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Observer Editorial: Give thanks, don’t waste

| Friday, November 19, 2021

With the Thanksgiving holiday quickly approaching, many in the tri-campus community are ecstatic to return to their families, gather with friends or simply take a break and relax. After a long 20 months and a 2020 holiday season largely disrupted by the pandemic, we all deserve time to gather with those we love and be thankful.

However, during a season where food can seem plentiful, it is important to consider our food consumption and waste when gathering to share a meal with family and friends. Each year, the nation wastes an estimated 172 million pounds of turkey on Thanksgiving, not to mention the waste that comes from the rest of the meal and other holiday occasions.

But welcoming the holiday season with loved ones does not need to be a wasteful event. There are many ways to avoid holiday food waste, including planning meals, eating leftovers and freezing extra food if necessary.

If you will be on the tri-campus over next week’s break, there will be a Thanksgiving feast at North Dining Hall from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m Thursday. Although it may seem difficult to control your food waste in campus dining halls, there are still ways you can be mindful. As you dig into the festive fare, be cognizant of where your leftovers are going.

In 2019, Notre Dame implemented a sustainability program that takes nonconsumable food waste and converts it into renewable energy. To best contribute to this program, remember not to scrape your uneaten food into the garbage cans. Rather, throw away your napkins and then place your plate and food scraps onto the conveyor belt. Not only is this easier for students, but you will actually be facilitating sustainability efforts on campus with a small act.

For those who are traveling home for the holiday, it is helpful to bring mindful practices to your holiday gatherings. Practicing conscious consumerism when shopping for meals is a good way to evaluate the impact your feast will have on the environment. You can experiment with vegan alternatives instead of meat-centered meals, or focus your shopping around local farms. Nonetheless, at the end of the day, mindful consumption looks different for everyone depending on access to resources and the privilege of being able to make adjustments like these.

Besides being mindful about your own consumption, you can give to others in need during the holidays. When gathering around the table in this season of gratefulness and giving, it is crucial to recognize the privilege of sharing in a Thanksgiving feast. The number of people experiencing food insecurity is over 38 million nationwide, meaning countless families struggle to afford and obtain enough food each day — not to mention during the holidays. One way you and your loved ones can ring in the spirit of the holiday season together is to take some time after dinner or the next morning to package any leftovers for those who need them most. You can also find local food banks close to your home or close to campus in order to donate leftover canned foods or items bought at the store. 

The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone. Rather than add to such stressors by bending over backwards to change our holiday meal planning, we can all make small adjustments that are reasonable for ourselves and our families. And while we can do our best to combat food waste and food insecurity during Thanksgiving, we must also keep in mind that these are year-round issues that require large-scale change, far outside the scope of our own holiday tables.

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