As was the case for most Americans, Thanksgiving this year looked different for my family. While our gathering featured the usual stories and laughter, the COVID-19 pandemic meant it was limited to immediate family members.
That said, one thing that didn’t change was the food. There were the delicious side dishes that my mom spent all week preparing from scratch, and that my siblings and I quickly made disappear from our plates. We consumed fluffy mashed potatoes, sweet cranberry chutney and savory stuffing in what seemed like a blink of an eye. However, as good as the feast was, there was a by-product that left my stomach unsettled.
The aftermath of our Thanksgiving dinner was a pile of plastic trash leftover from buying ingredients at the grocery store.
In a world overrun by plastic pollution, Thanksgiving shouldn’t come with a side of plastic. Grocery stores, even ones that boast environmental bona fides such as Whole Foods, are not doing their part to stop adding to the mountains of plastics that fill our landfills, flood our rivers and oceans and pollute our planet. To that end, Environment America Research and Policy Center launched a campaign in November calling on Whole Foods to put Planet Over Plastic by eliminating all single-use plastic packaging from its stores. Whole Foods, and other grocery stores, can and must move beyond plastic to protect our wildlife and wildplaces.
What is particularly frustrating is that, as the consumers, we have little say in the matter. Single-use plastic packaging lines the aisles and shelves of grocery stores across the country. So when Americans go shopping for Thanksgiving, it is nearly impossible to go home without a basket full of plastic.
But just how many Thanksgiving ingredients are packaged in single-use plastic? And, how many items that simply do not need to be packaged -- like fruits and vegetables -- are covered in layers of plastic wrap?
To answer these questions, Environment America did a “countdown to Thanksgiving” week of action in the run-up to the holiday. During the week, we posted on social media iconic Thanksgiving dishes alongside a photo of the plastic trash its ingredients, purchased at Whole Foods, came from. Sadly, the results were as expected. From acorn squash in plastic produce bags to bread bags secured with plastic clips, plastic was the common ingredient in all of our recipes.