Going Native

Screen Shot 2015-10-29 at 7.07.31 PMGoing Native: My Sustainable Un-Thanksgiving (Originally Published in 2015)

The WHAT, WHY and HOW:

I’m not opposed to celebrating our families and community by taking a few days off from our modern hectic lives and relaxing in gratitude for what we have. Yet, how many of us really think about or question the mythology of the fraudulent story that is a beloved American holiday, “Thanksgiving”.

Instead of publicly stating that I was uncomfortable with the European barbarism, the conquest of our continent and the genocide of my ancestors, I would sit at Thanksgiving tables of family and friends for decades and stuff my moral response to injustice and inequality down my throat along with every delicious bite from the table.

My mission, as this sustainable non-profit’s founder, is to inspire you to embrace better sustainable practices economically, culturally, socially and environmentally. Making responsible choices reduces your carbon footprint, grows community, and saves you time and money. That motivation has enabled our students, tour, conference and workshop attendees, to customize and design their own freer, simpler and healthier lifestyles.

My parents, rest their souls, were never able to give me in my youth an answer as to why we, as Americans, celebrate holidays in such a consumeristic way. In their generation, the corporations invented “planned obsolescence” and “manufactured consent” for profit only. There are countless examples of fabulous products and great design that were squashed by corporate purchases that never made it to market. So those few that have all the money and power continue to cull profits from all of us until we no longer have anything to give or the energy or health to work.

In my opinion this is a daily act of violence against each of us as American citizens. We eat manufactured GMO food, we are pummeled with ads for products we neither want or need. We are taxed and regulated so heavily that even some of us Americans who purchase our own land cannot legally collect water that drops onto it, nor build a small home on it powered by renewables with our own composting system unless the more wasteful fossil fuel grid and local water source connections are forced upon us.

The American Dream, for me, ended years ago. You can read all about it in the e-book I recently released “Living the Sustainable Tiny Life”.

I celebrate unthanksgiving. This does not mean I am ungrateful, that I do not still love my family and friends, I just choose to disconnect from the holiday collective denial of Americans celebrating European conquest and genocide. Years ago I decided to disengage and explain why to all the people who invited me to there “Thanksgiving” events. I’m sure I will alienate some; however, this is a conscious choice. Yours might be different.

First “Unthanksgiving” at Alcatraz 1969 via IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork

Here’s the thing, once you know the facts about something, what do you do?

The moral response is truth and reconciliationWhat do we do in a world that is not yet ready to know or knows and won’t deal with the consequences of that knowledge? Sound familiar? (As in climate change.)

You either engage or disengage. 

All these questions brought me back to why I founded Terrabluteams.org. How do we change human behavior in order to become more sustainable citizens? I’ve moved past what was referred to as the “sustainability imperative” in 2010 and believe the solution to climate change and the world’s quickly diminishing resources has become a moral imperative”I pursue, practice and inspire in others daily. The building of my zero-waste off-grid house/sustainable education module will be completed this year and will begin its sustainable lifestyle workshop tour next Spring.

And by sustainable I mean, how do we responsibly make cultural, economic, social and environmental choices?

The answer, although simple, is difficult to put into practice: Speak honestly and often, make informed choices, resist conventional wisdom, reject cultural amnesia, and refuse to be polite when it means surrendering to lies. After a decade of not succumbing to the typical holiday consumptive practices, I can assure you, I am a much happier person to have so much LESS STUFF. Instead I invest in experiences, relationships and community.

How will I un-celebrate Thanksgiving?I will take a long walk in nature, meditate on my choice and the choices others have made, practice non-violence towards others, be mindful and eat a meal of organic vegan food from my garden and other local gardens.

I will miss some friends and family, sure. But this year, like many others, I’ll let the parades, the Black Friday craziness, the social media madness, pass me by.

This week’s practice is to be mindful of your choice to engage or disengage “once you know”. Do the math, find your own facts, connect the dots, and re-calibrate your sustainable compass. Be a fountain, not a drain.

Please send us your comments and feedback!

The Deep Dive:

Unthanksgiving Day

Last year’s Unthanksgiving Day of Indigenous Peoples Sunrise Gathering at Alcatraz

The National Day of Mourning overlooking Plymouth Rock

UnThanksgiving Vegetarian Menu from last year’s Holiday

29 Vegan Recipes for Thanksgiving

44 Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

Giving Thanks to Planet Earth

If carnivorous gluttony, sports marathons and planning for Black Friday are still in your lifestyle’s repertoire, then as a species we are surely doomed. The way we Americans spend this day and our year end ‘holidays’ is actually the antithesis of sustainable living.

Let me dish out the carbon footprint guilt:

  1. Your Thanksgiving feast (Turkey, cranberries, vegetables, pie and wine) will produce approximately 44 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.
  2. A 160-pound person would have to walk 30 miles just to burn 3000 calories of that holiday repast.
  3. According to the EPA, the period from Thanksgiving to New Years Day, household waste increases by more than 25 percent in the US. That amounts to an extra 5 million tons of household waste each year.
  4. Shopping bags, packaging, wrapping paper, bows and ribbons create an additional 1 million tons a week to our landfills.
  5. According to the Rocky Mountain Institute, the passenger vehicles shuttling holiday travelers will travel 980 million miles, burn 40.8 million gallons of gasoline, require $132.6 million to $138.7 million for fuel, and emit more than 362,000 metric tons of CO2.

However you spend your Thanksgiving or Unthanksgiving, I ask that you think about using our planet’s remaining resources wisely.

First “Unthanksgiving” at Alcatraz 1969 via IndianCountryTodayMediaNetwork

Going Native: My Sustainable Un-Thanksgiving (Week #45) (2015)

A TerraBlu Thanksgiving (2011)


This Is Your Thanksgiving on Climate Change: How will your Turkey Day staples fare in a warming world?

Thanksgiving dinner’s carbon footprint, (Chicago Tribune)

The environmental costs of a Thanksgiving meal; ‘food miles’ and other damage (Washington Post)

The Environmental Working Group Report

The Environmental Toll of Thanksgiving

Seven Ways to Make Your Thanksgiving Greener

A Terrablu Thanksgiving

A Terrablu Thanksgiving

Written by Vera Struck

The way we North American’s celebrate this day is actually the antithesis of sustainable development. This holiday tradition is reeking with gastronomical gluttony, too many sports TV marathons and the beginning of the holiday season “sale” specials enticing us to over consume. The average American consumes 4800 calories that day. A 160-pound person would have to walk 30 miles just to burn 3000 calories of that holiday repast.

The origins of the Thanksgiving were far more interesting and sustainable. It is our nation’s nod to the Native Americans providing the struggling Pilgrims with a bountiful Fall Harvest feast. A meal amongst friends provides nourishment for the body and soul.

I ask you this year to honor our earth and each other and consider changing this behavior and developing a new Terrablu tradition. Learn about the quadruple bottom line; eat less, eat local varieties, cook your own, give, share more and feel absolutely great!

  1. You could even try this fabulous Vegeterian Thanksgiving Menu .  And some of the NYTimes food writer, Mark Bittman’s salads like I did last year. My favorites: a tie between the apple slaw and dried cranberry couscous with pecans. Okay, that might have been going a bit too far for you carnivores. You could buy local; an organic turkey through Local Harvest. Better yet, go seek out a local farmer and introduce yourself to your new supplier and support your own community. Don’t forget to compost your scraps or use them for soup stock.
  2. Decorate your table with beeswax candles instead of petroleum based candles (Less unhealthy emissions and they smell better too!). Bring in interesting leaves, leftover pumpkins, gourds, pine branches or holiday fruit from your own garden or community.
  3. For dessert, serve a homemade pie from the fruit you purchased at the local farm stand. Make one or two extra and donate to a local shelter or a family in need.
  4. Serve a Thanksgiving coffee (not just a cup of coffee, but a just cup)
  5. Instead of eating solo or even if you have a table, add an extra chair or two for someone not as lucky and spread the cheer around.
  6. Why not take a break before you get up and turn on the TV, take a walk, connect with nature. Take a deep breath, close your eyes and take a moment to reflect on and celebrate this turning planet that sustains all of our lives.

However you choose to be thankful and celebrate, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving!  ¡Feliz Día de Acción de Gracias! Ringraziamento felice! Ευτυχής ημέρα των ευχαριστιών

Let us know in your comments if you have a sustainable practice you would like to share.

Please Note: Our blog postings will be changing from Saturdays to every Sunday starting next Sunday (and will be posted at midnight the night before) so you can get used to the schedule before we start the Terrablu Sustainable Year 2012 of 52 weeks of Sustainable best practice exercises for you, your family and community.