Organic Thanksgiving

For the family’s first holiday in their eco-friendly home, the Seydels introduce a cornucopia of green traditions into their Thanksgiving celebration.

Sitting in this Buckhead living room, I’m surrounded by the commotion of a family preparing for a big holiday meal. Mom is in the kitchen, putting the finishing touches on the centerpiece; Dad is upstairs changing into something more appropriate for a holiday feast; and the kids are scrambling about, hollering down the stairs in search of brown boots, an orange sweater and wondering if they can wear jeans.

This could be a day in the life of any family across America, but it isn’t. It’s the first Thanksgiving for the Seydels—Atlanta’s “green family”—in their custom-built, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified home, EcoManor.

Rutherford and Laura Turner Seydel have been eco-activists for years, but they really made waves when they began construction on EcoManor, the first LEED-certified home in Georgia, and one of the first in the entire country. The home is an anomaly of beauty and smart building with its soy-based insulation, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) paint, recycled glass and tile, solar panels, and pressed wheat doors.

Every day the Seydels make a conscious effort to “walk the talk,” and with their eco-friendly home, they are able to do it more efficiently than before. “The choices we make at home can have the biggest impact on the environment,” says Rutherford. “You don’t have to sacrifice comfort to live green.”

Proof is in the stunning spread that has been laid out in the Seydels’ dining room for their Thanksgiving meal. It’s eco-friendly, all natural, and completely inspired by the colors of the fall outdoors. The table is set with the simplest of fabrics: burlap. Cut from a single piece, the tablecloth is raw and unfinished, but the juxtaposition of it with the elegant dinnerware is refreshing. Made with recycled glass and sturdy enough to use everyday, the dinnerware makes a statement in rich fall colors, set off by the dark brown placemat beneath it. The thread that ties the table together, though, is the centerpiece, which is completely edible: Colorful squash, cabbage, carrots, artichokes, parsley and flowers have been artfully arranged as the table’s focal point and they serve a dual purpose as they can be used again, this time as the next day’s meal.

“I’m thankful for so much in my life, but now we have the peace of mind knowing we live in a healthier home,” says Laura.

Every member of the Seydel family takes an active approach to educating those around them about our  impact on the Earth. This holiday season, do the same and add at least one green-tradition to your holiday celebration.

Pass it on.

The Seydels offer eco-friendly tips to turn your holidays green.

Recycle. It sounds simple, but not everyone does it.  Laura says, “It’s easy to do if you create a space for all of the bins; mine pull out from my kitchen island.”

Cook with organic produce and meats. “There’s more and more competition in the organic food market, and almost every store has an organic section—even Wal-Mart,” says Laura.

Compost. Create an area outdoors where you can compost fruit and vegetable scraps, in addition to yard clippings, leaves and biodegradable paper products to mix into your soil.

Use all natural linens on your tables. And if you must use paper plates and napkins, use ones made from recycled contents and without dyes, then compost them.

Think about earth-friendly centerpieces. It takes a lot of energy to get cut flowers to your local store, plus they only last a few days. “Use potted plants as a centerpiece,” suggests Laura, then plant them outdoors. Or like the centerpiece at this Thanksgiving celebration, create one that is completely edible and made with colorful fruits and vegetables, lettuces and kales.

Clean smart. Most of the popular cleaning products on the market release incredibly toxic fumes but there are other options, Laura says. Check your local grocery store, you’re sure to find alternatives. Also, if you burn candles, use those that are soy-based with natural essential oils. “Oil is toxic to breathe anyway, and then you’re burning it,” says Laura about candles with artificial fragrances.

Breathe freely … in your home and outdoors. Paint your house with low-VOC paints, so the inside of your home will have cleaner, healthier air. And carpool, says John R., 14. Fewer cars on the road means less pollution in the air; it’s that simple.