Thanksgiving Water-Saving Tips

by Tracy Quinn
As originally posted on the National Resources Defense Council Staff’s Blog

As you prepare to brine that turkey (or Tofurky) and peel pounds upon pounds of potatoes, don’t forget about all the opportunities you have to celebrate Thanksgiving holiday in a sustainable way.

Just in time for my favorite part of the year, I’ve compiled a list of holiday water-saving tips that you can (hopefully) use all year round.



  • Turkey time
    If you bought a frozen turkey, give yourself enough time to defrost it in the refrigerator rather than using the cold water method (where you need to change the water every 30 minutes). According to the USDA you’ll need 24 hours of defrosting in the fridge for every 4–5 pounds of frozen turkey.
  • Rinse and reuse
    When washing any of your vegetables use a large bowl of water to rinse them rather than running the water. This water can then be reused to water your garden. (If you’re the type that likes to peel your potatoes wet, you can use a similar method. Dip your potatoes in a bowl of water instead of running the water. Or just try peeling them dry!)
  • Steam while you boil
    Running out of burners to cook your feast? If you’ve got something boiling, just place whatever you want to steam in a strainer over the boiling water — this way you won’t need to use additional water to steam your veggies and you’re using one less burner. Once the water has cooled from boiling be sure to reuse it for some nutritious soup base or water your garden.
  • Setting the table
    Place a pitcher of cold water on the table instead of filling each glass. That way people can take what they need, and you can give the leftover water to your dog or use on our plants.

Clean Up

  • Food Waste = Water Waste 
    Every plate of wasted food is also a waste of resources that went into growing that food (like water). According to the Water Footprint Network it takes more than 500 gallons of water to produce one pound of turkey (assuming turkey is similar to chicken). Here in America, we waste 204 million pounds of turkey every year on Thanksgiving … that’s nearly 105 billion gallons of water wasted!So to help reduce food waste, consider serving smaller portions and asking guests to take additional helpings if they want more. And make sure all your leftover turkey finds a way home. Bonus tip: ask your guests to bring their own take-away containers so that you don’t end up putting everything into disposable bags.

Empty Plate.jpg

  • Scrape don’t rinse 
    Hopefully there won’t be many leftovers on everyone’s plates. But if there is, be sure to scrape off your scraps (hopefully into your compost bin) instead of rinsing them.
  • Keep your watering can in your kitchen
    There are always a number of abandoned glasses half full of water after your dinner parties. By keeping a watering can by your sink, you can save this water for your plants or pets.
  • Dishwashing
    If you have a dishwasher, be sure to use it, as they use significantly less water than hand washing … and even more so with Energy Star-ranked ones.Used your china? If you’re washing dishes by hand, don’t let the water run. Rather, fill one basin with wash water and the other with rinse water.


Photo by Pulaw on Flickr, under Creative Commons licensing.