TWINKLE TWINKLE: LED festive lights help you save money and energy. (Photo: Molly Canfield)
'Tis the season to throw and go to parties. Whether it's with friends or family, the holiday season holds an endless array of festivals. During the planning for the holiday party I hosted last Saturday, I decided to try out some ways to make my party a bit more eco-friendly than I have for past holiday gatherings. In all the hustle and bustle around this time of year, it can be hard to take the time to search out for the best green party tips, so I thought I'd share some with you here. Consider it a one-stop shop for tips on hosting an eco-friendly affair! I've broken them down into categories, which I find easier for browsing. Feel free to use one or all of the ideas, and make sure to pass them along to other party host(esse)s.
It can't be a proper gathering without holiday beverages. Take a look at some of these:
• Hot chocolate: Green and Black Chocolate is a delicious organic chocolate brand, great for using as the chocolate in s'mores (below), too!
• Mulled wine: Try using a local wine. For us D.C. residents, Virginia has wonderful options. VirginiaWine is a good site to get information on Virginian grown wine. Pick a winery, and give 'em a call to see where they sell their product. Tarara winery in Leesburg has a nice Meritage.
• Beer: Peak Ale is just an example of an organic beer you can serve — individually packed or as a keg.
• Eggnog: Remember to use local and/or organic ingredients! Dairy is one of the most important products to buy organically.
Just a thought for beverage serving methods: you can use reusable hardware (cups, mugs, wine glasses, etc.) to reduce waste altogether, or you can use eco-friendly compostable ware if you don't want to bother with dirty dishes.
Eco-friendly holiday decorations are not only good for the planet, but they can be really fun, too!
• Homemade orange and clove pomanders: These are great because they smell delightful and are completely natural and biodegradable.
• Homemade wreaths: You can go fancy or simple; either way, this is a fun, hands-on activity that you can do with friends or family. It provides a nice decorative display, too.
• Garlands: These are a favorite! Edible garlands can be made from popcorn, nuts, dried cranberries or orange peels. You can also make them out of pinecones.
• Lights: Holiday lights are essential in creating a warm and festive ambiance. Not only do LED holiday lights meet the criteria for festive light decorations, they are also eco-friendly and save you money on your electric bill.
• Candles: If you're lighting candles for a menorah, or just want to decorate with them, choose a sustainable kind. Sustainable candle choices include candles made of beeswax, soy and palm oil.
• Christmas tree: Real trees are actually more eco-friendly than fake ones, especially when they are grown on a farm for this specific purpose. Getting a local tree is best; there are even tree farms in Virginia and Maryland where you can go and cut down your tree yourself. You can get artsy and make your own holiday tree out of recycled materials, like this family did. (Just start saving up your empty cans and bottles a few months in advance.) Instead of bottles or cans, you can use old newspapers, books and so forth. Get creative!
The most important thing to remember when deciding what food to serve is to use natural, organic, and local ingredients whenever possible. Here are some holiday treat suggestions:
• S'mores: These treats are tasty all year round, but there is something about roasting marshmallows over a fire that makes the idea even nicer in the winter time. Try making homemade marshmallows, homemade chocolate and homemade graham crackers (these are absolutely delicious, even on their own as a sort of cookie. I tried them at my holiday party, and my guests loved them).
Watch my friends' reactions to my homemade graham crackers:
• For a main dish, try a veggie lasagna. A huge amount of carbon emissions comes from cattle, so take a break from eating meat; everyone will love a classic lasagna dish. (I tried this recipe out for my office holiday party, and even the meat eaters wanted seconds.)
Just a few holiday reminders:
• Turn lights off at night to save energy.
• Consolidate holiday gift shopping trips to save on gas emissions (and spend less time stressed in holiday traffic), or shop online from home!
• When traveling, consider taking a train instead of an airplane (air travel causes a huge jump in the percent of carbon emissions when compared to train travel).
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