Image for post
Image for post
A typical Thanksgiving feast. (Credit: Satya Murthy, Flickr Creative Commons).

As a rising number of COVID cases sweep across the United States, Dr. Fauci, the nation’s top pandemic doctor, has asked Americans to skip large gatherings for Thanksgiving this year.

Even before Dr. Fauci’s call to downsize Thanksgiving, the holiday was going to look very different from usual for many families. Fewer people are traveling, and more are facing economic hardship that makes it difficult to splurge on an extravagant meal.

A recent consumer survey found that nearly 70% of Americans are changing their Thanksgiving plans in 2020. Consumer research from Butterball and Hormel Foods, which sell more than 40 million Thanksgiving turkeys annually, found that the number of people planning to host only their immediate families this Thanksgiving has jumped to 30%, up from 18% last year.

We should worry more about workers and the planet than about meat shortages

By Mia MacDonald and Stephanie Feldstein

Originally published April 30 in The Hill.

Image for post
Image for post
The COVID-19 crisis has exposed problems in the U.S. food system that go far beyond just empty grocery story shelves. (Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash)

Before COVID-19 most of us took for granted that whatever we needed would be on grocery store shelves, whether we were looking for carefully budgeted staple items or ingredients for a special dinner.

But how we shop has been upended — and that goes beyond uncertainty about what we’ll be able to check off our shopping lists. The pandemic has exposed deep vulnerabilities and inequities in the U.S. food system and supply chains.

We shouldn’t be worried about a potential meat shortage; we should be worried about leaders who put profits above workers’ lives, food safety, animal welfare and environmental protection. …

It’s Time to Get the Government Back to Work for Reproductive Rights

Image for post
Image for post
Because of the shutdown, the Census Bureau isn’t updating population estimates (photo credit: U.S. Census Bureau).

Every year about this time, the U.S. Census Bureau announces how many people are living in the United States.

That hasn’t happened yet — thanks to Trump and the government shutdown — but it isn’t hard to imagine where we’re headed. The Census Bureau estimated this past year that the U.S. population grows every 18 seconds, with a new birth every eight seconds.

As our population grows and reckless development accelerates, we’re rapidly squeezing out wildlife across the country. …

But meat has largely been left out of the discussion

This story was co-authored with Mia MacDonald, executive director of Brighter Green.

Image for post
Image for post
On the menu at COP24 were meaty dumplings, but meat was left out of the discussion (Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons/Jirangmoon).

As the latest United Nations climate change conference wrapped up in Katowice, Poland earlier this month, policy makers barely kept the Paris Accord alive. Yet the 11th-hour agreement they reached won’t be enough to face of the sobering reality of climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that avoiding catastrophic climate change can only succeed if governments take immediate, ambitious action across all sectors. That means a rapid shift to renewable energy and away from fossil fuels. But even that won’t be sufficient.

A growing body of research finds that another necessary action is for high-consuming countries to reduce meat and dairy consumption and move toward plant-forward diets and food systems. If current trends continue, food production will nearly exhaust the global carbon budget for all sectors — including fossil fuels — by 2050. …

Cutting holiday food waste starts at the store

Image for post
Image for post
Thanksgiving kicks off the season’s overconsumption. (Photo credit: Satya Murthy/Flickr.)

Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans throw out 25 percent more trash than the rest of the year. Holiday flights and cross-country road trips spike greenhouse gas emissions. Gifts come shrouded in plastic, which winds up in landfills and oceans.

Not to be too much of a Debbie Downer, but the holidays are tough on the planet. All of that overconsumption at the expense of wildlife and the environment starts with the Thanksgiving feast and the food waste that gets served up with it.

About 200 million pounds of turkey will be thrown away at Thanksgiving. More than 150 million pounds of potatoes, green beans and other vegetable sides will never get eaten. Bread baskets will be filled with an estimated 14 million pounds of dinner rolls that will simply be dumped after the big meal. …

5 ways to take overconsumption out of the equation

Image for post
Image for post

The time of year when kids return to school is a big deal for most families, signifying a return to more regular schedules, routines and homework. Back-to-school is also a big deal for the environment.

The weeks before school starts make up the second biggest shopping season of the year. And that long school supply list isn’t just stressful for parents and pocketbooks — it puts enormous stress on wildlife and the planet.

It’s estimated that 29 million U.S. households will spend $27.6 billion on back-to-school shopping this year. …

There’s not enough land for the U.S. Dietary Guidelines

Image for post
Image for post
We’re known for “amber waves of grain,” but much goes to feed cattle (Photo credit: TumblingRun/flickr).

The standard American diet isn’t sustainable. It’s no secret that we eat too much and we waste too much. It’s bad for our health, and it’s bad for the environment.

Globally, food production is the biggest user of fresh water. It’s responsible for 14.5 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. And it takes up nearly 40 percent of the planet’s land. Much of that super-sized footprint is from hooves — when it comes to the environmental demands of food production, meat and dairy eat up the biggest piece of the pie.

And meat and dairy make up a much larger part of the American diet than in other countries. With our influence on the global market, that’s a big problem. …

Moving forward to fight food waste effectively

In the new report, “Checked Out: How U.S. Supermarkets Fail to Make the Grade in Reducing Food Waste,” the Center for Biological Diversity and the Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign reveal that the majority of the American supermarket sector lacks a clear and effective commitment to food-waste reduction, particularly when compared to its European counterparts. Most companies have food donation and recycling programs with publicly available data.

But initiatives to prevent food waste in the first place are not as widespread, despite the social, economic and environmental advantages of prioritizing prevention. …

This story was co-authored with Mia MacDonald, executive director of Brighter Green.

Image for post
Image for post

Even before pulling the U.S. out of the Paris climate agreement, Donald Trump was carving away at progress made to protect our environment with short-sighted policy decisions. From walking back important rules to cut pollution from power plants to attempting to slash funding for renewable energy, Trump has put our planet on the chopping block. And another problematic policy move — a bi-lateral trade deal between the world’s two largest economies and greenhouse gas emitters — just got closer to finalization as the U.S. …

But We Need to Fight for It

Image for post
Image for post
Photo courtesy of the National Park Service on Flickr.

In his final weeks in office, between preparing his farewell speech and tying up loose ends, President Obama penned an article for the journal Science to lay out the irreversible momentum of clean power and the renewable energy transition in America and describe why the incoming Trump administration will not be able to fully reverse the forces behind that momentum.

This article is significant because President Obama believes in science and the urgency of climate change, and the importance of imparting the seriousness of these issues before he turns over the keys to the Oval Office to someone who does not. …


Stephanie Feldstein

Stephanie is the population and sustainability director at the Center for Biological Diversity.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store