Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I love it because it calls us to remember the bounty of nature, and the debt of gratitude we owe to those first settlers and the native people of this continent. What’s more, the ritual of Thanksgiving is so simple that everyone can take part – sharing good food and time together with friends and relatives, and giving thanks for our many blessings.
As I pause together with family and friends to give thanks for the food on our table, I will also reflect on how we can protect Creation’s gifts for future generations.
I work with Interfaith Power & Light, an organization working to mobilize a religious response to global warming, and every day I am striving to find ways we can make more climate-friendly, Creation-conscious decisions. From simple conservation to the larger projects of installing solar on rooftops, to the community engagement of lobbying and advocacy, the good news is that American faith communities are greening their facilities and taking a stand for a safe climate.
But what about our food choices? What values do we demonstrate with what we place on our Thanksgiving tables?
It turns out that our industrial food system is a big part of our carbon footprint: up to one-third of global greenhouse gases. And shockingly, the biggest problem in our country is simple: waste. We throw away nearly half of the food we produce. Not only is that squandering all the energy and water and resources it took to produce, package and transport the food, it’s simply unconscionable while so many in our world go hungry.
The good news is that we can all reduce our food-prints fairly easily. And what better time to start than Thanksgiving? – the biggest feast of the year. By incorporating a few basic principles into your shopping and your menu, and critically, what you do with the leftovers, you can reduce the climate impact of your meal dramatically. To help, Interfaith Power & Light has put together a Green Thanksgiving Guide. It’s a repository for ideas, recipes, and tips about how make the most climate-friendly choices.
For me, my faith and acting against climate-change are inextricably intertwined. If we are to be good stewards of this Earth and care for all of humanity, as we have been charged to be, we cannot keep treating Creation as we have been. These beliefs are what is at the root of my simple decision to buy organic, vegetarian, and reduce my food waste this Thanksgiving, and always.
The first Thanksgiving utilized seasonal produce, and I plan to as well. Squash and sweet potatoes are in season, and eating local, seasonal, and organic food reduces pesticides and transport-related emissions. And I want to honor, as they did on that first Thanksgiving, the sustenance provided to us so plentifully by nature.
What if, that original Thanksgiving, the early settlers had not only taken away lessons about the cultivation of squash and other new world foods, but also how to live in harmony with the Earth as native Americans had done for so long? We know the suffering and the devastation their failure to learn that lesson has caused. Well, what if it’s not too late to learn it now? Today we have an even greater power of agency than the early Americans did: we have knowledge and the power to halt global climate change and to build a sustainable future.
Next month, I will be traveling to Paris to participate in the COP21 Summit, and I will be bringing with me the names of over 150 congregations and thousands of people of faith who have pledged to do their part by cutting their carbon emissions and motivating others to act on behalf of the Earth.
So while I’m giving thanks, I’ll also be thankful that I find myself at a place and time where I can make a difference by caring for Creation and protecting the climate for those that come after me. Let’s give thanks with our actions for all that has been provided for us, for the world that we share, and for the chance to work for meaningful change in our lifetimes. Join me in making it a green Thanksgiving this year.
Susan Stephenson is executive director of Interfaith Power & Light, a national campaign mobilizing a religious response to global warming.
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