Environmentally friendly entertaining
10 Eco-friendly tips to make your next party a green event
Last Updated March 23, 2007
Stuffing plastic plates, discarded invitations and leftover food into big black garbage bags is always the most guilt-inducing part of entertaining. Environmentalists say it's also unnecessary — hosting a party need not be wasteful if you plan ahead and put in a little extra effort.
Eco-entertaining doesn't have to be earnestly boring or unstylish, said Danny Seo, author of Simply Green Parties. Seo, who has been dubbed the organic Martha Stewart, suggests that consumers should strive to throw a party that is both creative and environmentally responsible.
"I think there's something shameful about hauling out giant bags of trash and trying to cram them into your trash cans," Seo said in an e-mail interview. "If you can prevent that — while still throwing a fabulous party — why wouldn't you want to go green?"
Here are some environmentally friendly suggestions to consider for your next big celebration.
1. Go green with your theme
Looking for cause to celebrate? Doug Wallace, the managing editor of Wish magazine, recommended throwing a neighbourhood spring cleanup party. Fill a wheelbarrow full of beverages, write tasks on slips of paper and throw them into a job jar.
"City dwellers should maybe think a little bit more about their street. It's really just the unsung heroes of the neighbourhood that bother to walk across to water the trees in the boulevard," Wallace said.
Have rakes, shovels, and leaf bags on hand as well as a generous feast to cap off a rewarding day.
Encouraging people to do their part and take ownership of their community is a worthy goal, Wallace said.
"Getting people on the street to clean up their own neighbourhood — generally, it's their own mess that they've made in the winter months leading up to the spring thaw," he said.
"It shouldn't really all fall on the city and the sanitation people because their resources are already taxed. When everybody says every little bit counts, it's not always the fact that you need to just turn your furnace down a bit in the house or shut a few light bulbs off — it's also using your own body's energy so as not to waste the city's resources."
2. You're invited!
Instead of traditional mailed invitations, consider less formal alternatives. Contact your friends over the phone or through e-mail. If you prefer sending out invitations, use cardstock made of recycled paper, or track down biodegradable seed paper. The rough but pretty paper, when torn up and planted in soil, will grow a collection of lovely wildflowers — a lasting reminder of your party.
3. Arrange carpooling
As the organizer of the party, you'll know best who is coming from where. Where possible, arrange carpools for people who live in the same neighbourhood as a small contribution to curbing air pollution. As an added benefit, your guests won't have to worry about finding or paying for parking.
4. Buy local or grow your own
Choose your menu carefully, selecting organic, locally grown food where possible. Buying local products reduces the energy spent on refrigerating and transporting fruits and vegetables across long distances.
It's also a good idea to buy in-season produce, Seo said. Look for bushels of organic tomatoes at farm stands in summer, or baskets of apples in fall. Your guests will be able to taste the difference, he said.
"A great idea is to find someone who sells fresh free-range eggs. If you've never tasted a truly good egg, you have no idea what you're missing," Seo said. "Set up a Sunday omelette station and your guests will simply have the best breakfast ever."
5. Suck up your soda with a licorice stick
Use traditional plates and flatware instead of disposable plastic plates. For a fun twist, Seo recommended using pieces of licorice instead of straws. Instead of using plastic corncob holders, cut sturdy twigs from your tree and use a pencil sharpener to make the ends pointy.
If you think imaginatively, you can craft some unconventional but inspiring finishing touches, Seo said.
"Sure, green is good for the planet, but it's also creative, too," he said. "Recycling an old paint chip into a wine glass ID tag isn't just pretty, it's practical, too — now nobody [will mix] up their wine glasses at the party."
6. Adjust your thermostat
Find it tough to find the just-right temperature when you're entertaining? Before your guests arrive, turn the temperature down a few notches in winter. As more and more guests arrive, the room's temperature will rise and you won't have guests sneaking out to the front porch in search of fresh air.
7. Switch your lights
When decorating for Christmas or for a backyard summer garden party, trade your old incandescent lights for energy-efficient LED decorative lights. The bright lights, which are available in a range of colours, use 95 per cent less energy than conventional lights and last 10 times longer.
8. A bright idea
For the adventuresome chef, try preparing part of your meal using a solar oven. Lloyd Alter, a writer for the website Treehugger, said he hopes to cook his Thanksgiving turkey in a solar oven next year, after he calculated that five hours in a traditional oven created nearly seven kilograms of carbon dioxide emissions.
"The single biggest benefit is it does not use any fuel to cook other than the sun. The second benefit is that if you cook over charcoal, there are toxins and chemicals and things like that come off them," he said.
"If you can cook it in a different way and not have a carbon footprint of your dinner, that's a better way to go," Alter said.
While solar cooking has primarily been used in developing countries, Alter noted that many campers use solar devices to bake and cook foods. Cooking temperatures can reach as high as 400 F, allowing you to bake, broil or roast your food.
9. Gifts and party favours
For a child's birthday party, fill a brown paper bag with small candies, riddles, and joke books.
For adults, bring a potted plant or a consumable gift that you know the recipient will actually use, such as babysitting gift certificates, a box of homemade cookies, or passes for a movie. Besides being practical, consumable gifts reduce clutter.
10. Compost the leftovers
If you buy conservatively, you shouldn't end up with excess food at the end of the night, but sometimes, estimating proper amounts of food can be difficult. If you do end up with a mass of leftovers, create take-home packages for guests who will be sure to appreciate them. Leftovers that spoil can be composted and used in your garden.
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