As you finalize your Thanksgiving plans and the look forward to taking a break, you are probably hearing the usual talk about Black Friday, which stores will or will not be open on Thursday, and, of course, mountains of food.

Maybe all this talk has started you wondering whether Thanksgiving could be less about excess consumption and more about giving thanks.

Below are some ideas to help you avoid stress, cut down your consumption, and get the most out of your holiday.

Travel Plans

If traveling is in your future, try finding another student who is heading to (roughly) the same place and make carpool plans. This will save you money on gas, provide company on long trips, and cut your travel footprint in half.

  • If you are traveling to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, check out HogRide, a charter bus service started by a U of A student. The bus has all the nicest amenities, and Thanksgiving break will be HogRide’s premier trip.
  • Going somewhere else? The University of Arkansas Ride Share Group on Facebook is the place to find and post ride share offers. You also may notice flyers posted around campus by students looking for carpool partners.

Thanksgiving Dinner

You don’t have to go vegan to have a sustainable Thanksgiving dinner (although skipping the turkey and elevating sides to the main attraction is a great idea). The most significant marker of sustainability is avoiding food waste.

Think about it, why go through all the trouble of purchasing the food and creating the feast, only to have as much as a third of it end up in the landfill? Say it ain’t so! A little planning goes a long way, so here’s what to keep in mind:

  • “Buy less than you think.” The National Resources Defense Council has some great advice on planning for your number of guests. Our tendency is to go buy more than we think people will eat rather than risk running out, but this mindset is a major contributor to food waste—in the form of being overwhelmed with leftovers.
  • Speaking of leftovers… Eat them! Or make sure someone does. Guests can bring their own containers to take home leftovers to make sure the hosts aren’t stuck with everything the next day. The internet is full of creative ideas to remix your turkey, mashed potatoes, veggies, and stuffing. If there is just no way you are going to be able to go through it all, freeze some for a time when you are back in the mood for it.
  • Avoid disposable dinnerware. As tempting as the hassle-free cleanup might be, single-use items present a huge burden on landfills and waste a lot of resources and energy to produce and transport. Focus on washing up as you go to avoid the nightmare pile of dishes at the end of the day. Plus, reusable table settings will make for a fancier feast.

Turn Your Black Friday Green

Does anyone really like cramming into packed big box stores to compete with crowds of people for the same mass-produced stuff that will be worn out, obsolete, or out of style in just a couple of years?

Take control of the day by celebrating Green Friday instead, and try to get your whole family on board. This could take many forms, but here are some ideas to get you thinking:

  • Donate blood! Check with the American Red Cross to find out if there are blood drives in your area.
  • Volunteer in your community! What better way to give thanks and create memories, all while giving back? Check with local community organizations to find volunteer opportunities.
  • Get thrifty! Shop for secondhand Christmas gifts or work on some DIY gifts. Buying and “upcycling” used items is a great way to save tons of money and reduce your impact on the planet by saving usable items from the landfill and reducing demand for disposable goods. You could even try to getting your family on board with a Thrift Store Christmas Challenge, where all gifts given must be from the thrift store or at least secondhand.
  • Enjoy the outdoors! If you are staying in NWA, Hobbs State Park has you covered with Green Friday hikes, nature crafts, and family programming. If not, the world awaits you outside your front door.