Waste Not, Want Not: Mindfulness on Thanksgiving

December 4, 2019
  • Christiane Graham, Member of the Environmental Justice Ministry

Last Thursday we sat around our food filled Thanksgiving table, counting our blessings with family and friends; telling stories of past Thanksgivings we laughed and remembered silly stuff. We cooed over the 3 months old baby that has recently joined our family. Fortunately for the earth, one guest came by public transit, one walked, one drove, and we saw the baby and her parents using video chat, instead of traveling over two thousand miles, as we once might have done.

We did not discuss left-over recipes, as other families surely did. In the past I usually took the turkey carcass home to make soup. I have to credit my mother who taught me not to waste food. She was creative in feeding her family anything eatable during WWII. The last Thanksgiving with my deceased, first husband, he wanted two different kinds of soup. I obliged. Cooking had been our shared thing, we loved the Gemutlichkeit of a warm, good smelling kitchen. I felt it could be our last holiday together. I was glad we recycled those turkey bones, and ate our home grown vegetables. We wasted very little food, because I had had a good teacher. Who will teach our next generation?

Witnessing the youth organized “Mourning for the Earth” march on Capitol Hill the next day, I listened to a member of the Extinction Rebellion group describe his week long fast. Due to the lack of food he was in touch with his emotions. He tearfully recalled his struggle avoiding his favorite dish, that his father only makes on Thanksgiving. He sobbed at his decision not to bring children into this world wrecked by climate change. He recounted stories he heard on the metro coming downtown, from a woman who fed her turkey left-overs to the dog next door. Others had dumped turkey carcasses in the trash together with perfectly good vegetable dishes, desserts and all the fixings. The amount of waste, and excess of it belies the very notion of gratitude and connection, leaving out, as it does, respect for the people, animals, plants and planet that give us life and love.

I got angry hearing about the waste: all those efforts made by so many cooks resulted in perfectly good food in the landfill (creating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas) and wasted resources. It was just overwhelming. I felt compassion for the animals that had given their lives for our eating pleasure. Enormous water, energy, labor and transportation costs were simply wasted. We all can reduce our carbon footprint with less driving and flying. We can prepare enough food but not too much, and have a plan to freeze, donate, or compost what we cannot then consume. We can eat more plants and fewer animals and eat locally as often as possible to prevent waste. Check in with yourself, which behaviors honor the fruits of the Earth and which may need to stop. Every step brings us closer to saving our world.

Some perspective changing links:

40% of food in the U.S. is wasted. But does this look like junk food to you? Check out:

Learn about food waste via "The Extraordinary Life and Times of Strawberry":