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Be Green @ Home

Ideas for Thanksgiving

Can you believe it? Thanksgiving is just around the corner! There will be a lot less traveling this year - and that will certainly help reduce each of our carbon footprints.  There are other actions you can take in the name of sustainability - which collectively, can make a difference - all while maintaining traditions and maybe starting a few new ones. 

Share with your Offices

Here is a quick version of some Thanksgiving tips from our Office.
The Harvard Women's Health Watch outlines the 8 steps to mindful eating:
  1. Begin with your shopping list.
  2. Come to the table with an appetite - not when ravenously hungry.
  3. Start with a small portion.
  4. Appreciate your food.
  5. Bring all your senses to the meal.
  6. Take small bites.
  7. Chew thoroughly.
  8. Eat slowly.
If eating mindfully seems like a luxury that some in our community aren't able to experience (for various reasons), help the South Bend Center for the Homeless provide a Thanksgiving feast to a neighbor experiencing homelessness.

Paper, Plastic or China?

Help minimize waste this Thanksgiving (and during other events) by committing to reusable dishes.  According to the EPA (in 2017), Americans generated 1.4 million tons of waste just from paper plates, cups and bowls.  And, in that same year, we generated 1.1 million tons of waste from the plastic versions.  There is clearly some room for improvement.  

Additionally - don't feel bad about using that dishwasher and save energy, water, and time.  Washing dishes in the dishwasher is actually more efficient than hand washing dishes.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, we will waste over 172 million pounds of turkey, 14 million pounds of dinner rolls, 29 million pounds of vegetable sides, and (good grief!) 35 million pounds of cranberry sauce!  Factor in all of the water and energy used to produce all of that food - it is horrible!  

To cut down on food waste:

  • Plan out your meal before you go shopping — make a list, and buy only what you need (is grandma the only one eating the cranberry sauce?).

  • There are lots of recipes out there to repurpose your leftovers - just Google it.

  • Consider making freezer stock from the turkey bones and breakfast hash with the extra stuffing. 

  • Freeze what you can’t eat within a few days.

  • Compost the inedible or unwanted stuff, like egg shells and food that’s gone bad. Composting recycles the nutrients within the food and helps agricultural soil retain nutrients and water. 

There are significant benefits of using local and organic foods. While a lot of these choices may seem cost-prohibitive, buying even one or two items locally and/or organically grown can make a difference. 
  • Shop at your local farmers market (Purple Porch Co-op, South Bend Farmers Market for example) for your Thanksgiving feast. Foods grown locally require fewer greenhouse gases to get to you (although production accounts for much more), and are often grown on smaller farms using more sustainable practices. Buying locally also helps to keep jobs and money in your community’s economy. Plus, local food tends to be fresher and tastier.
  • Use local ingredients with less food miles. Check out Sustainable America’s guide to a 100-mile Thanksgiving and Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) guide to a healthier holiday.
  • Organic is often better for you, the environment, and the farmers that produced the food.  Not always - EWG's Clean 15 and Dirty Dozen lists suggest that conventional versions of the nutrient-dense sweet potato often contain fewer pesticides than white potatoes and require fewer resources to grow.
  • Instead of taking multiple trips back and forth, consolidate shopping into fewer trips so you can minimize the extra miles and save gas.
  • There are some notable exceptions to only looking at food miles.  Cooking with a Spanish olive oil, for example, could still be better for the environment compared to using locally sourced animal fats, according to EWG’s Meat Eater’s Guide to Climate Change + Health.
“The single most important thing any of us do to shrink the environmental footprint of our eating is to cut back on our meat-eating – doing so has a much bigger impact than eating local or organic. It need not be an all-or-nothing proposition." 

– Michael Pollan, best-selling author,
In Defense of Food and The Omnivore’s Dilemma

The meat industry is one of the main contributors of human caused methane gas, which is a significant greenhouse gas. Another major environmental impact of a meat-eating diet is the depletion of natural resources. Even if you’re not vegetarian, try adding a little less meat to your plate and filling the rest of the plate with healthy sides, such as squash, green beans, or kale

Go Big on Veggies and Sides

Eating less meat is one of the most impactful choices we can make to help reduce our carbon footprint and conserve natural habitats. Thankfully, turkey isn’t as bad for the environment as beef, but it still requires extra land, water, and fuel to produce compared to veggies. And according to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about 200 million pounds of turkey meat are thrown out over the Thanksgiving holiday week every year. Consider cooking a smaller turkey and extra veggie sides. The side dishes are the best part of Thanksgiving anyway!

Turkey versus Tofurky

The higher you go on the food chain, like eating birds that eat grains rather than the grains themselves, the more resources you consume. Besides, the vegetarian at your table might like having a plant-based option (here are some retail options).

Deciding on turkey (anytime, not just during Thanksgiving) does not mean the main dish challenge is over. There are many good options from which to chose - Organic, heritage or heirloom, pasture raised, humanely raised.  Here is some help understanding the lingo.

There are lots of reasons to get outside.  Especially as the weather starts to go south, take advantage of any good weather to move your body and breath in fresh air.  
  1. Feast outside - has some good tips for having a lower COVID-risk outdoor experience with guests.  Of course, the weather has some say on that.
  2. Walk in nature - a favorite local natural area with trails is Rum Village Park
  3. Play outside - toss the ball with the young ones - or, have you tried Yard Yahtzee?
    • "Playing together brings joy, vitality, and resilience to relationships. Play can also heal resentments, disagreements, and hurts." (
  4. Take a solo or family bike ride - get that heart rate elevated a bit. Keep it safe!

AASHE conference 2020

This year's AASHE conference materials and lectures are still available for free for you to watch on your own time! Registration ends November 20th, and the materials are available through November 22nd. This conference focuses on sustainability in higher education.

Use your email address and enter Discount Code NDEDU100220 for free registration.

Thank you so much to those that completed the Green Ambassador Recycling Survey from a couple weeks ago.  We had 62 responses - and that was about half of those that opened the email.  Not bad.

Recall, we were trying to get a sense for the likelihood of you and your office mates taking care of your own recycling (either at a central location on campus, or taking it home).

A couple of takeaways:

  1. By far, most offices (represented by this survey) are 0-25% occupied - and that's not changing any time soon.  It is clear that there really isn't that many offices being used these days - and therefore, a relatively small amount of wasteKeep up with that curbside recycling at home!!
  2. Most of you had little to no confidence that your office mates would take their own recycling to a location like Mason Services Center or to their home curbside recycling toter.  
  3. On the other hand, speaking for yourself, most of you said you would likely take your own recycling home (if that is the only option). 
One more point - Yes, there were a few of you that understandably expressed concern about a pause on recycling for office buildings.  We are all feeling that pain.  I just want to reiterate that it is temporary and it is a result of the challenges associated with COVID and with the unwavering necessity that we produce clean single-stream recycling.  Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.  This information will be used to craft an effective and safe solution within the current constraints.  
ND Energy is pleased to announce the virtual 3rd annual ND Energy Research Symposium on November 12-13, 2020. The symposium will begin on Thursday with invited talks from 3:00 to 6:00 p.m., followed by a panel discussion with Notre Dame faculty from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. The event will resume on Friday with more invited talks from 1:00 to 3:45 p.m., followed by a poster session from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. Read more...

Registration is required and will be open until 12:00 p.m. on November 12. 
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