What’s the Footprint of Your Turkey?

by Nelson Harvey

Uh, what’s the connection here?

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I’ve been struggling with the question of whether to return home for about a week and spend it with my family in Colorado. My concern, of course, is that the six-day trip would require air travel, and thus the associated greenhouse gas emissions. As Adam has pointed out here before, planes emit about 10 times more GHG’s than trains, and they account for at least 3-4 percent of global emissions. Until we can develop aviation biofuels that work, this number will only rise.

Of course, I want to go home for Thanksgiving. I’ve always done it, and it’s certainly rewarding to spend the time with family. But there’s another reason behind my desire to travel: I need escape. New York City is sapping my morale, and I’m overdue for some mental and spiritual regeneration in the mountains of my hometown. The irony is thick: I spend much of my daily life researching ways that we can reduce our environmental impact as a society, but it’s stressful enough to make environmentally destructive travel look pretty attractive.

I’m not alone. These days, taking a “vacation” often means hopping on a plane and jetting off to some far-flung locale for a week or two. In New York and many stressful places like it, the subways are adorned with ads for tropical islands, inviting responsible business people to come on down and collapse in a heap after working themselves to the bone for 50 weeks out of the year. The vacation, so concieved, is a reaction to the rest of one’s life, an all out relaxation binge that’s somehow supposed to recharge you for another year of weekends at the office.

If we reconcieved the way we structured our time when we weren’t on vacation, I think it could fundamentally change what we chose to do when we were. I’m talking about bringing down the highs and bringing up the lows, or better integrating work and leisure into every day. One concrete way to do this would be to introduce the four-day work week, as advocated nicely by Aaron Newton over at the blog Groovy Green. As Newton points out, this would reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion, while giving us more time for family and personal projects. And it would probably make it seem less attractive to run off each year and (literally) bury our heads in the sand.

Photo credits: Strobist (turkey), Global Jet (airplane)

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4 thoughts on “What’s the Footprint of Your Turkey?

  1. EarthFreak says:

    I’m glad that you brought this up. After four years in college, I’ve seen countless students make the trek home for Thanksgiving. I found this particularly ironic because the semester ended shortly after Turkey Day, and folks flew right back home after a week or two.

    Personally, I decided against the travel each year and spent my time with like-minded students. After a few years, our school started having its own feast for folks who stayed on campus or in town for the holiday.

    So I’d suggest staying put and enjoying the company of who you’re with. It doesn’t mean that Thanksgiving is canceled. In fact, you can turn the whole thing around, sustainability-style. Skip the travel; go for local foods; have a potluck with friends; if weather permits, embrace nature and have your feast outdoors; etc.

  2. Crafty Green Poet says:

    We don’t do Thanksgiving in the UK andour distances are much smaller so i can easily pop on a train to visit my parents at Christmas. Working only four days a week is a great idea, I’ve done it for four years and it really does improve the work life balance. I can never understand jetting off for holidays to tropical islands, (to visit friends and family is different and more of an eothical dilemma if you’re wanting to cut down on flights). We spend most of our holidays either at home, enjoying our beautiful city (which is small and quiet but has lots going on) or travelling by boat to Scottish islands and sometimes to other north European countries.

  3. retro says:

    This year my wife decided to have a dry run thanksgiving day to test out her recipes. We soaked the bird in a brine solution she got at William Sonoma, it really kept it moist. OMG, the turkey was so good and I get to do it again in a few days!

  4. Turkey says:

    Personally, I decided against the travel each year and spent my time with like-minded students. After a few years, our school started having its own feast for folks who stayed on campus or in town for the holiday.

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