8 Ways to Green a Dinner Party

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This story is part of Earth911’s Green Eight series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.

Hosting a dinner party is a perfect way to catch up with friends or network with co-workers over good food in a comfortable setting. If you’re hosting a dinner engagement soon, don’t worry. You don’t have to break the bank (or fill the trash) for your next party to be a successful get-together.

One beauty of the modern dinner party is that you can get as creative as you want with a theme. And no matter what you choose, whether it be sailing, red carpet glamour, gardening or outrageous ties, you can always put on your eco-thinking cap and make the party green without a lot of extra effort.

Here are eight ways to make your next dinner party an eco-chic soiree:

Whether indoors or out, pick a bright area of your home, and keep it simple! Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Keep your dinner party simple with an eclectic mix of funky dishes, fresh centerpieces and mismatched glasses. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

1. Pick a Natural Location

We know about the environmental and financial advantages of switching to CFLs and LEDs, but what better way to save than not using them at all?

Take advantage of rooms in your home with lots of natural light or even move the party outdoors (weather permitting, of course). Patios, decks and flat grassy areas can be fantastic settings for your event.

2. Invite Guests Online

Sure it’s nice to receive mail that’s not junk or bills, but sending out invitations requires paper (and money!), and since you can’t guarantee that your guests will recycle your invite, send an e-vite instead. Besides, everyone’s doing it: Online invitation and social planning Web site evite sends out 19.5 million invitations monthly.

You may think an e-vite won’t be appropriate if your theme is more formal, but this Web site has a wide selection of designs, from elegant table settings and wine glasses to summer picnics and beer. Save the paper, the cash and the time it takes to stuff and address envelopes.

3. Gather Centerpieces From Outdoors

Going green with your centerpieces can be as easy as stepping out your back door. Here are some ideas for adding zest to your dinner table:

Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Save time, money and give your table a fresh look: Snip flowers or tall grasses from your backyard instead of purchasing them at the store. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

  • Harvest fruits and veggies from your garden and place in a glass bowl
  • Display fresh-picked basil in a funky mug
  • Spread pinecones and pine needle branches across the table for a rustic feel
  • Cut tall grasses and place in a vase
  • Fill a glass jar with sand from the sandbox and top it off with a candle

4. Decorate With Something Old (or Borrowed)

How you dress the table is an important part of your theme and can be quite a conversation starter. But, you don’t have to buy new to get people talking. Put reuse to good use, and with a little bit of searching, you’ll find what you need tucked away in your basement or closet. If not, visit a thrift shop for some great finds.

Linen: If your table is less than pleasing to the eye, toss on a tablecloth. Basic white is good for any event, but you can go bold with brighter colors, patterns or prints.

Dishes: If you want to branch out from your everyday plates and bowls, remove that beautiful china from the hutch and use it for something other than display. Or, maybe you have a few incomplete sets of dishes that you’ve held onto for one reason or another. Set out a few pieces from each set to create an eclectic look.

If you don’t want to deal with the mound of dishes that comes from hosting a dinner party, try eco-friendly options for a greener take on disposables.

Glassware: How many times have you mixed up your drink with someone else’s at a party because all the glasses look the same? Instead of buying beverage charms, give each guest a different glass. A hand-painted goblet, a beer stein from your trip to Germany, an Elvis tumbler and all of the other glasses commemorating various events in your life can now be put to good use. Don’t be afraid to put out “hideous” pieces, as they’ll surely get a laugh from your guests.

Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

Quick tip: Grab locally grown or organic fruits and set in a clear glass bowl on top of some funky cookbooks. Allow guests to peruse through the books to check out your culinary secrets. Photo: Amanda Wills, Earth911.com

5. Feast on Local and Organic Food and Drink

According to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service, “Produce in the U.S. travels, on average, 1,300 to 2,000 miles from farm to consumer.” Buying from local vendors at places such as farmers’ markets cuts back on carbon emissions because fewer miles traveled from farm to table means fewer emissions produced from the vehicle transporting the food.

Also, try to buy foods produced organically and look for seasonal items to save money and get the best produce available.

6. Swap Parting Gifts

Having guests pitch in for the favors isn’t as crazy an idea as you may think. Ask each guest to bring an item he or she no longer wants to the party and then exchange at the end of the night.

For example, guests sharing a love of photography could swap photo books, or a group of glamourous women could trade jewelry. This way, every guest goes home with a “new” item instead of a floral centerpiece that won’t last for more than a few days.

7. Don’t Let Leftovers Go to Waste

As a host, you never want to run out of food, so you often make more than you may need. When the party is over, what do you do with those leftovers? The U.S. EPA estimates nearly 25 percent of prepared food is thrown away, noting that “The decomposition of food and other waste under anaerobic (without oxygen) conditions in landfills produces methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide.”

Instead of throwing away the leftovers, send guests home with them (or better yet, have them bring a few reusable to-go containers in anticipation of take-home treats!), donate remainder to a local homeless shelter and compost what you can.

8. Clean With the Power of Green

The party is over, and it’s time to clean up the mess in the kitchen. Try these antibacterial and deodorizing alternatives to traditional cleaners:

Vinegar: Mix one part vinegar and one part water in a spray bottle to clean countertops, floors, stovetops and other appliances

Lemon: Scrub dishes, surfaces and stains with a lemon that has been cut in half and sprinkled with baking soda on the flat side

At the end of the night, you’ll be able to sit back and give yourself props for not only throwing a fantastic party, but for also saving some green by utilizing the resources in and around your home. Ready, set, plan!

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