By Sarah Hauck
’Tis the season for entertaining! This year, you can throw a great party and keep it green at the same time. Follow these simple tips to impress your friends with a creative, low-cost and environmentally conscious holiday bash.
Getting the Word Out
If you’re still considering sending expensive paper invitations, it’s time to make the break and go virtual this year. There’s no shortage of free, online party invitation services that you can use. Not only are they guilt-free, but they also send an eco-friendly message to your guests right off the bat. And with some services, you can add your own flair by personalizing your invitation with music or video.
Setting the Scene
Ambiance can make or break a holiday party. One easy way to set the mood for an evening get together is to dim those lights – or turn them off altogether – and hang a few strands of LED holiday lights. Sustainable candles placed strategically around the room will also create a festive atmosphere. Not sure which candles classify as sustainable? Look for ones made of beeswax, soy or palm oil.
For decorations, skip the trip to the store. You probably already have everything you need to dress up your party space. Start by taking a look around your yard to see what you might be able to transform into holiday décor. Garlands, pinecones and holly are all obviously great choices if you happen to have some on-hand. But even if you don’t, don’t be afraid to be creative! Here are just a few ideas to get you started brainstorming:
–Garlands are one of the easiest decorations to make. Just string together cranberries, popcorn or nuts – and once the party is over, your edible garland won’t go to waste!
–Homemade wreaths are a great holiday accent, and they don’t have to be costly or time consuming. Laura Bracis demonstrates how to make a colorful wreath out of old books, but there’s no limit to what you can use to create your wreath.
–Cut flowers are beautiful, but let’s face it, they’re not very eco-conscious – and they’re costly and short-lived to boot. So, this year, bypass the flower stand, and dress up your potted plants with reusable or homemade ribbons tied around them to add a little holiday spirit.
The Best Part: Food & Drinks!
The heart of a good holiday party is the food and drinks – but it can also be the most challenging part to keep eco-friendly. Do your best to make an effort. After all, every little bit helps, and with each green choice you make, you’re sending a subtle statement to your guests that you care about the planet!
—Food and snacks: Shop local and use fresh, seasonal ingredients whenever possible. If you’re catering, check into local businesses to find organic caterers and ask whether they can offer sustainably grown dishes.
—Drinks: This is a great excuse to check out local beer and wines. Every state in the United States, and many countries around the world, produce wine. Find out which ones are produced close to you and give them a taste. Biodynamic wines and organic beers are another great option. For cocktails, use organic ingredients when possible. And don’t forget to buy local, organic milk for the eggnog!
—Dishes: It’s soooo tempting to go disposable in order to avoid the dreaded post-party clean up. If you absolutely must (and I won’t judge), buy 100% recycled/ eco-friendly compostable dinnerware. But before you start Googling to see where you can buy low-guilt disposables in time for Saturday night, at least consider using your reusable dinnerware. Or go one step further and get out the good stuff – grandma’s silver, the wedding china, the crystal champagne flutes. It’s the holidays after all, and your friends are probably worth it.
Keeping It Clean
Even the most well-intentioned guests may slip an empty bottle into the trash bin if they don’t see a recycling container within reach. Make it easy on your guests by placing clearly marked recycling bins at a couple of strategic (obvious) locations.
If there are any leftover dishes at the end of the party, send some *doggie bags* home with friends or donate uneaten food to a local charity organization.
Celebrating the holidays with friends and families is what it’s all about, and doing it in a green way isn’t impossible. If you have any other green party tips, let us know! Happy Holidays!
[Image: Handmade fabric garland. Image source: emilyonasunday/Flickr]