Sustainable Blog

How to Have a 100-Mile Thanksgiving

And other tips for a more sustainable holiday!

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In the spirit of using less fuel and supporting local farms and food artisans, we challenge you to try a 100-mile Thanksgiving. A 100-mile Thanksgiving uses ingredients sourced from within 100 miles of your dinner table. Think of it as an opportunity to celebrate local food, rather than an obligation to source every last ingredient from within 100 miles. Food miles, or the amount of miles a certain product has traveled to its final destination, are an important consideration when trying to reduce your carbon footprint and the amount of oil and gasoline used in making a meal.

This Thanksgiving, you can source just a few staples like turkey and squash locally, or make one dish, like a salad, using mostly local, seasonal ingredients. It’s a fun way to teach children about where their food comes from, and a wonderful way to introduce your guests to the unique bounty that your area has to offer. Besides, fresh foods that haven’t been sitting on a truck or airplane all week taste better! It’s fun for the chef too – there is nothing more festive than a farmers market the day before Thanksgiving, and it’s often less crowded than the local supermarket.

Shopping locally at Thanksgiving is actually pretty simple. After all, Thanksgiving is in essence our national seasonal feast. Even though every region and every family has its own signature Thanksgiving dishes, the staples of the meal – from pumpkins and cranberries, to sweet potatoes and brussels sprouts – are largely autumn seasonal foods.

The turkey is the one part of the meal where going local may require a bit more forethought, but it’s well worth it. There are many delicious alternatives to the conventional supermarket turkey that has often traveled far from its factory farm to your table.

Local Harvest is a great resource for finding any local ingredient, and they have a special turkey page up right now that allows you to enter your zip code and find turkeys from within 100 miles. From heritage turkeys to local chickens, there are lots of ways to celebrate a tasty, local choice. Turkeys are grown in nearly every state!

You may say, “This is all very nice, but if I fly home for Thanksgiving, or drive 200 miles, doesn’t that negate the whole premise of the 100-Mile Thanksgiving?” Well, a long drive or flight certainly doesn’t decrease fuel usage, but every little bit counts. If you must fly home to see your family, why not avoid flying your food all over the place too! But if you’re open to it (and your family is amenable), there are ways to see your family and minimize the amount of gas you burn doing it!


  • Drive a fuel efficient car. Last year, Green Car Reports estimated that an average family traveling 100 miles by car (200 miles roundtrip) to reach their Thanksgiving celebration in a car capable of 26.4 mpg and filled with regular gasoline, would spend $25.30 on gasoline. If they made the same trip in a car capable of 54.5 mpg, they would have paid just $12.25. If the trip had been made in an all-electric or plug-in electric car, the costs could have been measured in cents rather than dollars.

  • Get high-tech and Skype your family. Have your 100-Mile Thanksgiving at home and join the extended family via Skype! You can have a full conversation with your mom, see how your cousin’s baby has grown, and cut out for dessert and a movie with your friends or spouse! No airport headaches, and far less fuel spent no matter how you cut it.

  • At the very least, maximize your fuel efficiency by making sure your tires are properly inflated, removing unneeded heavy items from your car, observing the speed limit, using cruise control, and practicing ecodriving techniques. These small changes actually do make a difference.

No matter where you live, or what your budget, there are ways to support farmers and reduce how much fuel you burn this Thanksgiving. See Sustainable America’s website for more details on how to support local farmers and decrease the nation’s dependence on oil.

And please share our 100-Mile Thanksgiving infographic below with your friends and family! It provides all kinds of tips for a more sustainable Thanksgiving from beginning to end! If you feel overwhelmed, remember that you can use as many or as few of these tips as you like. Sustainability is a practice and you can start small this Thanksgiving by making a local salad or learning some ecodriving techniques for your drive!

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By the Numbers

Currently 50 million households suffer from food insecurity, meaning that family members cannot always meet their basic food needs.

10 million people a year could be fed through the recovery of just one-fifth of food waste.

Only 2% of food waste is composted or otherwise recycled—62% of paper is recycled.

Consumers throw out about 40% of the fresh and frozen fish they buy.

The U.S. produced 208 pounds of meat per person in 2009—60% more than Europe.

Low income commuters spend a much higher proportion of their wages on gas—8.6% versus 2.1% at $4 per gallon.

Food prices rose 35-40 percentage points between 2002–2008.

Americans consume 25% of the world’s produced oil, but our nation holds less than 3% of the world’s proven oil reserves.

The International Energy Agency says greenhouse gas emissions rose 3.2% last year, with a 9.3% increase in China offsetting declines in the US and EU.