It’s so tempting to have too much of everything at holiday parties—and that goes for waste as well as waist. But some mindful planning in advance of the event can cut down on the excess.
If your party is a big enough event that you need a caterer, then be sure to ask about their sustainable practices, and choose one that offers organic, locally sourced menu items. If the caterer offers other good practices, like washing with biodegradable soap, eschewing plastics and disposable containers in transporting food and composting kitchen scraps, that’s a bonus. The same should be asked if you’re ordering a takeout Thanksgiving dinner from one of the many restaurants that provide them.
For a smaller event where you and family members or friends are doing the cooking, Jamie Collins, owner of Serendipity Farms, recommends connecting with local organic farms or farmers’ markets to find fresh, seasonal potatoes, squash, pie pumpkins and other winter vegetables for your holiday dishes. Preparing the meal from scratch will take longer than, say, using canned ingredients, but if you make preparing the food together part of the party (and add some kegged local wine or beer), the preparation will go faster and the result will be more flavorful—and more healthful for both your guests and the planet.
Locally grown organic or free-range turkeys will be hard to find this year due to the drought, says Lisa Knutson of Pasture Chick Ranch in Hollister, as having to provide extra feed for the big birds was cost prohibitive. Still, some nicely roasted organic chickens are a fine substitute, or you may be able to find holiday cuts of grassfed beef from Paicines Ranch, Morris Grassfed Beef or other holistically managed ranches.
Finally, if you must use disposables for serving your meal, consider purchasing compostable tableware from a local source like Passion Purveyors of Pacific Grove. Its bamboo plates and bowls are both elegant and eco forward; better yet, there’s no minimum amount to order. — Kathryn McKenzie