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5 Tips For An Eco-Friendly Thanksgiving

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Marc Sahara of The Inconvenient Bag at a California Green TV filming. The episode airs on Thanksgiving Day at 8:30PM on KCET (left to right: Marc Eco, Huell Howser, World Famous Artist Greg Pnut Galinsky & Morgan Pharoh - VP of The Inconvenient Bag).

Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful for the challenges we have met thus far, and to be at peace knowing that people are becoming more open to our green message.

We are not alone and belong to an environmental movement that started long before we were born; our Eco-Forefathers are so proud. The first Eco-Americans could be traced as far back as 1845 when Henry David Thoreau decided to move to Walden Pond in order to grow his own food, live simpler and wonder in the wilderness to write poems (July 4, 1845). In 1892, the Sierra Club was formed and headed by John Muir. Muir was interested in preserving the environment because all things we do have a connection to the universe. In his honor, the California legislature authorized $10,000 to begin planning and construction of the John Muir Trail.

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In 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act and Environmental Protection Agency were passed and the first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970. In 2005, the Kyoto treaty was ratified by the United Nations with its main focus on stopping Global Warming. Unfortunately, the United States has not yet ratified Kyoto.

Marc Sahara with Adrian Grenier of Entourage filming at the Season Finale of Alter Eco showing on December 11, 2008 on Discovery Channel's Planet Green.

Now in 2008, here we are. The torch has been passed to us as the new group of Eco-Americans setting aside our cultural, political and religious differences and joining together. We are not waiting for laws or treaties to force us to act, but rather we are voluntarily doing our own share in preserving this great city. We share this scarce resource called the City of Los Angeles and we are writing the next green chapter.

Naturally, none of us are perfect, and we all have days when we forget or are in a hurry. Life in Los Angeles is indeed in the fast lane, but I see many of us taking a moment to slow down. We are all making new conscious decisions we have never thought to do so before, and taking a day-by-day approach to begin changing our behavior which leads to larger steps and influences others.

Our new eco-friendly lifestyles not only have been saving us money (electricity, gas, etc.), but also has the fringe benefit of creating good feelings that radiate out of us onto others. Its so exciting living in Los Angeles today and shaping the future of our city. Our city leads the way in lifestyle and trends and everyone is watching us to see what we are doing and thus we are shaping the world.

For example, Hollywood is showing America eco-lifestyle programming. Sitcoms have green themes in them such as the Emmy Award Winning Shows, 30 Rock, featuring Al Gore in an episode and My Name Is Earl, which talked about reducing one’s own carbon footprint guest starring Christian Slater. Huell Howser dedicated an entire show, California Green, to plastic bag reduction in the Greater Los Angeles Area (see picture), and Discovery Channel’s Planet Green has an entire series based on eco-living and change starring Adrian Grenier from Entourage (see above photo).

So, my friend, what’s the next bullet point in your own green history? How about an Eco-Angelino Thanksgiving?

1) Instead of paper invitations, people could contact each other via email (or Evite). If invitations are needed there are recycled paper invitations and even paper with seeds embedded in it so when it decomposes, new life is set in motion. Seed paper is usually handmade and decorated just as beautifully as ordinary cards.

2) Turkey is a staple for Thanksgiving. You don’t have to go as far as my hero, Ed Begley Jr., who will probably be cooking his turkey in his solar oven! However, make sure that many people are over and that one (or each) turkey satisfies as many people as possible. Hence, the energy consumed is for many people (along the same lines, everyone could watch the football games on one energy-star TV instead of their own - watching football is better with others anyway). Side dishes could be organic, if possible, or have organic ingredients. Take your canvas bag and walk to your local farmers’ market to buy the best, freshest and tastiest organic foods and buy locally grown flowers for décor (guys you can shop with a canvas bag also, its not a purse!). Additionally, there are many new tasty organic and eco-friendly drinks and liquors.

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3) Use dishes instead of plastic and paper. When finished fill the sink up and wash all the dishes at once. The less waste, the better. As a Japanese-American growing up, my mother taught me “Mottainai!” which in Japanese means “Don’t waste!”. There are now corn-based or post-consumer recycled goods that could be used if disposable products are needed, i.e., utensils, plates, trash liners, etc. Keep all water bottles, cans and glass for recycling. Moreover, try to use the same utensils over and over instead of a new plate, a new fork, etc. I have found that a great way to clean off my dinner fork for desert is to lick it!

4) Thanksgiving is family time, so have everyone over. Instead of scattered family celebrations, have one large Thanksgiving party where everyone could be at one location, possibly carpool and pitch in. Invite those people who have family out of the area. This would reduce the use of energy to one location while increasing the festivity! Also, you could get others to help clean up the place! For those of us who refuse to cook, there are many green options. My friend, Allan of Cater Green (, has a green solution for every catering need, including cleaning up and an awesome “zero waste” plan.

5) Green Cleanup: Besides setting up separate bins for recyclable goods, there are other forms of green cleanup. There are a multitude of green cleaning solutions available in your local stores, i.e., Begley’s Best, organic cleaning solutions, chemical free, etc. If a dish washer is to be used, make sure it is full and hopefully energy-star certified (or just have your favorite guest hand wash the dishes! See #3 above.). Furthermore, extra food could be donated to a shelter for others to enjoy - Mottainai! Those of you who go the extra step could compost earth-friendly waste for your own organic gardens.

As you can see, this isn’t a huge change and I’m sure people have thought of even better tips than mine. My message always has been simple: We don’t have to change our life drastically and there’s no need for us to be scared that eco-friendly living means we can’t live a normal life. Instead, we all could do minor things that lead to major change and as a group, Los Angeles could really make a huge difference because there are so many of us with so much diversity - this is our strength. How does eco-friendly living fit into your culture or ethnicity?

Marc J. Sahara is the president of The Inconvenient Bag. You can join him on Thanksgiving Day at 8:30 p.m. at Huell Howser’s show “California Green” on KCET (Channel 28) in which he teams with Heal The Bay and Bristol Farms in showing how the Greater Los Angeles Area is reducing the usage of paper and plastic bags - a show with a positive solution.

Until then, Sahara says "there is one thing that is always reusable and free, its called love. Thus, recycle your love and have a Happy Eco-Thanksgiving!"

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