Whether traveling to visit family or hosting others on Thanksgiving Day, people can reduce their carbon footprint with careful planning.

Holiday Travel

Avoid the long lines and high costs of air travel by taking the train. Traveling by rail gives the driver a break as well and makes sense for trips to nearby states such as Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin. Visit Amtrak www.amtrak.com for trip planning.

Longer distances requiring overnight travel may call for leaving a day or two before the big event. If that is not feasible and flying is the only option, it is possible purchase carbon offsets for the miles flown. If driving is a must, offset those miles, too. Go to www.nativeenergy.com for carbon offset information.

Buy Local

Despite the fact that the Evanston Farmers’ Market has closed for the winter, shoppers can still purchase locally grown produce, meats and dairy products for the holiday. Both local branches of a national organic foods retailer and supermarket chain stores now carry organic and locally produced foods.

Homebound shoppers or those with limited access to transportation need not fear: Irv & Shelly’s Fresh Picks (www.freshpicks.com) offers year-round delivery of local and organic produce, meat, dairy and eggs in the Chicago area. Explore.

Often the Thanksgiving meal includes wine, and with ten Midwestern states now home to wineries, there are bountiful options for choosing a locally made wine. Retailers have observed that consumers are buying local and are stocking their stores accordingly.

Vegans and Vegetarians

Both hosts and guests should do the responsible thing and make others aware of dietary restrictions and preferences. This applies to vegans and vegetarians as well as people with diabetes and other illnesses. Hosts will make accommodations and be grateful for the heads-up. Those with special dietary needs might bring a favorite non-meat dish or sugar-free dessert for everyone to sample.


Bring nature into the home with holiday decorations. Place an arrangement of brilliant autumn-colored leaves on the table. Obviously, leaves that have been wiped clean and flattened show their colors best. Use beeswax rather than paraffin candles for a cleaner, healthier burn. Scatter pinecones and dried berries around the table for added texture.

Display or use those long-forgotten gifts — the turkey-shaped platter, the horn-of-plenty basket or other seasonal decorations. Guests can lend a favorite Thanksgiving-related item (platter, bowl, napkin ring); just be sure to send it back home with them.

Lower the Thermostat

Dial down the thermostat a couple of degrees, or turn off a radiator. Rooms warm up quickly when a larger-than-usual group is present. Keep a couple of sweaters handy for guests who become chilly.

Giving Thanks

The head of household or an honored guest is a good choice for leading the family in giving thanks. This could be a prayer or a statement of something each family member/guest is thankful for.

Dealing with Leftovers

Leftovers are inevitable with Thanksgiving meals. Be prepared to send guests home with “care packages” by collecting reusable containers before the big day. Round or square aluminum foil containers are ideal. Clean, empty margarine tubs and containers repurposed from lunch meat and other foods work well, too.

Hosts and hostesses: It is not rude to ask guests to bring their own reusable containers. Make this request part of the invitation. Most guests will be happy to comply when they can take home an extra piece of pie. Have containers available for those who forget. Denying a guest leftovers — now that would be rude.

After the guests are gone and the dishes washed and put away, sit in a comfy chair and sip a glass of organic wine. Give thanks for being able to provide family and guests with a greener Thanksgiving Day.

Contact Eco Gal at ecogal247@yahoo.com or info@evanstonroundtable.com.