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How Much Energy Powers the Thanksgiving Dinner?

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Millions of people in the United States have a similar childhood memory. And that memory is largely sensory: the feeling of waking up the morning of Thanksgiving, with the smell of turkey filling their home.

That smell is about more than just a delicious dinner to come later in the day. Thanksgiving is a day for food, family, and football. Next to Christmas, it's generally considered to be the most popular holiday in the country.

But here's one thing we bet you never even considered: how much energy does it take to cook your Thanksgiving dinner? The answer is good for more than just family trivia during your next Turkey Day. It also gives you a better idea of energy usage in the United States, putting the daily needs for your small business into perspective.

Let's break down Thanksgiving dinner into its various components, with some relevant comparisons. All energy estimates are courtesy of the U.S. Marine Corps Community Services organization.

Turkey: The Main Event

Different families have varying Thanksgiving traditions. But generally speaking, they all share a nice roasted turkey on a day that has become synonymous with this delicious bird. 

The traditional Thanksgiving turkey takes about 4 hours to cook. Powering an electric oven at 350 degrees uses about 2 kW per hour, which means:

1 turkey = 8 kWh of energy.

Let's put that into perspective: 8  kWh of energy is about enough to power your office air conditioning and HVAC unit for 16 consecutive hours.

Stuffing: The Natural Addition

What Thanksgiving turkey would be complete without the stuffing? Seasoned breading that bakes with the turkey also requires additional preparation on its own, which means that it deserves its own space in this article. 

More specifically, any Thanksgiving cook knows that a good stuffing requires not just mixing the ingredients, but also baking it for ideal temperature. Increasingly, recipes suggest baking it separately from the Turkey, which allows for greater control and taste - but also more energy usage. Stuffing, in all, requires both baking and cooking of some of its ingredients.

1 bowl of stuffing = 2 kWh of energy.

Those two kWh of energy help you power one laptop for about 45 hours, or 10 computers in your office for 4.5 hours each.

Mashed Potatoes: The Essential Side Dish

Turkey almost necessarily comes with gravy, and gravy would be impossible to enjoy to its fullest without mashed potatoes. This component of Thanksgiving Dinner probably wouldn't taste great on its own, but acts as the perfect intermediary between other ingredients to maximize our enjoyment of the dinner as a whole.

As any Turkey Day chef knows, of course, making mashed potatoes from scratch takes time and energy. Potatoes have to be peeled, cooked, and blended once they are cool enough. The ideal way to perfect your family recipe actually takes quite a bit of electricity:

1 pot of mashed potatoes = 1 kWh of energy.

A single kWh may not seem like much compared to the turkey and stuffing, but imagine how much your staff would love you if you could brew 13 pots of coffee with the same amount of energy. Assuming the standard 12-cup pot size, that's 156 cups for your office to enjoy. At the very least, they won't get tired from the tryptophan anytime soon.

Green Bean Casserole: The Inevitable Vegetable

The above three elements are probably the most commonly used components of a good Thanksgiving dinner. After that, it gets a little more convoluted. A good vegetable is key, but what exactly will be prepared probably depends on your family traditions. Corn, Brussels sprouts, and glazed carrots are all potential options.

The most popular alternative, though, is probably green bean casserole. It's at once a classic and elaborate enough to hold up to the rest of the ingredients, without filling you up too much to enjoy the rest of the meal. Considering that experts increasingly recommend vegetables on holidays like Thanksgiving, we'll probably only see more of it going forward. 

A good green bean casserole, of course, has to be prepared well. That includes cooking the ingredients down, then putting them in the oven two separate times. In other words, this delicious vegetable actually takes quite some energy to cook.

1 green bean casserole = 1 kWh of energy.

Assuming that you're already committed to brewing 13 cups of coffee, this kWh can be used elsewhere to power your office. How about lighting an LED lamp for 145 hours? If your small business has 20 individual light bulbs, that means keeping the lights on for 7.25 hours - or almost an entire work day.

Pumpkin Pie: The Quintessential Dessert

After the meal comes the dessert. Who doesn't love a good football match in the living room, accompanied by what might be the quintessential fall desert? The history of pumpkin pie dates back all the way to the 17th century, and is even said to have been part of the legendary first Thanksgiving dinner. In the hundreds of years since, it has continued to steal the show.

Any baker knows: the secret to success for a good pumpkin pie is starting the bake with a high temperature, then lowering it to get the ideal internal temperature and outside crust. That balance, of course, also means that your oven has to put quite a bit of energy into the baking process.

1 pumpkin pie = 2 kWh of energy.

Those 2 kWh, in turn, might just be enough to keep your employees' lunches cool. The typical office refrigerator takes about 1.25 kWh to run for an entire day, meaning that every pumpkin pie not baked can buy you almost two days of a well-functioning office kitchen.

Putting it All Together

Combine the above ingredients, and you end up with about 14 kWh of energy used to cook a typical Thanksgiving dinner. Considering the fact that about 46 million turkey-based Thanksgiving meals are consumed in the United States every year, that means we collectively use about 644 million kWh of energy just to eat our favorite (and most delicious) birds.

Imagine how that energy could power small businesses across the country. Of course, we're not advocating for the abdication of what might be the most delicious meal of the year. But if nothing else, we made you think about energy consumption!

When running a small business, optimizing the ways in which you draw your energy is absolutely vital. Office and employee needs have to be balanced with budget and potential energy sources to ensure a reliable, continuous, and consistent operation.

Computers and lights are essential, but the office coffee machine may matter just as much to your employees. Strategically planning and laying out an energy consumption plan is just as vital as planning your revenue and profit forecasts.

Next time you wake up on Thanksgiving, you'll smell that delicious turkey in the oven and look forward to another unforgettable holiday. But maybe, you will also be reminded that after the festivities and Black Friday, it's time to look at your office's energy consumption and needs. Optimize it, and the bills will go down almost as smooth as that last piece of pumpkin pie.

Make sure your business is ready for the cold months ahead. Take our quick assesment to see what you can do to help keep energy cost low this winter!

 business energy outlook

Posted: November 21, 2017