This holiday, eat green, shop green

The season of excess is upon us — Thanksgiving, when overeating is practically compulsory,  as is overspending on Black Thursday-Friday. The sales are so good, you just had to buy that kilowatt-guzzling laptop, cell phone, large-screen TV, etc.

I daresay I will be pilloried as an unpatriotic holiday killjoy for what follows, but before insanity descends, let’s stop, take a few deep breaths and think about making the holidays a little less wasteful, food and power-wise.

Dana Gunders, a project scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, has put together some rather unsettling, but well-documented numbers about the environmental impact of our Thanksgiving meals and the food we throw away afterwards.

Turkey with all the fixings, courtesy of the Associated Press. It's 48 hours before Thanksgiving; do you know how much carbon dioxide your holiday meal will emit?

– Producing one pound of turkey meat requires 520 gallons of water and produces 5 kilograms of carbon dioxide.

– As I type, shoppers across the country are buying an estimated 736 millions pounds of turkey — about 581 million pounds will be actual meat. Figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture indicate that about 35 percent of that — 204 million tons — will be thrown out.

– Going back to our water and CO2 figures, that means about 1 million tons of CO2 and 105 billion gallons of water, on top of all the food wasted.

“This outlandish wastefulness may seem absurd, but only because it’s rare that we stop and appreciate just how much goes into getting food to our tables,” Gunders writes.  “It’s the ultimate irony, really.  We feast to celebrate that our ancestors had enough food to survive their first winter, acknowledging that once upon a time food was something to be grateful for.  Then the next day, we throw half of it away.”

Needless to say, the possibilities for leftover turkey are virtually endless. A Google search on “leftover turkey recipes” delivers 3,230,000 results in .21 seconds.

The Food Network website has a video for a leftover turkey and Brie grilled cheese sandwich that looks absolutely killer.

The NRDC also has an energy-efficiency expert, Noah Horowitz, who has some good tips for having a greener Black Friday.

Buying Energy Star computers, TVs and other appliances is pretty much a no-brainer at this point, the Energy Star website even has a list of its most efficient TVs. But, Horowitz also says to look for the yellow Energy Guide label that provides information on how much power a device uses, televisions and appliances have to have them.

Energy Label E420VA_B003DV55YO__V142464664_.jpg

Horowitz also gives you another good reason to splurge on that iPad — it’s 10-times more energy efficient than a laptop and 35 times more efficient than a desktop computer.

How you set up your new devices also makes a difference, he says. A new TV has a choice of settings, and the most energy efficient will be the “home” or “standard” options; going with a “vivid” or “retail” setting uses 15 to 30 percent more power and could add $50 to $100 to your electric bill over the life of the set.

Going green for the holidays — it really doesn’t take a lot of time and, in the end, it could actually give you much more to be thankful for.