Fun Tips for Thanksgiving: Ethics, Priorities & Media Moments

wreath-thanksgivingNov. 24, 2013 Update Springboarding off the seven Forest Ethics tips below, and Sierra Club’s 5 Tips for a Low Carbon Thanksgiving we’ve got some great news to add…

KIDS will soon be able to track THEIR own role in reducing their carbon footprint, not just with the fun kids carbon calculator, but with a show and tell, action-inducing Cool The app that engages kids to inspire the whole family to take action and measure results hands-on.


Slated for early 2014, (see demo after the jump) the Cool the Earth education app will guide children to connect the dots on the carbon footprint trail and help them make small changes in their own homes so they put their learning to use to SEE and BE the change.


I’ll be writing a full feature about Cool the Earth’s new venture into apps to update my prior posts, Kids Bring Home the Message to Cool The Earth and Inspiring Kids as Stewards of the Planet …For now here’s a reprise of the original post with eco-tips from Forest, and more ideas at the end for how tech is tackling food waste and why we need to avoid the tweet-n-eat social media. Solutions that innovate and educate? I’ll gobble that right up…



Original Post: Nov. 23, 2009 Like many of you, I’m trying to figure out how to ‘go over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house’ while reducing my carbon footprint, cranky kids and car time, or being locked in a transportation vehicle of any sort (plane, train or automobile) when we really just all wanna be OUTSIDE playing on our day off, eh?

When my folks left Hawaii to be ‘closer’ to us all on the mainland, little did we realize to reach them using public transport it would require BART to Amtrak to an hour ride in a car for their spot in the Sierra foothills in order to avoid the snarly gnarly backups on the Bay Bridge mass exodus toward Tahoe.

We want to be as ‘green’ as possible be flexible with traditions, and yet still connect in person not via webcam or Skype, ya know? So what’s a family to do?

We WANT to unite, but dangit, we don’t want to dread the travel exhaustion and money madness as we calculate ourselves like pricey imported “food miles” traveling too far to a destination adding to greenhouse gases, the planet’s plight, and the country’s debt sans fiscal fitness. Here are a few tips for helping sort out priorities: An instant audio iPhone app for masterful kids storytelling at Tales2Go (Facebook page here)101 road trip tips from MomsMiniVan and my favorite freebies, the ol’ verbal icebreaker games and intimacy builders, adaptable for any age & theme much like these ‘TableTopics’ I wrote about to get conversations goin’.

As I run the gauntlet of choices with as much calm, care, and consideration possible (staving off stress) I give thanks for our bounty of options that so many don’t even have…

It’s no secret I’m a huge fan of Forest Ethics and their annual ‘scorecards’ for grading everything from catalogs to back to school office supplies, so we have a guest post courtesy of their media officer, Will Craven to sift out some of the basics on your checklist for ‘walking the walk’…even if you end up, um…driving.

Giving Thanks: Family Friendly Eco-Tips by Forest Ethics’ via Will Craven

Long before the advent of football or Macy’s parade, Thanksgiving was an intrinsically environmental holiday. How do we give thanks to a planet which gives us such amazing luxuries as cranberries, sweet potatoes, and wine?

Here are a few ideas, do feel free to leave more in the comments section…

1.    Eat local: Each ingredient in a typical meal travels an average of 1,500 miles, and the greenhouse gases from these “food miles” are a big part of how our food affects our climate.  Even worse, large chain grocers like Safeway, Kroger, and Albertson’s are increasingly dependent upon dirtier transportation fuels like those that come from Canadian Tar Sands oil. Avoid the big chains, and shop at a (fun!) local farmer’s market or smaller local business.

2.    Real plates, real forks: The fewer petroleum-based plastic and forest-unfriendly wood products you’re consuming, the better. Knock on a neighbor’s door if you’re lacking any cups, plates, silverware, or napkins. And if you buy any wood or paper products, look for 100% post-consumer recycled content, while avoiding greenwashed products certified by SFI– the (Un!)Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

3.    Speaking of plastic… Plastic wrap has the potential to leach plastic into your food, so use reusable glass or hard plastic containers. Even aluminum foil beats plastic wrap, as it can be recycled.

4.    Drink local:
The microbrew revolution of the past 20 years in America is truly something to be thankful for. Nearly every nook and cranny of this country has its own beer, and if you’re lucky, you might have wine as well.

5.    Avoid Sara Lee products: Not only does the global foods monolith use the SFI certification scheme to greenwash its paper and packaging, but it trucks its products all over the world using increasing amounts of dirty Tar Sands oil. Its transportation footprint is too gaseous for the 21st Century climate.

6.    Honor thy region:
This is not the same as “shop local”, which is more about avoiding the environmental pitfalls of relying on intercontinental trucking  propelled by Tar Sands fuel. “Honor thy region” is more about savoring how the foods local to your region help define the flavor of your meal, and the flavor of the region itself. In Massachusetts, Wisconsin, or Washington state, this might mean looking up a new recipe for local cranberries. In the US South it might mean doing something creative with peanuts. Give thanks to your region by stirring its home-grown ingredients into your Thanksgiving.

7.    Don’t dive back into the rat race on Black Friday:
Just as we’ve gotten yourself into a sane and thoughtful space on Thursday, the nation’s biggest shopping day threatens to turn us back into reactive gnats battling for parking space. Just. Say. No. And for the remainder of the year, try as much as possible to keep your life closer to the pace and values of Thanksgiving than to those of Black Friday.

Amen to that one. I particularly like that ‘reactive gnats’ phrase, Will! It’s SO San Francisco, reminding me of that old joke about pulling into a parallel park place half way across town just because ‘it was an open spot!’  😉

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours…

Tell us how you’re choosing to spend Thanksgiving…Favorite finds? Traditions? Media moments? Unplugged? Outdoors?

2013 Green Thanksgiving/Media Moment Add Ons:

Nov. 24, 2013 Add On:

This year the vegetarians and vegans at the table will outnumber the turkey eaters, so I’m adding the New York TimesVegetarian Thanksgiving 2013 recipes and a few more from as well as an ‘ease up and relax’ reminder that many of the top traditional favorite recipes(mmmm–mashed potatoes!) are already vegetarian.

Need icebreakers to build intimacy with kids and cousins who haven’t seen each other in awhile? Put down the social media and pick up the dinner dialogue with fun table topics… Holiday media management can be “Dot Complicated” with different age groups trying to Instagram every micro move for the virtual stage. Many a parent’s plea has been  “Don’t tweet the turkey” in the hopes of reigniting the art of conversation.

If there’s a lull and you need a spark at the kids’ table, ask them to compare/contrast how they’ve been taught about history and Thanksgiving over the years in different schools and regions…then help debunk media myths and stereotypes and share the outcomes with the ‘big kids’ at the table. It’s a great inter-generational “that was then this is now” kickstarter to uncork past and present with plenty of media literacy ‘food for thought.’

Enjoy each other and Happy Thanksgiving to one and all!

Visual Credits: Carbon Footprint graphic via Treehugger and Infographic via TerraPass

Harvest wreath: Free Thanksgiving clipart by Bobbie Peachey A Greener Thanksgiving via The Food Channel

Thankful for…The new Cool the Kids App Coming Soon in 2014!

Support Them With Your Help Today?


Related Thanksgiving Reading by Amy Jussel on Shaping Youth 

Don’t Tweet the Turkey! Holiday Media Management Can Be Dot Complicated

Table Topics & Dinner Dialog Builds Intimacy With Kids

Deconstructing Thanksgiving Stereotypes: Media Myths with the Mediatrician

Behind the Scenes at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade (Journal of a 12-Year Old Dancer Participating)

Toy Joy or Consumption Junction? The Black Friday Hype Fest of the Holidays

Wrapping Up the Gift of Time in a Media Package

Games That Nourish Kids’ Minds, Souls & Tummies: Thanksgiving Food for Thought

The Future of Food & Media to Digest About Food for a Healthier Planet

Fed Up with Food Marketing to Kids? Nosh on Food Mythbusters New Short Film

Shaping Youth Through Philanthropic Gifting Fun

More Related Reading for the Holidays

Tips for Resisting Holiday Hype: CCFC Guide to the Holidays

Gobble Gobble Give Back (instilling philanthropy) YDT)

Vegan Holiday: Thanksgiving Recipes

Adopt A Turkey Project: Farm Sanctuary

Pilgrim Fare: Bean Soup vs. Turkey/Mythology of History (USA Today)

Thanksgiving’s Carbon Footprint/Factoids & Coloring Pages (TimTim)

Kids Travel Tips Road Survival Guide (via Babble)



  1. Machlin Brooks says

    Wow , it’s Thanksgiving Day! I’m happy with my extra day off, and I am planning to make something fun that will probably involve a car trip and seeing something new in Greenville I haven’t seen yet.
    You write something new at Thanksgiving?

  2. A great Blog about how to cook FLEXTARIAN dishes.

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