With chilly temperatures driving many of us indoors, winter is the perfect time to invite your friends over for a get-together. But hosting a large group can leave your trash cans unusually full. Don’t fret, party hosts. Here are five ways to throw a green 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 engage and amuse your friends. 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 that interest you.
2. Decorate With Nature
Planning a fancy centerpiece for your next party? Skip the pricey flower shops and create a conversation-starting tablescape with natural items from your yard. A few ideas:
- Cut bare branches from a tree and place in a vase.
- Scatter pine cones and needles across the table.
- Display freshly-picked herbs in a grouping of Mason jars.
- Arrange holly branches in a large bowl or vase.
3. Rethink the Favors
Whip up some tasty pumpkin-seed brittle or use over-ripe bananas to make banana-nut muffins. Put them in cute gift bags you make out of your junk mail — this simple tutorial explains how — 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 informative 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. If you have leftover items after the party, take them to the local Goodwill or other used goods reseller.
4. Go Local and Organic
Fresh 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 carbon footprint than locally produced food. Food shipped from far away also tends to lack in flavor and essential nutrients, as produce is often harvested before its time to withstand the long journey.
Choose locally grown vegetables and fruits by shopping at your farmers market — and consider purchasing organics. While many shoppers think that local and organic produce costs a fortune, that isn’t always the case. A quick stroll through your local farmers market just might yield you 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 farmers 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.”
If your local farmers market closes for the winter like mine, visit a grocery store that displays the origin of their produce. If you have a choice between apples that were harvested in a nearby state or in a distant country, consider selecting those that were grown closest to home.
And don’t forget to green your beverages! Head to your local grocer and ask about organic wines from your area, or try these quick and healthy cocktail recipes. For kids and designated drivers, pick up some homemade juice or cider from the farmers market or health food market.
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 food waste pre-planning for leftovers.
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 that incorporates your party’s main course.
Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock
Editor’s note: Originally published on January 18, 2012, this article was updated in January 2019.