Ahhhh Fall. The changing colours. The shedding of old skin (or leaves) and the promise of winter (okay, winter is a given, but some of us love it). With Fall comes Thanksgiving, Halloween, Christmas etc. Fall also brings us Sustainability Month across Canada in October, a chance to reflect on our environmental and social impacts. Waste Reduction Week and International Walk To School month also fall in October.

Thanksgiving is a great place to start. You might have a large family dinner or maybe travel. However you choose to spend your Thanksgiving, we have some tips to make it more sustainable.

Skip the unnecessary wasteful practices:
-Use reusable dinner ware, glasses and napkins. With an efficient dishwasher (or with efficient hand washing). The impact of producing ceramic plates and using water to clean plates is far less due to repeated use than disposable plates. Harvesting the raw materials for the paper (or gulp, styrofoam-please don’t use styrofoam!), producing the plate, transporting them to the store, you picking them up from the store, using them for 15 minutes, transporting them to the landfill where they won’t have a chance to decompose properly.

-Purchase local and organic foods when possible. The benefits of local and organic foods cannot be overstated. Free range and naturally fed animals taste better! Well I’m assuming, I’m a vegetarian- consider a vegetarian meal! There are some delicious main dish options like a festive chickpea tart or roasted vegetable galette. Delicious and no animals had to be sacrificed (okay, that’s a little dramatic). And when you’re done, don’t forget to compost what you can! There are many farmer’s markets around Winnipeg these days, and the largest one, St. Norbert’s Farmers Market, is open until Oct. 25. Look for a farmer’s market near you. Also, serve water in a classy jug instead of bottled water

-Take the opportunity to ask your friends and family during dinner who they are planning to vote for in the upcoming Winnipeg civic election. Politics are often avoided as a dinner conversation topic, but it doesn’t have to be! Hearing the opinions of people you love and respect in regards to the mayoral, councillor or school trustee candidates will allow you to make a more informed decision when it comes time to vote October 22. After all, you can’t complain about the (insert applicable frustration: transit, cycling infrastructure, taxes, roads, snow removal, land swap deals, etc) unless you do your civic duty. Check to make sure you are registered to vote.

-Get outside! The temperature around Thanksgiving is perfect for a game of bocce or to throw the football around. Connecting with nature doesn’t have to involve hiking or a long haul canoe trip (this picture is just a quick one). Just being out around the trees and birds and feeling the sun (or snow!) on your face improves your mood and health greatly! Give thanks to our beautiful city!

-If you travel for Thanksgiving, driving has less impact than flying, and you can slow down and enjoy the scenery, or stop to take pictures of that old shabby (but beautiful) prairie barn. You can’t do that on a plane! If you have to fly, consider purchasing carbon offsets– you can have some trees planted to take in the amount of carbon your flight would produce. Win-win!

-Finally, give back. You may be fortunate enough to have a delicious, local and organic meal to share with family and friends under a warm roof, but many people in Winnipeg don’t. You don’t have to give a lot to make a difference. Ask everyone at your dinner to pitch in a couple dollars and check to see what a local shelter or charity needs. There are many to choose from:

-Siloam Mission provides many services to Winnipeg’s less fortunate, and hosts a Thanksgiving Dinner (along with Easter and Christmas) every year. Check out what they currently are in need of.

-Craig Street Cats is close to closing their doors due to a Manitoba Hydro project which has greatly limited access to their building. They are in need of cash and cat food ASAP. Click here for a list of items they need or to donate cash.

-We would be nothing without our environment, consider donating to an environmental non-profit (like Green Action Centre!) who is doing work to educate and actively protect our beautiful province (or country).