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5 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays Sustainably

The holidays are coming faster than you think. Looking for some great ways to celebrate sustainably? We have you covered.

It’s hard to believe, but the holidays are coming in hot! First up is Thanksgiving, where traditionally we gather with friends and family near and far to enjoy an epic (and hopefully delicious) feast. But just because this season celebrates abundance, it doesn’t mean it has to be wasteful. We’ve rounded up some of our top tips to help make the holidays more sustainable, and below we share a recipe for soup with one of our favorite sustainably-grown California vegetables — artichokes!

1. Choose sustainable wines from California!

We’re all about wine here, so obviously serving sustainable wine at your holiday parties is at the top of our list. But maybe you’re asking yourself, “Why is sustainable wine important?” California is a leader in sustainable winegrowing, which emphasizes conserving water, natural resources and wildlife habitats, while also protecting soil, air and water quality. Additionally, winemakers incorporate a range of practices that help make wineries economically viable and socially responsible. When wines are certified sustainable, you can have confidence that their producers have prioritized the environment, their communities and their teams — all without sacrificing quality.

So now that we’ve convinced you to choose a sustainable wine, you’re probably wondering how to find it. Thankfully, if you buy wine from California it’s easy to do. Did you know that more than 80% of wine from the Golden State is produced in a Certified California Sustainable winery? There are over 161 million bottles that bear the “Certified Sustainable” label on the back of the bottle! You can also use this handy tool to search for sustainable wineries, vineyards and wines. Other sustainable wine certifications to be on the lookout for are “SIP Certified,” “LODI RULES” and “Napa Green”.

sustainable wine
cheese plate sustainability

2. Waste not.

According to Stanford University, Americans typically throw away 25% more trash during the holidays. When you add it all up, it amounts to a whopping 25 million tons of additional trash in the landfill. Though paper plates save time on washing up, make the holidays more sustainable by using reusable dishes, cutlery, napkins and tablecloths when serving your Thanksgiving feast. 

3. Embrace leftovers

Yeah, we know that there is only so much turkey a person can eat, but did you know that over 200 million pounds of turkey are tossed in the trash after Thanksgiving? To help prevent this (and other food waste) start early and make a plan. How many guests are you hosting? Who is bringing what? Use a tool like the Guestimator to help you decide how much food to prepare so you don’t end up with way too much (or too little).

And definitely plan to send guests home with leftovers in eco-friendly or reusable packages. Don’t forget that you can always repurpose leftovers into something fun and delicious like our Bubble and Squeak recipe.  

sustainable holiday turkey
Sustainably grown California flowers

4. Look to nature for decorations

Make the holidays more sustainable by avoiding plastic and artificial flowers and decorations. Instead, add an arrangement or two of California Grown flowers to the table. You can also forage for evergreen stems or create a runner from fresh fruits and vegetables. 

5. Source your food and wine from local farmers, ranchers and vintners for a California-centric holiday

Of course, visiting the farmers’ market is a great way to ensure you are buying local, but there are plenty of California-grown choices in the supermarket too. Be sure to look for the CA GROWN license plate logo, or look for a “grown in the U.S.A.” label. California grows over 400 different crops, including berries, lettuce, grapes, sweet potatoes and more. Chances are if it was grown in the U.S., then it was grown in the Golden State. You can find out what’s in season here. Happily, because California boasts an incredible climate, there are many crops that are available year-round including strawberries, leafy greens, lemons, sweet potatoes, wine and artichokes!

Fun fact — did you know that the artichoke is California’s official state vegetable? Artichokes aren’t really a vegetable though, they are a perennial thistle — so they’re technically a flower. The edible part of the artichoke plant is actually a flower bud. California grows 100% of the domestic crop, so when you buy artichokes you can feel good about supporting California farming families.

Our recipe for Creamy Artichoke Soup would make a perfect starter for Thanksgiving, but we also like it for lunch too. It calls for canned artichoke hearts, which are a great pantry staple to always have on hand.

artichoke

An Artichoke Soup Recipe for the Holidays or Any Day

artichoke soup

Transport your tastebuds to the California Central Coast with this easy artichoke hearts recipe inspired by the Creamy Artichoke Soup at the renowned  Shadowbrook Restaurant in Santa Cruz. This soup is rich and decadent with a luxurious mouthfeel but is quite possibly one of the easiest recipes for soup that you will ever cook at home.

It pairs beautifully with a glass of California Sauvignon Blanc or California Pinot Gris.

An Easy Artichoke Hearts Recipe, Creamy Artichoke Soup

  • 2 14-ounce, (398 ml) cans artichoke hearts packed in water, drained 
  • 2 tablespoons (30 ml) California extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 medium-sized Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces, about ¾ pound (330 g) 
  • 4 shallots (200 g), halved 
  • 4 garlic cloves (20 g), halved 
  • ½ tablespoon (8 g) coarse kosher salt 
  • 1 cup (250 ml) Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Gris 
  • 4 cups (1 L) vegetable broth 
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan, for garnish; rind of Parmesan 
  • 1 bay leaf 
  • 10 thyme sprigs  
  • 1 tablespoon (10 g) whole black peppercorns 
  • 1/2 cup (120 ml) heavy cream 

To serve 

  • ¼ cup (60 g) sour cream  
  • 2 teaspoons (5 ml) milk  
  • 1 tablespoon (4 g) minced flat leaf parsley  

Prep time: 15 minutes  

Cook time: 40 minutes 

Servings: 4 large, 6 small 

Directions

In a large saucepan, heat the extra-virgin olive oil until shimmering.  

Pat the artichoke pieces dry with a paper towel. Add them to the saucepan along with the potatoes, shallots and garlic; season liberally with salt. Cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned and tender, about 15 minutes.  If the vegetables begin to catch on the bottom of the pan, you can drizzle in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) water at a time and scrape the pan gently with  a wooden spoon to loosen everything up. 

Add the wine and stir, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until nearly evaporated, about 5 minutes.  

Lay the cheesecloth flat and place the bay leaf, thyme and peppercorns on top. Gather the edges of the cheesecloth into a bundle and tie with kitchen twine.  

Add the vegetable stock, Parmesan rind and cheesecloth bundle to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Discard the thyme bundle and Parmesan rind. 

Working in batches, puree the soup until smooth. Return it to the saucepan. Add the heavy cream and season with salt. Keep the soup warm. 

To serve: 

In a small bowl mix together the sour cream and milk. Ladle the soup into bowls top with grated Parmesan cheese, a drizzle of thinned sour cream, and sprinkle with parsley.  

Recommended Pairings

California Sauvignon Blanc or California Pinot Gris
wine pour

A Perfect Pairing

This rich, creamy soup calls for a zesty white wine. We recommend serving it with either a California Sauvignon Blanc or California Pinot Gris. 

Sauvignon Blanc has bright, fresh acidity and tastes like California sunshine in a glass. With notes of citrus, tropical fruits and green grass it pairs perfectly with creamy and tangy cheeses, green vegetables and pretty much anything you’d squeeze some lemon onto. 

Like Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris is fruit-forward with citrus notes and zesty acidity. But you might also taste stone fruit, apples and honeysuckle. It has a fuller body and can range from dry to semi-sweet. This delicate wine pairs well with salads, spring vegetables, chicken, seafood and salty snacks.

Alison Needham

About the Author

From an early age, Alison Needham has been pondering life's one big question — what's for dinner? She's been a content creator, recipe developer and food photographer for more than two decades. Alison lives in Southern California with her husband, an assortment of quirky pets and occasionally one (or all three) of her young adult children.