This Thanksgiving, Consider Resetting Your Relationship With Food

It’s just the two of us this year for Thanksgiving, and while I feel a pang of disappointment about not getting to nurture my inner comfort-food chef, this will probably be the most memorable edition of this particular holiday in my life. It feels like a turning point, for so many different reasons.

As a journalist obsessed with studying sustainable behavior (albeit mostly that of a corporate, not human nature), it’s not lost on me that Thanksgiving is typically a day of excess — as freelancer Jesse Klein reports on GreenBiz this week, something like 200 million pounds of turkey goes wasted. That’s an obscene amount of food.

Personally speaking, I’ve never seen a leftover I don’t like, but I know plenty of other Americans don’t want anything to do with them, and that’s a tragedy that I hope this year will help bring to light. I love that local poultry farmers, such Grass Roots Coop and my town’s very own Goffle Road Poultry Farm, have shifted to greet this very unusual Thanksgiving by offering smaller birds and also by butchering the meat in different ways — by pieces that are much smaller in portion. My husband and I are “sharing” a meal with his parents — not at the same table, but we’re partaking of the same bird, which we’ll be picking up shortly after I publish this essay.

My stepbrother and sister-in-law, who are also childfree like me and my husband, are skipping turkey altogether. Instead, they’ve bought several dozen oysters from a local fisher-person in their Maryland town and will be slurping those up in several different ways later this afternoon.

Most of us tend to become reflective around the holidays, so here’s my wish for you: Use this Thanksgiving to rethink the sorts of foods you consume, where they’re sourced and how sustainable that resource will be over time. And ask yourself, “Am I throwing out too much? What does this say about my eating habits?”

I’ve always had strong pescatarian tendencies, and will be spending more time looking closely at how the finfish and shellfish that I consume are harvested. For me, that’s not just about whether or not a specific species is overfished, it’s about how the local communities that rely on those catches are faring economically. Who is benefiting?

As I report in my GreenBiz column this week, there’s been a surge of interest in aquaculture. One concept worth your (and my) attention is “regenerative ocean farming,” promoted by a nonprofit called GreenWave. This practice could provide a new livelihood for fishing communities — including Indigenous ones whose economic well-being has been compromised by commercial fishing operations.

The focus is on raising kelp (which happens to be a potent carbon sequestration solution), along with other sea vegetables and shellfish such as mussels or oysters in relatively small farms that are sited along restorative reefs. One of the things I love the most about the model is that it’s not just good for the environment, it’s good for the people in those communities.

The “regenerative” adjective says it all: It’s about regrowth and renewal. Exactly what the United States needs right now.

Wishing you all a safe and reflective holiday. I am grateful that you’ve stopped by to read this article.

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