A few thoughts about waste, awareness, and November.


Imagine your perfect 4th-Thursday-in-November holiday scenario. What does it look like? In the year 2020 (an election year, at that), the economy isn’t doing great and many people have lost their jobs due to a global pandemic. It’s unsafe to travel and gather in large groups. And we are in the midst of the biggest civil rights movement since the 1960s. There is a lot of hard stuff going on in the world. Does that change the image of your November holiday?

I encourage folks to gather (safely) and be grateful and waste less during this holiday season but to have awareness around historical and current times while it’s happening. Should you choose to celebrate in some way (traditional or not), do so with appreciation, intention, and reflection during this unique moment in time. Here are six ways to Rethink the November holidays in the name of waste and humanity:

1.) Give yourself a history lesson.

The 4th Thursday of November is a national holiday with an ugly, violent history. If you need a refresher, here is a good place to start. Take time this month to learn about the history where you live, whose native land you’re on, and how you perpetuate ongoing colonialism. If you’re not Indigenous to this place, have these sometimes uncomfortable conversations with your peers and family. Truth is powerful! 

2.) Give back, get involved.

Be an active part of the community, not a sideline observer. Acknowledge your own privileges AND the suffering of friends, neighbors, community members, and family. This year, the pandemic has disproportionately impacted historically marginalized communities, especially Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and neighbors of color. Learn about people and places in Central Oregon that need support and find a way to give back, whether it’s time, money, a social media share, or otherwise.

3.) Don’t waste food.

Before COVID-19, approximately 40% of the food that was grown to be eaten ended up going to waste. The upset in our food supply chain, as Michael Pollan wrote about in the June 11, 2020 edition of the New York Review, caused an enormous amount of extra food waste AND an increase in hungry people. As you’re creating your holiday meal plan, think about that. Learn about how to stop wasting food at home.

4.) Buy less stuff.

  • Make some holiday decorations from found items.
  • Getting ready for gift giving? Think about handmade options and giving the gift of experiences.
  • If you are going to participate in Black Friday, read this.
  • Appreciate the stuff you already have.

5.) Gather with loved ones (safely).

Please, by all means: eat, drink, and be merry! But when you do so, be cautious. Consider COVID-19 protocols and remember that we’re still in this thing and people are vulnerable. Find creative ways to gather virtually, outdoors, or in smaller groups than usual. Consider the health and safety of the greater community. And consider the health of the planet. Here are a few waste reduction tips for parties, even small ones:

  • Choose reusable plates, cups, and silverware.
  • Have a compost bin in case there is wasted food.
  • Set up a waste station with GOOD recycling signage.
  • Encourage people to bring reusable to-go containers so you don’t get stuck with more leftovers than you can eat!

6.) Have gratitude…

…for the place you live, for the people who were here before you, for the food in front of you, and for those around you who you love and who love you back. Coming from a place of gratitude can help you be open to growth, ideas, perspectives, and traditions that honor and appreciate.