Green Tips for a Summer Party

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Take your party outside. You’ll use less energy if you take advantage of natural light by hosting your event while the sun is still shining. Find a garden or terrace for drinks at sunset. Photo: Flickr/Vero.b

What’s the best way to avoid the Eddie Cochran “Summertime Blues”? Throw a party of course!

Celebrate summer’s sweet inception by hosting the best (and greenest) shindig on the block. So, grab the karaoke mic, put on your party hat, dancing shoes and follow our green party tips.

1. Avoid paper invitations.

We know, there’s nothing quite like a personalized invitation in the mail. But stationary can cost a ton of money and use an unnecessary amount of resources.

In fact, the Sierra Club estimates that about 900 million trees are cut down annually for the production of paper worldwide.

While you may think an online invitation isn’t quite as glam, it really is the newest trend in party planning.

Online invitation and social planning website evite has more than 22 million registered users and sends out more then 25,000 invitations each hour! Plus, you can create a design that’s perfect for your event. The website even offers eco-themed invitations.

2. Plan a local, organic menu.

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.

We found some great summer recipes at Epicurious.com. For your backyard barbecue, the website suggests opting for grass-fed burgers and steaks, which typically require fewer pesticides, fossil fuels and antibiotics than the corn-fed alternative.

Frittatas made with organic eggs, seasonal veggies and local cheeses are great options for a nice brunch. We also love the mouth-watering vegan dishes such as Ditalini with Pesto, Beans and Broccoli Rabe or Avocado and Mango Salad with Passion Fruit Vinaigrette. Yummy!

But organic goes beyond your plate. Fill your cup with some fancy schmancy organic beer. Brewed with organically harvested barley and hops, organic beer is said to be tastier and better for the bod. For the extra ambitious, try brewing your own beer.

Have your heart set on an outdoor evening party? Look for lights with LED bulbs to save more energy. Photo: Flickr/sarah1rene

3. Use energy-efficient lighting.

The best way to reduce your party’s footprint is to calculate its energy usage. The No. 1 way to avoid added costs to your electric bill is to utilize the outdoors – perfect lighting, temperature and truly inherent green setting.

Host your barbecue at midday when the light is bright and fills your crowd with energy.

For an upscale affair, hold cocktails at dusk when the backdrop of sunset makes guests feel their most glamorous. In the evening, candles will give your celebration a gilded glow.

But if weather just doesn’t permit, use energy-efficient lighting to illuminate your party. A CFL bulb uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.

Go one step further and upgrade to LED bulbs, which typically have a longer lifespan than traditional incandescents. Typical incandescent bulbs last only 1,000 to 2,000 hours, with some estimates quoting LED lifespans from 25,000 to 50,000 hours.

4. Find decorations in your yard.

You don’t have to buy fancy paper lanterns or tasteful art for your next get-together. Beautiful decor can be found right outside your door. Cut tall grasses and place in a vase.

Fill a glass jar with rocks and top it off with a candle. If you’re a gardener then it’s time to harvest those blooms! Use your old mugs or glass stemware for display.

If you’re an urbanite surrounded by concrete and protected grassy knolls, head down to your florist and opt for locally grown flowers. Also, consider potted plants. You can keep them around longer!

5. Ask your guests to bring their own plate.

As an avid party host, it may seem off-putting to ask your guests to bring their own supplies. But the hodgepodge of different dishes can serve as talking points at your party. An added bonus: Turn it into a dish swap. Bring your own dish and leave with a different plate for your collection.

The same idea is great for glassware. Instead of charging a “keg fee,” a party-goer’s ticket is his or her own glass.

If your china just doesn't cut it for the occasion, look for sustainable disposable dinnerware options. Leafware plates are made from fallen leaves (not from cut down trees). A sure conversation starter! Photo: Leafware

6. If disposable is a must, go for smarter choices.

Preserve tableware is made from a thicker resin of plastic that allows multiple uses. Also, Preserve’s products are made from 100 percent recycled polypropylene (plastic #5 or PP).

Plastic #5 is a plastic that is not as widely accepted in curbside recycling programs as other resins like PET (plastic #1), so it’s a great use of a hard-to-recycle plastic.

Solo Cup Company has a line of products made of post-consumer recycled PET. Bare by Solo cups are made from about 20 percent recycled PET, providing a market for the billions of pounds of plastic bottles that Americans recycle annually.

Leafware is a new company that offers dinnerware made from – you guessed it – leaves. Fallen leaves are collected, washed, scrubbed, sun dried, compressed and sterilized to produce plates, bowls and serving trays.

7. Use propane for grilling.

Before diving into this one, we want to point out that we are not trying to step on any grillmaster’s toes. The debate between charcoal and propane is a tough one: Which one produces more flavor? Which is cheaper, faster? And most importantly, which is more eco-friendly?

We consulted a recent study by Environment Impact Assessment Review to answer this one. Drum roll, please…

According to the study, “the overwhelming factors are that as a fuel, LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) is dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production and considerably more efficient in cooking.” The two grilling methods were defined by their overall footprint, with charcoal using 998 kg of CO2, almost three times more than propane, which weighed in at 349 kg.

ScienceDaily reports that as fuel, LPG is “dramatically more efficient than charcoal in its production.” When purchasing a propane tank, make sure there is a trade-in option. Most retailers will let you bring in an empty tank in exchange for a decent discount on your next tank.

8. Don’t bail on recycling.

It’s a no-brainer. One of the easiest ways to go green is to recycle your waste. So don’t leave your recycling smarts at home and be sure to put a clearly marked bin out at your party.

There’s a good chance someone will have a plastic cup or a glass bottle to toss in the bin. Also, be sure to check with your local curbside program to confirm the items it accepts for recycling.

9. Send home the leftovers.

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.

For everything that’s left, consider composting. According to the U.S. EPA, each American throws away an average of 1.3 pounds of food scraps daily. In addition to this, yard trimmings and food waste combined make up 24 percent of the nation’s municipal solid waste stream.

Even if half of this can be diverted and recycled through composting, our daily trash levels could start to decrease.

10. Don’t dread the cleanup.

Cleaning products get the job done, but at what cost? They can be responsible for around 10 percent of toxic exposures reported to poison control centers and are difficult to dispose of properly. You can most likely find nontoxic alternatives at your grocery store.

You can also purchase paper towels made of recycled content, but they become non-recyclable once you use them to clean the house. However, you can return to the pre-disposable days and use clean towels and sponges until they wear out. This creates less waste and saves you money on supplies.

Remember the broom and the mop? These cleaning classics are still pretty effective for getting your rooms to sparkle, and you don’t need to plug them in or charge batteries to power them.

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