Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays. As my kitchen fills with the aromas of pie, turkey and stuffing, I am reminded of warm family gatherings from my childhood. Thanksgiving was always a time of love and joy in my home growing up – filled with siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles and the occasional friend, or two.
Thanksgiving is a very Jewish-feeling secular holiday. Like most Jewish holidays, including Shabbat, it is centered around family and sitting down at a table together. It is also a time for gratitude, and a reminder that we have choices about how we approach life: we can focus on what is wrong and difficult, or we can focus on the positive: those who love and care about us; the food on our table; our health, if we have good health; the health of those we love, if they have good health.
I know that this is not always easy to do – sometimes our lives can be very difficult. If, nonetheless we can find something to be grateful for, our lives may feel - and be - better. Psychologists have demonstrated over and over that resilience is often linked to a sense of gratitude.
In the prayer, “Modim Anachnu Lach” from the evening liturgy, we are reminded to be thankful for those miracles that happen every day: a beautiful dawn or sunset, the sight of the ocean, the scent of a fragrant plant, the sight of the mountains, the color of the leaves as they turn, tasting the first ripe apple of the season….
Thanksgiving is kind of the secular U.S. version of “Modim.”
That being said, Thanksgiving tends to offer a surfeit of everything: lots of family and lots of food – usually more than we can (or should?) consume in one sitting. Moreover, being with extended family can sometimes be stressful. Can we discuss politics, or not? Is Uncle Harry going to go off on one of his tirades again? Will the kids just argue over what to play all afternoon, or will they actually play together?
I can’t help with your family issues (may they be minor!) - but I can help you deal with those leftovers. Let’s talk about earth friendly - or friendlier – food storage possibilities.
Before we enter into this particular conversation, a moment for true confessions: I do not live in a plastic free home. There is plastic wrap in a drawer in my kitchen, and I have plastic food containers in another drawer. I came somewhat late to my understandings of how bad some of this stuff is for our environment and the problems with recycling plastic film. If you also have plastic food storage in your home – use it! It does not help anyone to throw it away all at once. Once it is used up, though (and use it as sparingly as possible!), there are other things you can do so that you don’t have to buy it again.
One of my favorite food wrap items is a product called Bees Wrap.
This is cloth that been coated on both sides with beeswax. I wrap bread in it, I cover containers with it, and I use it as much as I can. One bees wrap can last for up to a year (they come in different sizes). You can make your own beeswax wrap – there are instructions for how to do so online (enter, “How to make beeswax wrap” in your search bar). Once I learned how difficult it is to get beeswax off your floor, however, I decided that purchasing the product was the way to go. That being said, your home, backyard, or garage may be more amenable to dripping wax. If it is, then go for it!
I do use my plastic food containers like Rubbermaid, Glad, etc. I find that I can use them over and over and over again, and as long as I have them and they are BPA free, they are a better solution than plastic film wrap or plastic bags.
My favorite food storage containers, however, are glass with snap on plastic lids like these:
The glass cleans easily and well, no odor sticks to it, and these containers keep food fresh for a very long time. I have a drawer full of them and when I shop at a store that will let me buy, for example, olives in bulk, I make sure to have one or two of these containers with me. They are also great for deli purchases. The butcher and fish counters are more difficult, since health regulations require those behind the counter to use plastic gloves and plastic film or bags. But I digress…
A great way to send a turkey sandwich to school or work is in a bag like this:
These bags are easily washable and fit sandwich bread very nicely.
You can also send lunch leftovers in metal tins like this:
They pack easily and are also very easy to clean.
For those really messy items, you can use compostable sandwich bags, like these:
They don’t last forever (which is part of what makes them so compostable), but they can work well short term.
Alternatively, you can use silicone bags like these:
They keep food fresh for a long time, and if they are made completely from silicone, they are much more environmentally friendly than plastic. You can tell if they are 100% silicone by stretching them. If they turn white where you stretch them, they probably contain come plastic. Even that silicone mix, however, can be better than plastic film. For example, there are some bowl covers that you can reuse, which – if you really use them – can help reduce the environmental impact of plastic film. Here are mine:
Finally, don’t forget aluminum foil. I use a brand made from recycled foil. Aluminum is very easily recycled – but do wash it and let it dry before you crumple it and put it into your recycling bin. It’s also important that you not make it into a ball smaller than 2 inches in diameter, or the recycling machines will have a hard time seeing it.
And – looking forward toward next month - here is this month’s email letter – in preparation for the gift giving season:
Dear Mr. Bezos,
I enjoy the convenience of shopping on Amazon.com, as do many of my family and friends. As we enter the season of gift giving, during which Amazon.com will receive many, many orders, I would ask that you begin to consider a gift that you could give to our environment. What if Amazon was able to convert all of its shipping containers to green shipping containers? This would mean no more air-filled plastic, no Styrofoam peanuts, no bubble wrap, and no plastic mailers. I understand that this cannot happen in a matter of months – or even in the next year - but I believe that if you lead the way on green shipping, the rest of the industry will follow.
With faith in your care for our planet, and wishing you and yours a joyful Thanksgiving,
Please feel free to copy and paste this note – personalized, or not, as you see fit. You can send it to Jeff@amazon.com .
I wish you all a Thanksgiving filled with warmth, family, friends and – most of all – love.