With the holidays rapidly approaching, and the onset of the season of hustle and bustle, many of us are starting to think about hosting holiday parties. Especially in times where finances are tight for everyone, entertaining at home is the only reasonable option. Entertaining can leave a huge impact on our environment, from the chemicals we use to clean our home to the plates in which we serve our Hors d'oeuvre's.
This holiday season, we are approaching things differently. We are challenging ourselves to host a "Green with Envy" party that will leave a lasting impression on your guests, not on Mother Earth.
The best way to start off your "Green with Envy" party is to compile a list of guests and then email them your invitation. It may seem impersonal to some, but if you include your "green" efforts, even Emily Post wouldn't hold it against you. You can choose to use event sites to help you like, "Evite" or you can even be super old -fashioned, but totally personal, by giving each of your guests a quick phone invite. (no texting! uber tacky!)
After your invitations are sent, start to think about how to make your party preparation a bit greener.
Cleaning: We always like our floors to shine, bathrooms to sparkle and homes to smell inviting. Typical cleaners are chock full of potentially harmful substances. You don't have to sacrifice a clean home to clean it green.
With a little elbow grease, a vegetable cellulose sponge(grab some at Trader Joe's), some re-purposed cloth, and an old toothbrush, you can clean almost anything with the following safe- for- you , safe-for- the- environment, products:
- Castile soap: We prefer Dr. Bronner's since it is organic and Fair Trade (literally a one-stop, clean everything soap, from your car to your patio furniture to your baby's skin)
- White vinegar: This is an all-purpose cleaner that can treat everything from the windows to your counter tops.
- Baking soda: This "safe" scrub is great for bathtubs, tiles or stubborn stains.
- Hydrogen peroxide: This safe whitener is also antimicrobial. Lemon juice is another great option.
- Essential oils: Some of our favorites include eucalyptus, tea tree and grapefruit. They have antibacterial properties - not to mention they have a natural and refreshing scent.
Don't forget to stock your bathroom with eco-friendly supplies like 100% post consumer, recycled bath tissue, paraben and fragrance free soaps, and lotions. (You can click here for a good reference tool.)
The Setting: Think Reuse and repurpose!
Dishes/silverware/glassware:Disposables wreak havoc on our environment and take away a lot of the elegance of hosting an at-home party. Without buying more things, (lessening what you consume is very green!) either borrow additional sets of dishes/silverware, or visit consignment shops for unique pieces. We found an entire line of antique English dishes at a garage sale for less than $50.00.
Tablecloths, and napkins are more festive and elegant when cloth. Choose eco- friendly fibers if purchasing new or round up some favorites from friends and neighbors. We collected a bunch of different napkin rings and set each place with a different one. This way everyone could keep track of their napkin based on its decorative ring, thus using fewer napkins. Using the same idea, we purchased wine tags to denote everyone's beverage glass. (We used a variety of different wine glasses, again using variety as a means of decorating!)
Lighting: Candles are a beautiful way to create a mood during a party but traditional ones emit harmful toxins, look for ones made from soy or beeswax. Another great tip: we're excited to re-purpose our decorative outdoor solar lamps indoors! Safe, beautiful and definitely GREEN.
Decorating:Choose simple decorations. A glass bowl of lemons, greenery from your yard, or use long-lasting plants instead of flowers.
Food: It is easy to make greener choices when it comes to the menu. Shop locally, seasonally and organically. Prepare some vegetarian choices, cook with organic, local ingredients and choose to make your meals yourself, saving both money and natural resources. If at-home cooking is not for you, choose a local vendor and ask about infusing organic ingredients, or using locally grown foods. You can also cut down on waste and prep time by bringing your serve-ware to the caterer, and say no to disposables.
Purchase Fair-trade, shade grown coffee, organic teas, fair trade sugar and chocolate, and serve organic wine. It is often easy to find local beer too. If hosting a party for many guests, consider a Keg from a local brewery as it significantly cuts down on waste. Make your own punch, or indulge your guests in a hot beverage.
Serve filtered water in glass pitchers placed on several surfaces, cutting out your exposure to BPA, and of course the waste of the plastic. If purchasing store bought drinks, choose aluminum or glass as it recycles easier and is a much safer option. Another fun tip taken from Mr. Danny Seo, expert green designer, use twizzlers as straws for bar items-adds flare, and is a more eco -friendly choice than plastic straws or swizzle sticks.
Don't forget to set up a recycling station, and encourage people to use it. You can also be green if you compost your food scraps, tea bags, and coffee grinds. In the very least, you can sprinkle your coffee grinds in your house plants for a nutritious boost!
Another way to be green is to encourage your guests to bring a non-perishable in lieu of purchasing a gift for the hostess. A friend of ours did this a couple of times and not only did it help a local family in need, it kept all of us for buying a hostess gift and reminded us all of the spirit of giving. Her children even asked to do this for their birthday parties, instead of gifts, they donated presents to Toys for Tots. Now that's inspiring!
Hosting a green party can be a chance for you to implement changes you have been meaning to try, a chance to let your creative side shine through or it can be your way of of lessening your impact on the environment. Every effort makes a difference, and change comes, one step at a time.
Michelle S. is a SAHM and self-described '??green'? fashionista. She is a NYC woman, turned burbs mama, raising her 2 B'??s in an eco conscious manner. She blogs about natural parenting and green living at www.everythingsabuzz.com. Find her on twitter @queentob.
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