I also adore your idea about decorating! We used this “natural” approach for our wedding, and have implemented it ever since! Great ideas!! <3

Felicia @ The Starving Chef

All great tips here! I do a bunch of these – I even keep my turkey carcass to make bone broth the next day!

Nina McClure

You have some amazing and simple suggestions here that anyone can incorporate! What great ideas! Thank you for sharing! so easy


We have no problem with leftovers, our three grown daughters always take home food in my containers. I started saving durable plastic containers left from lunch meetings at work so I can send the girls food home in them, as I kept having to purchase new containers all the time. Somehow, they take them home but never bring back any empty containers! I love cloth napkins and reusable decor items for every holiday. Have a very Happy Thanksgiving with your family Laura.

Connie @Lessons and Learning for Littles

Great tips! Thank you! Many of these, I try to incorporate into our daily life, but I never thought about doing it for a holiday meal. You have good suggestions for helping include others in reducing waste too.


Great ideas! I love the idea of giving cloth napkins as a gift! You could make the cutest little basket!

Mary Leigh

I love these tips. I want to transition to using cloth napkins – but don’t really know where to start. What kinds of napkins are best? What is a reasonable number to have? etc.


Wow these are great tips! I never think about some of these, but I need to start!

Karin Rambo

I love the idea of asking others to bring their own containers! When I was in college I backpacked through South America and it’s totally customary in some countries to bring your own to go container when eating at other peoples houses. The hosts find it far more rude when you leave food on your plate because it is wasteful. We should adopt more of that attitude here in the US. 😊

Kristen Raney

I love reading about your zero waste journey! These are some great tips, and I like that you give tips for both guests and hosts.


Excellent tips Laura. We went back to using regular dishes and silverware for our parties. We even went out and purchased a few more cheap beer and wine glasses, so we would no longer have to use plastic. This way we reduce waste. I like the tip about the cloth napkins. We probably need to purchase a few more of them for everyday use. We taught our kids to be the 1st ones up to offer to wash dishes when they go to someone’s house for any kind of party, but especially at the holidays to show their appreciation. .


[…] I wanted to point out the post I shared last week which goes over 10 simple and useful tips for a zero waste Thanksgiving since […]

Shela Yount | Virtual Email + Calendar Strategist

I have read so many things about zero waste! Loved this! It’s inspiring me to start this challenge too! Love these ideas! Thank you!! 🙂


[…] The second post that may be helpful this time of the year is my post on having a zero waste Thanksgiving. While I realize Thanksgiving has passed, the tips are still applicable for any type of gathering/celebration. You can find that post here. […]


[…] –Zero Waste Thanksgiving (the post was written during Thanksgiving, however, the tips are applicable for any gathering) […]