In households across America, the Thanksgiving table scene is a unique tapestry that reflects the diversity that makes our country great. However, if you could peek into the homes of American Water employees, you would see one addition: We are thankful for all the hosts and hostesses who give thanks for and give back to the planet by conserving water during their Thanksgiving festivities!
Reducing water use this Thanksgiving may be easier than you think. Not only will you feel good about it, but many of the tips I have here can save you time and effort in the long run. Here are a few lesser-known water-conservation ideas to help you gobble up less water this holiday season.
- Defrost early: If cooking a frozen turkey, thaw it in the refrigerator a day ahead of time (or longer) instead of using the warm-water method. Allow for 24 hours of defrosting time for every 4 to 5 pounds.
- Rinse and reuse: Wash vegetables in a bowl of water instead of under running water, then use the water in the bowl to water household plants or to soak the roasting pan.
- Go ahead, get steamed. Forget about the frustration of running out of time—and burners—during your prep. Steaming vegetables takes less time and less water. For items that require boiling water, place a strainer full of veggies over the pot of boiling water to cook and steam in one shot. BONUS TIP: Steaming potatoes in 2 inches of water instead of boiling them results in fluffier mashed potatoes!
- Put out the pitcher. Instead of filling everyone’s water glass ahead of time, reduce waste by allowing guests to pour only the amount of water they want to drink.
- Pare down the portions. Did you know that it takes more than 500 gallons of water to produce one pound of turkey? On average, Americans waste 204 million pounds of turkey each Thanksgiving—equating to 105 million gallons of water down the disposal! Be sure to calculate the size of your bird carefully, based on the number of guests, as well as on how many adults and children you will have. Also, serve smaller portions of turkey and side dishes on each person’s plate first, then allow guests to help themselves to seconds if they desire.
- Pare down the plates, too. Extra plates and glasses may look nice in your table setting, but they’re not nice for the environment. If plates, glasses and utensils aren’t needed for serving or eating, don’t put them out. This way you’ll avoid the risk of them getting dirty and needing washing. Also, use charms for wine and cocktail glasses to cut down on dishwashing.
- RSVPackaging. When inviting guests, ask them to bring reusable take-home containers for leftovers. This will help prevent wasting food and the water used to produce it.
- Collect the goods. Keep a watering can or bucket in your kitchen to collect leftover water from your guests’ glasses, which can be used later for watering plants.
- Scrape, fill, repeat. Always scrape dishes into the trash or compost bucket instead of rinsing leftover food down the disposal. If you have a dishwasher, use it because it will use significantly less water than handwashing. Remember to only run your dishwasher with a full load.
Thank you! By reducing and reusing water during your Thanksgiving preparation and cleanup, you are carrying out the American Water mission, as well as that of eco-advocates worldwide. Moreover, you are helping to ensure that your children, grandchildren and generations after them will continue to give thanks for a plentiful water supply and a sustainable planet.