In this economy, there could be a summer spike in backyard birthday parties, Fourth of July events, barbecues, graduations, weddings and other celebrations. Since parties consume energy and resources, follow these Green Quick Fixes to host eco-wise, down-home gatherings.
1. Use online invitations or recycled paper invites and thank-you notes.
2. Encourage guests to take public transportation, carpool, bike or walk. Keep the dress code casual, and offer a place to change and relax. Spaceshare.com, Zimride.com and Evite.com feature carpool tools.
3. Purchase supplies from nearby farmers markets, growers and purveyors to keep the menu wholesome, local and to reduce your event’s carbon footprint. Numerous Web sites, including BuyFresh.org, list resources that can help you find what’s in season and as close as possible to home. Don’t forget your own garden!
4. To minimize store-bought ice, keep table food cold with a domestic trick. Prior to the event, take two glass nesting bowls, fill the bottom one with enough water to float the smaller bowl and freeze. Add a few sprigs of rosemary to the water for an earthy look.
5. Make extra ice early. Plastic food containers are great temporary storage. For the party, put out a large ice chest to avoid a continuous stream of guests at your freezer or automatic ice maker.
6. Instead of plastic wrap, cover food with attractive dishware and lids and use reusable table cards to note the item and ingredients.
7. For small gatherings, use outdoor dishware and run it through the dishwasher energy cycle as soon as the party ends. Borrow from a neighbor or friend if you need a few extra settings.
8. Tableware you can compost is available from Worldcentric.org, under “Biocompostables” and Papcorn.dk. Recycled party goods are available at Greenpartygoods.com.
9. Avoid individual drink containers. Put pitchers of filtered tap water with lemons, home-brewed sun tea, 2-and 3-liter soda bottles, small beer kegs, and magnums or premium boxed wines out with recycled or recyclable cups. A permanent marker will help guests keep track of their cups and minimize waste.
10. Recycle your party trash as much as possible. Put out bins for plastic, glass, aluminum and paper, a bucket for nonmeat food scraps to add to your backyard composter, and recyclable take-home containers for leftovers and meat scraps for dogs. You’ll be amazed how little trash your party produces!
11. Indoors, keep just one room cool and turn the air conditioning off in all unused rooms. Turn off fans in unoccupied areas — they cool people, not air.
12. Post a polite note next to the bathroom light switch reminding guests to turn off when they’re done.
13. For nighttime lighting, try soy-based or beeswax candles. Use rechargeable batteries for outdoor electric illumination. For kids’ parties, reuse glass jars and catch fireflies!
14. Create a ring around your party with citronella torches and candles, and consider a bonfire to help minimize bugs rather than treating your lawn with toxic chemicals. A bat box or two can also help control bugs around your property all summer long.
15. For music, pause the power drain coming from your stereo or MP3 player and ask musicians you know to play an acoustic set.
16. Greener gift wrap includes brown bags, reused gift wrap and my favorite — colorful, reusable fabric shopping bags with plain white, recycled-content tissue paper.
17. Want party favors that do not end up in a landfill? Give baked goods, small herb pots or glassware decorated with your party’s theme.
18. Post-party, purchase renewable energy certificates. Or, instead of favors, buy a credit for each of your guests.
Enjoy the podcast.