Whether you're planning a birthday bash, graduation celebration, wedding gala, or simple cocktail hour, it's easy to be "green" -- and it might save you some time and money, too.
Reduce paper and postage costs by inviting your guests electronically. Apart from being quick and easy, Evite is free; Sendomatic charges a small fee, but there's no advertising on its website.
If you want to print and mail an invitation, recycled paper is available in many colors and designs from most art, stationery, and office supply stores. On-line, Twisted Limb makes invitations and stationery from recycled paper by hand.
Location and Lighting
Weather permitting, celebrate your festivities outside. A front porch, wrap-around deck, roof top, patio, or park can create the perfect ambience for fun, relaxation, and joy.
If it's an evening affair, candles can help brighten your setting and keep the bugs at bay.
Want to be more festive? String energy-efficient LED lights, which use 80 to 90 percent less energy than incandescent mini-lights, through trees and along walkways. Try the Light string from Inirgee, or check Home Depot, Lowe's, or your local hardware store around Thanksgiving, when they begin stocking their holiday lights.
Serve locally grown fruits and vegetables, fresh hand-pressed ciders, artisan cheeses and homemade breads and pastries, all available from your nearest farmers market.
Get catering help from eco-friendly companies that favor organic, sustainably-grown ingredients. The Cleaver Co. in New York City, Back to Earth in Berkeley, and Limelight Organic in Chicago are some options; if you Google "organic catering" plus the name of your city, you'll find help closer to home. Or check out this Resource Directory compiled by Organic Weddings.com.
Whole Foods Markets and some natural foods stores prepare delicious platters of vegetables, fruits, breads, crackers, dips and cheese. They can also tailor complete organic dinner menus to meet your entertainment needs, particularly around Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Passover, Easter and Kwanzaa.
Organic beverages - including fruit juice, sparkling cider, wine, beer and spirits -- are available at most natural food stores, Whole Foods Markets, food coops, and an increasing number of standard grocery store chains and liquor stores. Some brands to look for:
Setting the Table
Use cloth table linens and napkins, and reusable plates and cutlery to reduce party trash. At the annual Christmas party I give every year, I use the reusable buffet plates, holiday napkins, and extra forks, knives and spoons I've stocked up on over time. I save money on paper goods, and save time buying them. Some food caterers supply their own dinnerware, glasses and silverware so you don't have to buy plastic or paper.
If you must use paper, shop recycled. Seventh Generation's paper plates are made from 100% recycled content; no chlorine bleach is used to whiten them. Marcal makes lunch and dinner napkins with high degrees of recycled content as well.
Adorn the table with flowers and greenery from your yard, enhanced with fruit, candles, ribbons and other "decorations" available at your fingertips.
The nicest party favor I ever got was a native tree seedling I brought home and planted in my back yard.
- Keepsake cups, tumblers or goblets made from recycled glass (see www.greenglass.com)
- Recycled glass candle holders, available from GreenFeet .
- Organic seed packets, windowsill herb sets, starter pots - available from your local garden supply store
- Favorite books
- Homemade jams and jellies, granola or other homemade goodies (I've done this when the party's been small)
- Tree ornaments
When the Party's Over
Make recycling easy during the party by setting up a bin for empty cans and bottles in the kitchen or on the porch. If you compost, clean plates into the compost bin before washing. Wrap up left-overs in reusable containers and send home with your guests or save in the freezer or refrigerator for a delicious reminder of the great time that was had by all!