by Anne Rackow

Lately, we’ve been sharing ideas on how companies can celebrate holidays in ways that align with their values (e.g. Halloween) . With Thanksgiving just a few days away, we’ve been thinking about how to approach this sometimes-controversial holiday from a socially and environmentally friendly perspective.

Surrounding Thanksgiving, people are often inspired to reflect on the many things for which they are grateful. Sometimes, they become motivated to volunteer at their local shelter or soup kitchen, an act that is wonderful in theory, but results in a sudden surge of untrained volunteers, which can sometimes be overwhelming and burdensome to small charities. Then, numbers drop off immediately after the holiday is over, when sustained support is really needed.  In light of that, we wanted to share different ways to take action.

via  Unsplash

As you can imagine, one of the biggest issues that comes up around Thanksgiving is exorbitant food waste. There are people going hungry around the world every day, while a massive amount of food is simultaneously being wasted. Each year, about 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted internationally, and about 35 million tons of food is wasted in the U.S. alone. This happens in a variety of ways including unsold food in grocery stores, unsold or uneaten food in restaurants and households, and even unused and food from farms. Not only could we be using this food waste to feed the millions of people that are underfed each day, but we could also be saving money and the environment while we do it. 

If we work together, as individuals, organizations, and businesses, we can greatly reduce food waste and redistribute that food to those who need it:

Educate your employees

Part of the reason why food waste is such a widespread issue is because of the lack of knowledge around it. It’s hard to fathom that the little bits of food that we throw away each day amount to so much, or that restaurants and grocery stores throw away such large quantities so frequently. One of the ways companies can be most effective in reducing food waste is by educating their teams about it. Here are some ideas:

  • Host a lunch-and-learn where employees can spend their lunch hour listening to a presentation or watching a brief documentary such as Dive, or Just Eat It, which also offer helpful resources to take action after watching the film. 
  • Share informational handouts, or relevant resources in break rooms, cafeterias, on community boards, and in other shared spaces.

Take action and encourage your employees to do the same

Though education is crucial, what you do with your new knowledge is what’s going to really make a difference. Here are some ways that you can be better about food waste as a company:

Thanksgiving WhyWhisper Collective
  • Compost as a company and have separate trash cans in the break room for compostable waste and recyclable materials.
  • Host a post- holiday food drive and collect unused non-perishable items from employees during the weeks following holidays and then donate them to local food banks.
  • Have a company or department wide pot luck with leftovers. Try to make it fun with a prize for most creative use of leftovers (and don’t forget to share recipes)!
  • Raise money for organizations like Feeding America that are actively combatting this issue. Put a collection box in the breakroom or use an online platform, such as Generosity by Indiegogo to make it easy for staff to give.
  • Encourage your employees to shop local, and where available, to purchase “ugly” fruit and vegetables that most shoppers won’t (it tastes the same!).

Engage with others to spread the word

Once you’ve taken action, the best way you can get the movement going is by talking about what you’ve done and the impact that it’s had. Here are some ideas for how you can do that:

  • Share information and resources on your company’s social media platforms, as appropriate. Consider taking pictures of your lunch and learn or pot luck and sharing them on your social media as well!
  • Encourage employees to share information and show support on their personal social media networks.

Do you have a favorite recipe that utilizes leftover food? Or additional suggestions on what companies can do to help curb food waster this Thanksgiving? If so, please share with us by: