This story is part of Earth911’s “Green Eight” series, where we showcase eight ways to green your life in various areas.
There’s more to St. Paddy’s Day than just shamrocks, leprechauns, parades and beer. March 17 marks the death of St. Patrick, an Englishman who, after escaping slavery in Ireland, became a priest and converted the Irish from Paganism to Christianity. St. Patrick’s Day is a day of spiritual renewal and, of course, all the fun festivities we have come to know.
Celebrate this traditional Irish day in true “green” fashion with our favorite eight tips:
1. Pre-plan for the Parade
If you’re heading out to a parade this year, carpool with family, friends or neighbors. Not only do you save gas but you also alleviate the cost and headache of parking your car. Is the parade close by? Better than a carpool, use a bike pool. Get all your friends to dust off those old Schwinns and get to pedaling.
2. Rent Some Spirit
Think that costume rental is solely for the big-ticket items like an Irish Lass or a leprechaun? Get into the Irish spirit by renting St. Paddy’s Day attire. You can look fabulous lined up along the parade route in rented necklaces, derby caps, bowler hats, etc. Renting not only reduces consumption, but also helps you reuse items that you won’t need the other 364 days of the year.
3. Green Beer
Aside from walking to the nearest pub or choosing locally-brewed beer, you can drink in an environmentally responsible manner by choosing beer based on the sustainable practices of the company itself. Recycling, using wind energy and processing wastewater for energy consumption are just some of the practices used by the Sierra Club’s list of green beer makers that you can check out:
4. Cans, Bottles or Glass?
What you drink from is just as important as what you drink, but sometimes it is difficult to pick the most eco-friendly container.
Coca-Cola Great Britain recently found that glass packaging has almost twice the environmental footprint as aluminum cans. However, both are 100 percent recyclable and can be reused infinitely without loss of integrity to the materials. If you get a beer on tap, the glass it’s poured into is reused and only requires a wash, but you are also using energy, water and soap multiple times per day to keep it clean. Even though each has its pros and cons, it’s your choice to decide what kind of impact you want to make.
5. Party Planning
Decorate your home by borrowing green props from Christmas and orange from Halloween. If you’re passing out party favors, what about breaking out your top hats from New Year’s (all you need is a bit of green ribbon for a quick switch), or making shamrock favors from old wrapping or construction paper?
Also, when it comes to get-togethers, sometimes you’ll have the most fun without the extra stuff. Try hosting a funny limerick contest and awarding a “green” gift to the winner. You could also give out small plants that guests can take home as favors, instead of a plastic trinket that might not get much use.
6. Irish Eats
When it comes to food, serve a traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) printed a Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, and cabbage ranks among the top 10 out of 45 for least amount of pesticides. According to EWG, you can reduce your pesticide intake by almost 80 percent by making smart decisions. Don’t forget that buying local eats means less miles your food travels to your dinner table, and when you’re all done with your scraps, try composting the remainder for a zero-waste feast.
7. Get Your Groove On
After dinner, you’ll probably want to engage in traditional Irish entertainment, like song and dance. Go unplugged by having Uncle Sean play the bagpipes or teach traditional Irish dances like the jig. On second thought, maybe your guests will stay a little longer if you play a little U2, The Cranberries, Enya or Van Morrison.
8. If You’re Going to Celebrate, Celebrate Big
This year Dublin, Ireland hosts its 14th Annual St. Patrick’s Day Festival, a four-day event showcasing Irish food, film, music, art, theatre and dance. Attendees experience activities like treasure hunts, puppetry, carnival fairgrounds, language workshops and much more.
If getting to Dublin (or any of your St. Paddy’s festivities, for that matter), requires an airplane ride, British Airways allows passengers to purchase carbon offsets at time of booking. Your purchase cuts carbon emissions by providing funding for clean power sources through wind farms and hydro-electric power plants in China, Mongolia and Brazil. Carbon offsets can also be purchased through TerraPass, if your airline does not offer them.
No matter how you celebrate this holiday you can surely be green, both in spirit and in terms of the environment. Slainte!