The holidays are a great time to entertain friends and family at home. There’s nothing like fancy cocktails, extra special treats, and beautiful decorations in your own digs to celebrate the season. But excess bounty often creates an unprecedented amount of waste from wrappings, cans, bottles, paper products, and leftover food, and this adds up to a not so green time of year for our home planet.
According to Verlasso.com, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans discard 25% more garbage than any other time of year, which translates to about 6 million additional tons of trash during the holidays. Fortunately, there are many actions hosts can take to entertain with low or zero impact to the planet. These actions also create a more sustainable mindset – one that brings peace and simplicity into our households and helps us remember what’s really important.
For inspiration, join us for a “Party for the Planet” workshop at Rodgers Ranch on October 24 and learn some green entertaining tips while enjoying sustainable cocktails and appetizers. Register HERE
In the meantime, entertain these eco ideas before planning your next bash:
1) Go Local. Food is usually the “main event” at any party and you’ll want to consider sourcing your menu items as locally as possible. Year-round farmers’ markets and co-ops are the perfect places to pick up local ingredients and seasonal produce as well as fresh ideas.
- Craft breweries and local distilleries have become popular, so you can even source your booze closer to home. You will be supporting your community and reducing your carbon footprint by serving items that haven’t traversed the world before arriving in front of your guests. Eco alcohol makes a great conversation starter!
- If you decide to cater your food, choose companies that use good green business practices. For example, Yalla Mediterranean uses local, GMO-free produce, hormone-free and antibiotic-free meats, sustainably caught fish, and completely compostable containers.
2) Avoid Single-Use Items. In the interest of convenience, hosts often don’t bother recycling during a party and will “just this once” collect garbage bags full of single serve bottles and cans mixed in with paper plates and napkins, plastic utensils, and food scraps. These bloated bags go directly to the trash bin after the party is over and on to landfill thereafter. Plastic water bottles are one of the worst offenders and take a mind-boggling 450 years to decompose.
- Instead of buying individual packs of water bottles, spruce up pitchers or canisters filled with filtered tap water, sliced lemon, herb sprigs, and cranberries. Use wine charms or washable wine markers so guests can personalize glasses for the evening. Those giant ribbed plastic cups (usually in red) are especially environmentally egregious.
- Use your own china and glasses or borrow from friends and then return the favor at their parties. Shop consignment stores and thrift shops for eclectic vintage pieces. You may decide to just invest in inexpensive bowls and plates for many parties to come. Here’s some basic and cost-friendly dinnerware from IKEA.
- People often grab stacks of paper napkins even if they need just one, but they're more careful with cloth napkins, which can be washed and used over and over again. Ditto for cloth tablecloths.
- If you can’t bear making the departure from single use items, at least set up a waste station or two and mark bins clearly with signs for recyclables, compost, and landfill so that paper, plastic, metal, and leftover food scraps can be separated and disposed of more properly.
3) Decorate environmentally. Going green doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice special decorations at holiday time.
- Go with reusable items that you can bring out year after year. We’ve all gotten good at recycling gift bags, but get creative and wrap children’s gifts in newspaper comics and twine. For other environmental ideas, check THIS out.
- Dress up living plants, wreaths, and succulents with ribbons and candles and then “undress” and display for the rest of the season. A bowl of pinecones or boughs of green mixed with ornaments makes an elegant centerpiece.
- Choose alternatives to paraffin candles, which come from petroleum oil, and go with more sustainable soy or coconut oil candles. For an enlightening article on the differences among soy, coconut, paraffin, beeswax, and palm wax candles, go HERE. Trader Joe’s sells appealing tins of long-burning, paraben free, coconut-soy candles with lead-free cotton wicks for $4 each.
Even if you commit to just one or two changes in your entertaining, it’ll make a difference. We’re all creatures of habit, but choosing a more sustainable route can be inspirational to both you and your guests, and the earth will thank you. For more savvy sustainable suggestions for holidays throughout the year, go to the Sustainable Baby Steps website.
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Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash