Memorial Day in the United States is right around the corner. It is a day to honor the men and women who’ve died while serving in our U.S. military. A long weekend for many of us, Memorial Day is frequently filled with solemn ceremonies of remembrance and participation in other outdoor activities. After honoring those who have paid the ultimate price for freedom, why not try one or more of these eco-friendly activities?
1. Host a green block party
Get your family, friends and neighbors together for an old-fashioned cookout with a new (and green!) twist! Ask that all guests bring items in reusable containers, and use real plates and utensils — no plastic or paper waste, regardless of how cute those red, white and blue party plates look! Get your (paperless) invitations out in advance and ask guests to bring either a meatless dish or one with sustainable ingredients (don’t forget the wine and spirits, too!). Source ingredients from a local farmer or purveyor.
If hamburgers and hot dogs aren’t your thing, why not flip the script this Memorial Day? Trade your beef for a grain that is more beneficial for your health — yet just as tasty: quinoa. Greek-style quinoa burgers are a particularly satisfying alternative to beef patties as they assume the same shape and basic consistency of beef patties, but they are better for our bodies and the planet. Plus, they’re bursting with flavor. Enjoy these two recipes on your grill this summer.
Martha Stewart’s Greek-Style Quinoa Burgers
- 1/2 cup rinsed quinoa — any color
- 1 medium carrot, cut in large chunks
- 6 scallions, thinly sliced
- 15 ounces great northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 1/4 cup plain, dried breadcrumbs
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- Coarse salt
- Ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced diagonally
- Use small saucepan to bring 3/4 cup water to a boil. Add quinoa and cover, reducing heat to low. Cook until liquid is absorbed, 12 to 14 minutes.
- Use blender or food processor to finely chop carrot. Add cooked quinoa, about half of the scallions, egg, breadcrumbs, beans, cumin, 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Blend until smooth but still a little chunky.
- Make four 3/4-inch-thick patties — prevent sticking by dipping hands in water. If too soft, refrigerate 10 minutes. In large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat; cook patties until cooked through and browned — 8 to 10 minutes on each side.
- In separate bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice and remaining scallions. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve patties with yogurt sauce and cucumber — in 6-inch pitas for added Greek zest. Enjoy.
The Healthy Maven’s Greek Quinoa Burgers
- 2 cups cooked quinoa, any color, cooled completely
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium cucumber, seeded and chopped
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, chopped — not in oil
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook quinoa according to package instructions.
- Blend chopped cucumber in a food processor or blender until smooth.
- Add sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, parsley and feta cheese; pulse/blend multiple times.
- Add chickpeas and process until it blends together, forming a sticky substance.
- Add quinoa, lemon juice, and salt and pepper. Process until mixture can easily be rolled into balls — about 40 seconds.
- Divide and make 10 balls.
- Heat a large pan over medium-high heat and add olive oil.
- Place several balls in pan and flatten slightly.
- Cook and flip until each side is browned, about 3 minutes.
- Serve patties warm on bun, in pita, in salad or without adornment.
With these two recipes at your fingertips, this summer is the perfect time to make the healthy switch.
Skip the Throwaway Party Decorations
Also, limit or completely eliminate decorations that will surely go into the trash after the bash. Instead, ask guests to commemorate the day by wearing red, white and blue (or any combination of the three). You could even organize a children’s red, white and blue costume parade challenge. The catch? Guests and parade entrants can only use items from their existing wardrobes or a secondhand store. Create a prize for the most creative child’s costume.
2. Play ‘tourist’
Instead of traveling this three-day holiday weekend, why not take advantage of the great sights in your own town? Pull together a group of friends and hop onto your local transportation system. Better yet, walk or bike to your city’s zoo, or to children’s, history, nature or art museum. Pack a picnic lunch in reusable containers so you can save money while also not having to rely on excess waste resulting from a stop at a restaurant or a drive-thru.
3. Get a jump start on summer
Use your Memorial Day holiday weekend to get a head start on your hot-weather planting. Visit a nursery, do your research at the library or online and even spend some time preparing your existing garden or creating a new garden for the upcoming season.
4. Memorialize nature too
Grab the kids and a couple of trash bins and go clean up a bit of the shore of your local lake or stream. Take gloves, shovels and maybe a rake or two. Practice safety first — don’t pick up syringes or anything else that might pose a health risk — and keep the cleanup confined to a small space. Afterward, sanitize or wash your hands (depending on the facilities available nearby) and have a picnic. Be sure to leave the place a little better than when you arrived.
5. Get active!
Check your city’s website for information about local marathons or hit the bike trails and enjoy the nice summer temperatures. Follow up a nature walk with a visit to the local farmers market. Holidays like Memorial Day are prime times for connecting with local farmers, artisans and bakers. Chances are they’ll even have fun activities for the kids at the same time.
Whatever you decide to do this Memorial Day, consider how your actions will impact the environment. The day may be for remembering those who died for our country, but we can also remember the environment as we celebrate.
What are your plans for Memorial Day this year? Share your plans in the comments section below.
Feature image credit: Natalia Kirichenko / Shutterstock
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