The Green Party
19 ways to celebrate summer and decrease your impact on the earth:
Before the Bash
1. Call or send an Evite to your guests, and skip the cute little note cards. In addition to saving trees, your family and friends will get quicker notice about your party—which also means swifter RSVPs.
2. Ask your friends to make a donation to the celebrant’s favorite charity if your get-together is a gift-giving occasion. This eliminates unwanted and unused gifts.
3. Encourage carpooling to your party by giving out the names and phone numbers of guests who live close to one another. You could also offer a small prize to anyone who uses alternative transportation, like a bike or scooter, helping to inspire others to do their part cutting back on the greenhouse gasses emitted by cars each year.
4. Scout yard sales and thrift shops for plates to use for outdoor entertaining. It’ll add an eclectic look to your table, and if each US household replaced just one 40-count package of paper plates with recyclable alternatives, we’d save 487,000 trees.
5. Take reusable cloth bags with you when shopping for party food. Traditional plastic grocery bags are not recyclable and may take as long as 1,000 years to break down.
6. Select food items, like grains, nuts, and candies from bulk bins at the store so you can eliminate all that extra packaging waste. Toxic chemicals are used to make many plastic packages, and huge energy resources go into creating them.
7. Invest in a propane- or solar-powered stove if you often cook outdoors. Barbecuing with traditional charcoal briquettes sends smoke and particulate matter into the air, adding to pollution. Charcoal lighter fluid also emits volatile organic compounds, which studies have shown can cause health problems for many and may leave a residue of toxic chemicals on grilled food.
8. Spruce up your flower beds by getting rid of the weeds. Use a 20 percent concentration of acetic vinegar instead of a chemical pesticide. (Do this a few days before your party so the odor has a chance to dissipate, and make sure you don’t blast any delicate blossoms.)
9. Plant rosemary in your yard as a natural mosquito repellent. No time for that? Buy a few potted rosemary plants to use as table decorations, and plant them later. You’ll avoid the poisons in traditional bug repellents.
During the Do
10. Serve local, organic food. You’ll avoid consuming some of the 300 different pesticides that may have touched nonorganic food while it was growing, plus grocery-store produce may travel an average of 1,500 miles before being sold, adding to the toxic emissions in the air.
11. Arrange different-colored laundry baskets near your eating area to encourage composting and recycling (use green for compostables and blue for recyclables). Hang a sign above the baskets to let your guests know what goes where.
12. Illuminate your patio with soy or beeswax candles or solar lights instead of conventional string lights, which will lessen the drain on your electricity.
13. Set the tables with colorful cloth napkins—or cut up an old flannel shirt to make informal ones yourself. Just like with those paper plates, ditching paper napkins means you’re saving more trees.
14. Bring your favorite dish to a potluck in a serving platter to leave with your host (you can find unique and inexpensive dishes at consignment shops and yard sales). It makes a great gift—and you’ll steer clear of those one-time-use tins.
15. Give each guest her own compostable, disposable drink cup. Keep a permanent marker handy so guests can write their name on the cups, making it less likely they’ll reach for unnecessary replacements.
16. Entertain kids at the party with an eco-friendly craft: Let them plant seedlings in mini-clay pots to take home and replant later. Or make nontoxic bubbles by mixing one cup biodegradable dish soap with one cup corn syrup and three cups water.
17. Volunteer to pack leftovers for your guests to take home so you’re not stuck with food that will likely go to waste.
18. Crunch up used aluminum foil, and scrape the grit off the grill with it instead of using a harsh, chemical-laden cleaner.
19. Start a compost pile with fruit and veggie waste from your party. Mix waste with three times as many tea bags or dead leaves, add water, and turn the pile every week or so.
Heather Larson is a freelance writer in Tacoma, Washington.