With chilly temperatures driving everyone indoors, winter is the perfect time to invite your friends and family over for a get-together. But hosting a large group can leave your trash cans unusually full. Don’t fret, party-goer. Here are five ways to throw a planet-friendly dinner party that all your friends will love.
1. Choose an eco theme
Dinner parties are a great opportunity to stretch those creative legs and come up with a theme that will keep all your friends talking. So, why not choose an eco theme for your next soiree?
Plan a potluck party and ask your guests to bring a meal made from soon-to-be-expired food from their fridges. Or throw a “trashy fashion” party and ask guests to wear an accessory made from trash.
An eco theme not only adds extra fun to your get-together, but it will also get your guests thinking about sustainability. Keep the green conversation going by swapping tips with your friends about reducing waste, saving energy and other eco topics you’re interested in.
2. Decorate with nature
Planning a fancy tablescape for your next party? Ditch the pricey flower shops and craft a conversation-starting centerpiece from backyard foliage to cut back on waste.
- Cut bare branches from a tree and place in a vase for a rustic look
- Scatter pinecones and needles across the table for an outdoor feel
- Display freshly-picked herbs in a glass container
- Make an arrangement with holly branches and place in a glass bowl
3. Rethink the favors
Party favors can get pricey, and buying them only adds to the footprint of your dinner party. So, rethink your parting gifts by opting for something homemade or reused instead.
Whip up some tasty pumpkin brittle or banana-nut muffins, and package them in junk mail like Junk Mail Gems blogger Gretchen. Use her simple tutorial to create cute gift bags from your junk mail, and show your guests the beauty of reuse.
Don’t feel like making favors yourself? Use the opportunity to find a new home for some unwanted items in your house. In her fun and alternative entertaining book I Like You, comedian Amy Sedaris suggests putting out a table full of items you’re looking to get rid of for guests to peruse during the party.
Expand on Sedaris’ idea by asking all of your friends to bring giveaways from their homes, and have an after-dinner swap. Each guest will go home with a “new” item, and their old items won’t go to waste.
4. Go local and organic
Produce in the U.S. travels, on average, 1,300 to 2,000 miles from farm to consumer, according to the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service. Produce that has traveled long distances carries a much heavier footprint than local options. These picks also tend to be lacking in flavor and essential nutrients, as produce is often harvested before its time to withstand the long journey.
Choose produce without a passport by shopping at your local farmer’s market, and up the ante by going organic. While many shoppers think that buying local and organic produce costs a fortune, that isn’t always the case. A quick stroll through your local farmer’s market can yield loads of rock-bottom deals, like super-flavorful winter squash for $1 or a basket of apples for less than five bucks.
While you’re at the farmer’s market, take a moment to chat with vendors about their farming practices. Many small framers avoid using pesticides and additives in their produce, but some don’t have the money (or spare time) to go through the process of becoming certified organic. So, some picks may be pesticide-free even though they aren’t labeled “organic.”
And don’t forget to green your beverages! Head to your local grocer, and ask about organic wines from your area. For kids and designated drivers, pick up some homemade juice or cider from the farmer’s market, or give one of our coffee shop-free winter beverages a try.
5. Have a leftover plan
Running out of food is any party host’s worst nightmare. So, most of us tend to prepare more than we need. But don’t let all those leftovers go to waste! One-third of food in America ends up in the trash, adding up to 25 percent of what’s in our landfills, according to Slow Food USA. Fight back against food waste by making a leftover plan ahead of time.
Clean out plenty of reusable containers for leftovers before your guests arrive, and save on frustration by making sure all of the lids fit. After dinner, ask each guest to fill up a container of leftovers to take home with them.
Not sure what to do with what’s left? Rethink your leftovers and use them to create a tasty breakfast, lunch or dinner the following day. Try turning that roasted chicken into a tasty soup, making a casserole out of leftover side dishes or whipping up an omelette incorporating your party’s main course.