Halloween marks the official beginning of the holiday season. For Americans, that typically means more energy used on outdoor lighting and decorations, as well as an increased use in kitchen appliances for cooking to host dinner and holiday parties. But just because holiday season requires more trips to the grocery store and more time in the kitchen, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to waste energy.

Even though Thanksgiving is the year’s biggest dinner, it doesn’t mean you have to leave a big carbon footprint. If you have a full house for Turkey Day, there are a few easy ways for you can control the amount of energy you use, as well as the amount of waste that comes from prepping for the big dinner.

1. Make a green grocery run.

First thing’s first – grocery shopping. No matter how many mouths you’re feeding, chances are you’ll end up carrying a lot of grocery bags if you decide to use plastic. Instead, invest in reusable eco-friendly bags before you make your big food runs. Not only do these bags drastically cut down your carbon footprint, they may save you money as well. Some grocery stores give a discount to customers who bring their own grocery bags.

2. Go for the real deal instead of disposable plates, cups, utensils and napkins.

The thought of cleaning up after feeding a family – especially after spending a majority of the day prepping in the kitchen – is not appealing. But despite the incredible temptation to simply throw away dirty plates, utensils and napkins, take advantage of the holiday to break out the fancy stuff. Seriously, when else are you really going to use that china and the good napkins you’ve been saving for a “special occasion”?

Not only does it make the dinner you worked so hard to prepare even more picturesque, you’ll also do your part to cut down on the amount of paper plates and cups that are thrown away each year. In the United States alone, approximately 64 billion paper plates and cups are trashed every year.

3. Put your microwave to good use.

Your microwave can be used for more than just popping popcorn and heating up cold leftovers. On Thanksgiving Day, it can be a life and energy saver. Instead of using your oven to do the majority of your cooking, your microwave uses less energy and is perfect for steaming vegetables, baking potatoes or desserts.

For more complex dishes, you can start heating them in microwave, and then move them to the oven or stove to save energy as they finish cooking.

4. Open the windows and turn down your AC.

Things are going to get hot in the kitchen – especially if you’re hosting a large party. With multiple kitchen appliances running, as well as the added body heat, you’ll probably be tempted to crank up the air conditioning to stay comfortable. Instead, open a few windows to let outside air naturally cool your home.

Not only can you better enjoy the sounds and smells of autumn, the fresh air will likely do everyone good.

5.  Create your own holiday decorations

Not everyone decorates their home for Thanksgiving, but if you want to add that extra holiday touch, forgo buying mass-produced decorations and create your own from your backyard. There’s no shortage of holiday foliage this time of year, and thoughtfully crafted centerpieces or door wreathes are a fun way to get into the Thanksgiving spirit.

For those extra crafty decorators, the master craftswoman Martha Stewart offers a step-by-step guide to making your own homemade cornucopia, filled with seasonal vegetables, fruits and stalks of wheat.

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