The Zen Green Guide to Thanksgiving


Thanksgiving is coming up this week, and many people are in a hustle to get food, prepare it, and prepare their homes for visitors, whether they’re invited or not. Thanksgiving is traditionally about food and family. Stress comes with preparing food and inviting a bunch of people over to eat it—Auntie has a gluten intolerance, Barbara hates sweet potatoes, and Jimmy just plain won’t eat turkey.

Never fear, Zen friends. I’m here to tell you how you can stay Zen and green this Thanksgiving!

Make Mindful Purchases

When you’re out shopping for food, purchase mindfully. Many people buy excess of what they actually need to feed their loved ones. While this is sometimes unavoidable, plan as best as you can and purchase food with a set number of people in mind. Add one or two people to be flexible, but don’t over prepare food for ten extra when you already know Victoria Beckham, Uncle Fester, and Nemo and Dory aren’t coming.

Also choose the place that you shop carefully. To be green, choose local farmer’s markets. They give you a great selection of fresh seasonal choices and are often times used without pesticides and grown organically (you’ll want to ask just to make sure, however). They might even have fun festive things you can bring if you’re a guest rather than a host—seasonal flowers, gourds, and and other spices and fun things. Also consider buying a local turkey rather than one purchased from the supermarket. Chances are it had a more natural, humane life, and was organically raised. You won’t find this in the grocery store.

Being mindful and making mindful purchases during this holiday can help you only to buy what you need and to buy sustainable, organic food that your family will love. If you need more reasons to be mindful or aren’t sure what mindfulness is, you can find out here. Being mindful can help you stay stress-free this holiday.

Stay Hydrated and Get Plenty of Rest

Although it’s certainly possible to stay Zen regardless of whatever’s going on with your body, it’s also very important to care for your body in order to have a Zen Thanksgiving this year. Stay hydrated so that your body has what it needs to function optimally. This is even more important if you plan on consuming alcohol this holiday—help your body process those drinks by sipping water as well. Water can also ensure you don’t overeat. Drinking a full glass of water with every meal not only helps your body process the food but also keeps you full and accurately regulate how hungry you feel.

Get plenty of rest. Ensure that you get a minimum of seven hours of sleep a night, depending on your age. Younger folks need more sleep (optimally nine hours) while older folks don’t need as much and could get by on as little as six. Aim for eight hours to be safe. Resting your body is important to keep your stress down and help you cope with those times when Ned Flanders and is all hi-diddily-hi this Thanksgiving.


If you decide to peel your sweet potatoes, throw away the skin on your turkey, or have other food scraps, compost them this Thanksgiving to be green. Composting is actually a lot of fun and if you’re into gardening, it helps you to get a head start on your fertilizer for next year. Egg shells, vegetable or fruit skins, and other food scraps can be composted. It’s best if they’re raw to be composted.

Composting helps reduce your waste and gives things that can biodegrade back to the earth. Composting improves your soil and benefits it with vital nutrients that are actually absorbed over time. So you can keep reaping benefits of your compost for a while. Consider starting a compost and reducing your waste this Thanksgiving—not having to take the trash out so often will add to your Zen and give you more time to relax. Instead, take the compost out to your compost container and get a breath of fresh air and enjoy nature.

Donate Leftovers

Ok, let’s say you went all hog-wild and cooked food for fifty people when only thirty showed up. Even after you send home leftovers with your family and friends, you’re still going to have a ton of food leftover. Many people are wasteful on this holiday and there’s so much food that it ends up going bad before families can eat it all.

Places like homeless shelters, food banks, and even non-profit organizations really appreciate donated food at this time of year. As someone who worked for a homeless shelter, I got to see the excitement and appreciation of these amazing people when someone showed up with a cooked meal. Just be sure to arrange it in advance. Donating your leftovers can make you feel great and you’ll be able to give back to the community that you love. Find a place in your area to donate your leftover food this Thanksgiving.

Shop Thoughtfully

So, yeah, Black Friday is coming up. This is the part where I tell you to shop thoughtfully this year—many people buy in excess of what they need, just like food. Be mindful with your purchases and remember that money doesn’t buy happiness or Zen, only the illusion of it. If gift-buying is a tradition with your family and friends, see if you can get them something they’ll use or is practical.

You could also consider alternative gift options such as donating money to a charity, buying a meal for a homeless shelter or residence, or volunteering. Give back this holiday season and stay Zen. Appreciate life.

This Thanksgiving, whether you’re hosting a dinner or are just a guest, remember to stay Zen and green. Give back to your community, make mindful purchases, and donate leftover food. By composting and shopping mindfully, you can reduce waste and focus on what really matters this holiday—family and appreciating life. Happy Thanksgiving!

Jenn Ryan
Jenn Ryan is a freelance writer and editor who's passionate about natural health, gluten-free, fitness, and animals. Jenn loves running, reading, and playing with her four rescued rabbits.