That beautiful weather is finally here! Bees are buzzing about, lawn mowers are doing their thing, pools are opening, flowers are blooming... it's time to celebrate! As one of the biggest holiday weekends of the season approaches, everyone is running around getting ready to partake in outdoor BBQ's, weekend getaways, and water fun! As you prepare, check out these tips to make your next outdoor get-together as eco-friendly as possible (and still have fun)!
1. DITCH THE DISPOSABLES
The number one thing you can do to minimize your environmental impact is to avoid using disposable items. We use so many disposable products in our society that they've become the norm - a BBQ or cookout just isn't complete without those flimsy paper plates! Break the status quo - use real plates, real cutlery, reusable cups, and cloth napkins! Let's face it, nobody likes eating with disposables - it's all fun & games until someone's fork melts into their meal, or grease leaks from your plate and stains your brand new sundress. The environment doesn't like these products either: each item - each plate, each straw, each fork - requires an abundance of resources to be made, only to be thrown in the trash to pollute our world.
[PSST! Instead of using disposable plastic solo cups for drinking games, invest in some reusable ones, like this stainless steel set on Amazon.]
It may be a bit of extra work or effort on your part as a host, but chances are you'll have a few good guests or friends who will offer to give you a hand loading that dishwasher! In my opinion and experience, using real plates and cutlery really isn't much extra effort if you have a dishwasher - have everyone scrape their discards into the compost bin (or doggie bin for meat scraps) & stack them neatly on a snack table next to it. All of the plates, cutlery, and glasses should fit in one easy load and you're done! And cloth napkins? People tend to respect cloth more and will likely only use one, if any, so they won't be a significant addition to your weekly laundry.
2. Less is More with Minimal Decor
You don't need a bunch of banners or signs to have a good time. Decorative paper plates, streamers, bannners, etc. may be cute, but aren't necessary, and in many ways aren't good for the planet (resources, excessive consumerism, trash). This tip coincides with the first - avoid disposable or one-time-use decorations. When selecting decor, look for things that can be reused over and over again for multiple events. If celebrating a milestone - a specific age birthday or a graduation - you don't need to buy cheap novelty decorations. Make your own (out of sustainable/durable materials), or look on community selling sites like Craigslist, Facebook, or LetGo. Check out your local hardware store for house numbers to make an inter-changeable number sign that can be used for any age birthday or graduation! Look in your home or local secondhand shop for items that match your theme or color scheme - such as a red vase for your 4th of July bash! Be creative!
3. Digital Invites & Edible Party Favors
It's 2016 - the digital age, no need to waste resources on paper invitations! Unless you're planning a wedding, it's totally okay to opt for digital invitations. Make an Event page on Facebook, send an email, use an RSVP site if you know of one.And if you're looking to give out party favors, there are a few ways you can make them more environmentally friendly. The first option is you can forego them completely (very few will miss them, I promise). Otherwise, consider edibles, like baked goods, or things that are relatively inexpensive but useful (like a compact reusable tote or water bottle). There are plenty of ideas out there, so be creative. But basically, look to avoid plastic. Skip the plastic goody bags or cheap novelty items. Nobody wants or needs those!
4. Eat for the Planet
You'd be hard-pressed to find a BBQ or summer cookout that didn't include meat, but simply reducing the amount of meat served at your party can help lighten your impact on the planet (and your wallet). Look to offer your guests more variety by including some meatless options in your menu. Alex & I are big fans of Morning Star Sweet Potato & Quinoa veggie burgers, if you aren't down for making your own!However, even if you and your guests are strictly vegan or vegetarian, food packaging is still something to consider when throwing an eco-friendly party. Look to buy loose, unpackaged goods from your local bulk section, produce section, or service counter. If you're looking to reduce meat packaging, try asking a butcher with whom you have a good rapport to place your order in your own (clean) container. Try to avoid convenience or prepared foods by making your own or enlisting in the help of a friend who's skilled in the kitchen. The silver lining in avoiding packaging is that most unpackaged foods are generally healthy, so you and your guests won't feel guilty about going for seconds!
5. Sustainable Beverages
Firstly, please please please do not purchase bottled water for your party - fill a dispenser with filtered tap water for your guests to use instead!If providing sodas or soft drinks, opt for aluminum cans instead of plastic bottles, as metal is more efficiently recycled than plastic (basically, avoid plastic at all costs, always).
If serving alcohol, opt for liquors sold in glass bottles. For beer, consider a keg or refilling a few large growlers at a local brewery or bar. If anything, beer bottles and cans are efficiently recyclable.
And of course, RECYCLE YOUR BOTTLES AND CANS!! Some states offer a deposit return if you bring them back. Be sure to have your recycle/compost/landfill bins clearly labelled and accessible to guests!