By making a few easy changes to your party-planning strategy, you can cut back on waste, reduce your use of natural resources and even slash your spending budget. Here, Green Chic author Christie Matheson serves up eight tips for eco-fabulous entertaining:
1. Ditch the disposable goods and use your own tableware. Not enough to go around? Consider renting what you need or borrowing from a friend. You can also check your local chapter of Freecycle.org, an online community where members give away used household items.
2. Hold off on shopping for new serving platters, punch bowls and cocktail plates. "Before you buy anything for your party, see if you can borrow what you need from friends or unearth any hidden treasures from that box of stuff your grandmother gave you," suggests Matheson. If you do need to hit the store, swing by your favorite thrift shop or purchase new pieces made from sustainable materials (such as recycled glass or reclaimed wood).
3. For decor that's green and gorgeous, brighten your home with fresh flowers. They’re more eco-friendly than decorations you throw out at the end of the party -- plus they’re often cheaper! Pick up some freshly plucked blooms at your local farmers market or simply hit up your backyard.
4. To ease up on your energy use, illuminate nighttime parties with candles. "Candlelight creates great ambiance and makes your guests look good -- and you can keep most of your lights off," says Matheson. When selecting candles, look for lead-free wicks and either soy wax or beeswax (rather than paraffin, which is derived from petroleum, a no-no in the green world).
5. As you're planning your party menu, choose locally grown, in-season veggies and fruits. By getting your ingredients close to home, you cut down on the carbon emissions of carting them from far away -- and when they’re in season, it means less energy’s been expended to keep them fresh.
6. Curb your spending and control waste by changing up your food-serving strategy. "There's no need to have twice as much food as your guests are likely to eat," says Matheson. For dinner parties, she suggests opting for a sit-down meal over the buffet approach. And for cocktail parties, let the event's timing dictate the number of hors d'oeuvres to be served: At early-evening, pre-dinner gatherings, three to five pieces should suffice. But for soirees that take place around dinnertime, you may want to offer anywhere from six to 10 selections.
7. Serve filtered tap water instead of bottled water to go green and save money. "Bottled water is a huge waste of environmental resources," notes Matheson, who recommends hydrating with filtered tap water. Fill up several pitchers and enhance your water's flavor by adding fresh-cut strawberries, oranges, lemons or cucumbers.
8. When it's time to clean up, recycle all bottles and cans and consider composting your leftover food. "It's often tempting to toss everything into the trash when you're tired after a party, so make sure to have your recycling and composting receptacles ready to go," says Matheson.
Elizabeth Barker is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and executive editor of fashion blog NoGoodForMe.com. Her work has appeared in Body + Soul, Natural Health, Vegetarian Times, Variety and Kiwi.
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