Green Living: How to Throw a Green Party
From graduation celebrations to Memorial Day parties to summer potlucks and cookouts, this beautiful time of year is ripe for entertaining. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take to “green” your gathering.
The Paper Trail.
Online invitations, such as Evites or stationary from Paperless Post are cheaper than postage, easier than hand-written notes and less wasteful than paper. Evites that allow comments on the guest list make it easy for friends to organize carpooling amongst themselves. If you’d like to minimize the number of cars of driven to your party, suggest carpooling in your invitation, or mention that you live near a bus stop or encourage biking. If you are hosting a formal party and plan to create a paper invitation with multiple inserts (response card, directions, etc.), consider omitting some of the paper trail and request guests RSVP via e-mail. For an eco-friendly twist on the paper invitation, send your invitation on seed paper, which your guests can plant in potting soil after the party.
One of the most significant ways to reduce the environmental impact of your party is to serve seasonal and organic foods. Highlight delicious Arkansas produce. Even if you’re not accustomed to planning a menu based on what’s available at Arkansas’ farmers markets, it will be a fun and educational experience to do so for a dinner party or potluck. In Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, novelist Barbara Kingsolver and her family purchased only local food — or grew what they ate — for a year. Surely you can do the same for at least one meal. Meatless meal cookbooks such as Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian are organized by ingredient. A comprehensive cookbook, will include recipes for some of the veggies that don’t usually show up in your weekly meal planning, but that may be abundant at the farmers market.
If you serve food other than appetizers, you’ll have to provide some sort of servingware at your party. While recyclable or compostable servingware is certainly an option, we all know that “reuse” comes higher on the waste hierarchy (otherwise known as the “three Rs”). If you host with regularity, consider purchasing used dishware or cutlery from flea markets or your local Goodwill. You will save money, and mismatched plates can add charm and whimsy.
Keep your decorations natural with cloth linens; greens and blooms from your backyard; local flowers; soy or beeswax candles; or simple arrangements such as a bowl filled with colorful citrus fruits or a cute container of freshly-planted — and fragrant — herbs.
Without clear communication, you may find yourself fishing empty bottles from the trashcan the day after the party. Make signs showing guests where they can recycle plastic, glass and aluminum. Mark another container as compost, and provide directions for what can and cannot be accepted for your pile.
Send a Green Message Home.
Instead of traditional party favors, give gifts that carry an environmental meaning, or that are meaningful to where you live: seed packets; mini potted plants; organic baked goods; local honey; homemade, recycled paper flowers … Suggest that next time you and your friends get together, you meet on a bike trail, and after your ride, celebrate with a trip to a local brewery or restaurant.