Throw a Green Party
Eco-Entertaining Made Simple
Whether you are still experimenting with ways to live green or are an experienced pro at an increasingly eco-friendly life, a party décor checklist is good to have on hand. The ultimate goal is hosting a zero-waste gathering, one that embraces only products and items that can be consumed, reused, recycled or composted.
It’s easiest to start with just a few categories. Challenge the whole family to get on board and have some fun. For example: Reusing the same decorations, tableware and activities year after year creates treasured traditions among family and friends.
Remember to emphasize quality over quantity: buy 25 percent less than normal when shopping, for everything from trimmings to hors d’oeuvres. It’s likely that no one will miss the excess, and every effort aids the planet.
Here are some ideas to kick-start the celebrations:
Trees — Invest in a live tree to plant in the yard after the holidays, and patronize a local, pesticide-free, sustainable farm or grower if possible. For a cut tree, chip and compost it later. (Many communities offer post-holiday curbside pickup, composting trees for mulch. Call your public works or waste management department for details.)
Lights — New light-emitting diode (LED), fluorescent or solar holiday lights are preferred replacements when old-style lights fail. Put them on a timer and use conservatively. With traditional lights, pick strings with smaller bulbs, which use less energy and emit less heat.
Ornaments and décor — The best decorations are handcrafted, made from 100 percent natural materials, and created at home, locally or by artisans in other countries earning fair wages. Avoid products containing non-recyclable plastics, lead, phthalates or other toxins.
Creating zero-waste home decorations can become a cherished family tradition, eagerly anticipated each year and enjoyed by all ages. Consider designing recycled-paper snowflake cutouts; wreaths and centerpieces from collected tree trimmings; non-microwave popcorn and cranberry garlands; gingerbread houses; soy or beeswax candles; and stockings made from fabric scraps or knit natural fibers.
Tableware — Favor reusable plates, glasses, utensils, napkins and tablecloths. For larger gatherings, borrow extra place settings from friends or family, rent them, or stock up at a consignment or thrift store.
Cards — Send e-cards or email the family newsletter, or find snail-mail cards, invitations and thank-you notes made from recycled or tree-free materials and soy-based inks, via the Internet (search “eco-friendly cards” and “recycled holiday cards”). Find creative ways to parlay incoming cards by searching “reuse holiday cards.”
Gifts — Ideal presents are handmade, activity-based, consumable or charitable. Look for a fair trade stamp of approval, as well as use of natural, sustainable, reused or recycled materials. Forego anything overpackaged, mass-produced, disposable, cheaply made, of unknown origin or requiring lots of additional components.
Wrapping — Creative giftwrap options include reusing decorative papers and traditional ribbons, raffia ribbons and repurposed fabrics.
Food and drink — Enjoy healthy holiday meals made from local and organic foods, to avoid genetically modified ingredients (see Natural Awakenings November 2008 issue). Cut down on meats, while upping the fruit and veggie quotient. Select organic drinks and liqueurs, and wine with real cork stoppers. Finally, compost table scraps.
Hosting a splashy party during the holidays, or anytime, can be as enjoyable as it is eco-friendly. The key to going green is to plan ahead, get everyone involved, and make it fun.
Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell are mother and daughter coauthors of Celebrate Green! – Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family, from which this article was adapted. Find more ideas for enlivening occasions throughout the year at CelebrateGreen.net.