: Black Friday and Thanksgiving waste have a costly environmental impact, which also hurts our wallets


Shop judiciously this Thanksgiving and Black Friday.

Up to 80% of items — and any plastic packaging they are wrapped in — will end up either in a landfill, destroyed by incineration or converted into low-quality recycling. Similarly, millions of pounds of food will go to waste after Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.

The allure of a deal can often mean that shoppers buy more than they intended. 

The bulk of our holiday consumerism often has a very short life, according to a recent report, Building a Circular Economy, released by the think tank Green Alliance and engineering students at the University of Leeds in the U.K.

That environmental impact can be costly. Black Friday is expected to produce 429,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from product deliveries alone — that’s the same as 435 return flights from London to New York.

“‘Around the Thanksgiving holiday, some 200 million pounds of turkey, 40 million pounds of mashed potatoes and 30 million pounds of stuffing will end up in trash cans across the nation.’”

Food waste is not limited to Thanksgiving. As much as 40% of food goes uneaten in the U.S., according to Harvard Law School’s Food Law and Policy Clinic and the Natural Resources Defense Council, or NRDC, a nonprofit environmental action group. Some 160 billion pounds of discarded food also clogs up landfills.

Consumers often throw out food that is good to eat. “Sell by” dates are actually for stores to know how much shelf life products have. They are not meant to indicate the food is bad. “Best before” and “use by” dates are for consumers, but they are manufacturers’ estimates as to when food reaches its peak. Manufacturers mostly decide the shelf life for their own products.

The Guest-imator from, a community that aims to reduce waste, allows hosts to calculate how much food they need for the number of guests. ReFed also offers some advice for people to avoid food waste. For starters, it recommends that hosts have enough containers, aluminum foil and self-sealing bags so they can give guests leftovers, and advises cleaning out freezers to make room for uneaten food.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s FoodKeeper App, helps to reduce food waste by providing food and beverage storage information. “Store leftovers in small shallow containers and put them in the refrigerator,” the department’s guidelines state. “Thanksgiving leftovers are safe to eat [for] up to four days in the refrigerator. In the freezer, leftovers are safely frozen indefinitely but will keep best quality from two to six months.”

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