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From Thanksgiving to Trashgiving: How to Be More Mindful

According to a USDA report, 35 percent of perfectly good turkey meat purchased in the United States does not get eaten. In 2013, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that $277 million worth of turkey was thrown away over the Thanksgiving holiday.
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Studio shot of turkey leg with potatoes
Studio shot of turkey leg with potatoes

Times have changed. Thanksgiving Day was initially celebrated to give thanks for the limited, first harvest that would last throughout the winter. These days, Thanksgiving is more about excess -- indulging in food, shopping, and football. Too much of anything is not a good thing. This is especially true when too much food is cooked and simply thrown away in the trash.

Happy Trashgiving.

According to a USDA report, 35 percent of perfectly good turkey meat purchased in the United States does not get eaten. In 2013, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimated that $277 million worth of turkey was thrown away over the Thanksgiving holiday.

This amount includes all the resources used to get the turkey to the table and equates to 204 million pounds of turkey. About the same weight as 222 Boeing 747s that are getting ready to take off. Wow.

A Status Quo Thanksgiving
These days, the main focus of a typical Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. It is quite ironic, but most people don't really like turkey and some sources say turkey wasn't even served at the first Thanksgiving feast.

Many of us strive to have the hallmark card, picture perfect bird that is so big it barely fits in the oven. All grown for you in four months time and injected with a delicious, flavor-enhancing, mystery solution. Want some turkey antibiotics with your sweet potatoes? You got it.

After days of frantic shopping and all the work to prepare the dinner, we finally will sit down. Does your family observe prayers and rituals to give thanks? Or does your family sit down and eat as quickly as possible?

During the meal some random thoughts pop up, "Oh, I am eating way too much. I should have worn stretchy pants. I wonder how many pounds I will gain today. I will start my diet tomorrow." Soon after the pumpkin pie it is time to wrap up the leftovers. At this point, people are so full they don't want to look at turkey and potatoes ever again. The leftovers might make it to the fridge for a day or two, but eventually they go straight to the trash.

Waste Not, Want Not
This is not only about wasted food, but also about wasted resources that were used to produce the food. The NRDC estimates the resources it took to get the turkeys to your kitchen is equal to 100 billion gallons of water -- enough to supply New York City for 100 days. I bet if people had to forage for their Thanksgiving dinners they would not throw it away.

The problem goes beyond Thanksgiving Day.

Did you know that 40 percent of the food supply in America is thrown away? According to the NRDC, this amounts to $165 billion each year. Some food never leaves the farm, other food is thrown away since it is 'not appealing' enough for grocery store customers, and more gets thrown away by restaurants. About half of the 40 percent is thrown away by American families, which may cost the average family between $1365 and $2275 a year, according to the Washington Post.

Place that amount of money, in cash, in an envelope and toss it into your fireplace this winter. I doubt there is anyone who would do that. Why then is it OK to throw away food? Maybe people in America have so much extra money that throwing food away is not a big deal. I have travelled to many countries, some rich and some poor. Regardless of a country's level of wealth, I noticed one thing; people did not throw food away the way I have seen in America.

Do Something Different
This Thanksgiving, be more mindful of the food you will prepare and eat. Practicing mindfulness means respecting the source of your food, the people who helped to get it to your table and everything that went into making it. This includes the animals that were born, raised, and slaughtered.

While sitting at the table, take time to smell your food, look at your plate and truly be thankful for what you will eat. Turn off the television during dinner. We have become a mindless society and have a hard time focusing on one thing. We tend to focus more on our iPhones at the dinner table than on our meal.

Try something new this year and cut the normal amount of food you would cook in half. Buy a smaller turkey. If your guests will bring a side dish, then prepare less. I bet there will still be enough for everyone.

Most important, don't just say you are thankful, act like you are thankful. Actions speak louder than words; so when your hands grab the leftovers and just as they are about to hit the garbage can, stop and ask yourself -- if this were your last meal for a week, would you throw it away? I have a great Turkey a la King recipe from my grandma if you want it.

Original story posted here: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2015/11/a-day-of-thanks-turns-into-a-day-of-waste/