Hosting a dinner party and want to do it in the greenest way possible? Luckily, there are some really simple steps you can take to impress your guests with your eco-savvy this holiday season.
Here are a houseful of tips to go green for your next holiday dinner party!
The most obvious thing you can do as a green host is to make your recycling bin visible, easily accessible and marked in a way so that your guests know what can and can’t go in the bin. If you have residential composting, even better! Do the same for your compost bin and label it with a list of acceptable items. This makes it less intimidating for guests to participate in recycling and composting, especially if they don’t have to feel embarrassed asking you what to put in which bin.
Chose the locally grown flowers from the farmers market or local food coop instead of flowers shipped from overseas. The majority of fresh flowers sold in North America come from South America, which have a big carbon footprint when you add up the cost of transportation, energy, refrigeration and storage, not to mention chemical residue from pesticides or fungicides used during production. Local flowers are fresher, smell stronger because they haven’t been sitting in a box for days, and also have the advantage of supporting local farmers — farmers you can actually have a conversation with in person to find out if the flowers are being grown responsibility.
Send out an “e-vite” instead of paper invitations. Or, go for a greener paper option such as 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper, or seed paper from companies like Bloomin that can be planted by your invitees after they’ve read the invitation.
If you are a planner and like to have place cards so your guests know where to sit, you can collect fall leaves, flat pieces of bark or wood from outside, or even pieces of cardboard from your recycling bin, and write your guests names on them in a marker that contains nontoxic soy ink. Not only does this save on paper, but it adds a natural, rustic fall look to your dinner table.
Plates, Cups, and Silverware
Opt for the reusable plates and silverware. If you don’t have enough for the number of guests coming, ask guests to bring their own set from home. If you would rather not deal with the hassle of cleaning all those dishes, opt for compostable dinnerware from companies like bambu or Susty Party.
Support your local breweries by finding locally-made beer using Craft Beer’s brewery map of the U.S. If you’re not a beer drinker, search for organic or biodynamic wine selections, or local craft liquor at your neighborhood liquor store. If you need to purchase single serve beverages, those in aluminum cans or glass jars and the better option over plastic bottles in terms of recycling. Vodka your thing? Make sure you pick an organic vodka and why it’s important.
The same principal applies to where you get your food as it does to drinks — buy local and organic if you can! Hit up your local farmers market and see what’s in season. Your local farmers standing out in the cold in the wee hours of a weekend morning sure will appreciate your support during the slower winter months, when it’s harder to get folks to get outside to shop at the farmers market. If you are cooking multiple dishes in the oven, try to cook as many at the same time as possible so you aren’t running your oven all day long.
Plan your meal portions and know how many guests are coming so as to minimize food waste. If you have leftovers that you know you won’t be able to eat yourself, send your guests home with an extra plate of food. If you have composting at home, be sure to put any food scraps in your compost bin at the end of the night. Or if any salvageable veggie odds and ends are left, you can also freeze those to make veggie stock at a later time.
If you are as frequent a thrift store patron as I am, you know that thrift stores tend to stockpile holiday decorations during the holiday season. Check out your local thrift store to see what kind of second-hand decorations you can find — you never know what kind of vintage treasures await you!
Encourage your friends and family to carpool, walk, bike, or take public transportation to your party. Provide some kind of secret prize as an incentive for guests who don’t drive alone — perhaps a reusable bag for groceries or holiday treats.
Holiday parties often bring folks indoors from the cold winter weather. All that body heat means you don’t need to keep your home at the temperature you usually have it at when it’s just you and your family hanging out. With the oven going and the heat your guests generate, you can definitely turn down the heat in advance of guests’ arrival.
Make it a Sharing Experience
Invite your guests to bring with them any home good items they are ready to part with for donation to Goodwill or your local nonprofit thrift store. If you think you might end up with extra food, call ahead to local food shelters to see if they accept food donations. Wouldn’t it be nice to help feed the hungry over the holidays?
Most importantly, make it fun! If your guests are wondering why you are going to all this effort to make your party more sustainable, do your best not to go all ‘doom and gloom’ on them which, I get it — is easy to do considering the latest headlines on climate change. If you take the educational awareness and fun rather than the holier than thou approach, you are more likely to get your guests intrigued about your green hosting practices.