Many families have embraced an eco-conscious lifestyle. But when throwing a party, sometimes convenience takes precedence over preserving the planet. It’s so easy to go out to the store and purchase processed foods, plastic cutlery, and packaged paper plates that considering the alternative doesn’t always seem all that alluring. However, it might actually be easier — and more fun — than you’d think to throw a green get-together. Here are some of our favorite tips for making sure your next summer soiree, backyard barbecue, or birthday party will be as eco-friendly as possible.
Choose the Right Location
One of the most energy-efficient ways to host a get-together is to take advantage of natural lighting. That means heading into the great outdoors. Whether you choose your backyard or a local park, you can keep your energy usage low and be surrounded by the beauty of nature all at once. Remember that by choosing a local location and encouraging guests to carpool (or use greener forms of transportation), you’ll create a more eco-friendly environment from the start.
Opt for Digital Invitations
In the digital age, it’s become a lot more commonplace to skip paper invitations and send invites via email or Facebook. While some traditionalists may scoff, the truth is that this is a lot less wasteful and is now a generally accepted practice. If you want something a bit more special than a Facebook event, there are specific sites that will send invitations of your choice and even track RSVPs for you. And if you feel you really can’t do without paper invitations, make sure to construct them out of recycled materials and encourage recipients to recycle them once they’ve told you whether they can attend.
Be Thoughtful With Your Decorations
When you’re decorating for a party, the decorations tend to be pretty standard across the board: tablecloths and toppers, streamers, banners, flowers, etc. Unfortunately, a lot of those items tend to be thrown away after the party’s over. But by using reusable decorations and natural elements, you can be a lot less wasteful and make your party place look incredible. Use linen tablecloths and napkins that can be washed and used year after year or opt for recyclable brown paper that the kids can decorate with crayons. Use fresh flowers, branches, shells, and stones from your own garden to decorate the table. Instead of balloons, get some reusable bunting, make banners and chains from construction paper, or create pom-poms out of tissue paper or yarn that you can reuse. If you can, forgo electric lighting in favor of candles in mason jars or other glass containers.
Reuse Your Tableware
Plastic cutlery and plates are a ubiquitous sight at many a get-together, but they don’t have to be. By using real dishes instead of plastic ones, you’ll be able to wash and reuse over and over. If you’re worried about breakable plates and glasses, you do have some alternatives to disposable plastic or melamine. Sterling silver tableware (which is an alloy that usually consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper) can be a good option, as can recyclable paper products or disposable wooden cutlery. Some hosts might even consider asking guests to BYOP or BYOC (bring your own plates or cups) to cut down on waste. If you need to use straws, get some reusable crazy straws (or invest in metal or biodegradable ones) instead of plastic. For any items that do need to be thrown away, get some eco-friendly garbage bags to make clean-up a bit easier. And be sure to set up a recycling bin or a tub for reusable items.
Get Creative With Party Favors
If you want to send your guests home with some party favors, don’t go for plastic goody bags or junky toys. The typical American home already has 300,000 items inside, so you don’t want to add to the unnecessary clutter or have your gifts end up in the garbage. Get your hands on paper or cloth bags and fill them with useful gifts like chalk, pens, puzzles, books, plant seeds, small notebooks, wooden toys, or even some homemade or local treats. Make sure to wrap any leftover food in recyclable materials!
Pick the Right Food and Drink
In general, cooking outside is usually a good way to go, particularly if you use a gas grill (which uses less energy and gives off fewer pollutants than charcoal versions). Whenever possible, choose homemade foods over processed ones. Buy fresh, local foods from your local farmer’s market to ensure the highest level of eco-friendliness. Typically, the more veggies the better — they come with a reduced environmental impact and are a bit easier to incorporate into meals when there’s a lot left over. Instead of bottled water, opt for refillable pitchers or serve juice in old jam jars. Try to think mobile whenever you can; the fewer plates and forks that have to be used, the less clean-up you’ll have to do (and therefore, the less water you’ll need to waste).
Throwing an eco-friendly party may not be the easiest endeavor, but it’ll end up being a lot more fun than you think. Plus, you’ll encourage your friends and neighbors to think twice about their environmental impact, too.