If you are at all like us, you have plans to fill the summer with outdoor parties and backyard entertaining. But of course we are also concerned about our impact on the outdoors we love. According to the Clean Air Council, each year Americans throw away enough paper and plastic cups, forks and spoons to circle the earth at the equator 300 times. So we always make a conscious effort to limit the waste from our outdoor entertaining. Here are some simple ideas to help you throw an eco-friendly outdoor party.
1) Paper invites can create a lot of unnecessary waste. For most outdoor parties, a simple email or phone call will suffice, but for larger gatherings or special events, consider using an online resource like Google Calendar which will send calendar invites to the email addresses you choose. You can also send electronic invitations like those from Evite or Pingg – both have several free designs. For something truly unique, try seed paper invites from Botanicalpaperworks, seeds are embedded in the biodegradable invites – after the party you and your guests can simply plant and watch wildflowers grow.
2) Tableware – paper plates/bowls, napkins and plastic utensils – is one of the biggest contributors to the waste created at an outdoor party. Use tea towels as napkins and your everyday silverware. Biodegradable plates and bowls are a step up, but while practical aren’t necessarily the most stylish solution. If you don’t want to use your indoor dishes, or spring for durable melamine designs – plates, bowls and accessories made from fast growing and renewable bamboo are a great biodegradable eco-option.
3) Ever notice the number of nearly full water bottles you collect after a backyard bash? In the excitement of a good outdoor party, guests will forget to mark their bottle or simply lose track of where they left it – only to open another and create unneeded waste and expense. A better alternative is to use large beverages pitchers, carafes or drink jars with fresh water or favorite mixes in strategic locations around the party space – the table, grill or fire pit. Use various colored cups or drink labels to help the guests keep track of their beverage.
4) Shipping food and produce from around the world takes a lot of fuel. Serve your guests seasonal, local offerings from area markets, farms and produce stands. Of course, shop with cloth or canvas shopping bags.
5) Where ever possible harnesses the renewable power of the sun by using solar landscape lighting projectors. They are now available in any number of options from pathway lights to lanterns and string lights. No cords and no digging, which means they can be moved as the party and landscape dictates. A day of charging will get you 6-8 hours of party time light.
6) Gift wrap is not recyclable. If it is a special occasion where there will be presents, wrap them in newspaper, recycled paper (paper grocery bags) or biodegradable paper. Better yet use patterned cloth or bandannas – encourage your party guests to do the same and you can return it afterwards with a
7) Sprinklers, pools and personal splash-pads are always an outdoor party attraction, especially during hot weather. Place sprinklers in areas that receive the most sun during the day, these will generally make best use of the water. Put timers on the sprinklers to prevent them from wasting water when not in use. Place wading pools near flower beds or gardens so the water can more easily be spread or splashed over them when the the party has wrapped up.
8) Save paper by using chalkboards for place settings, menus, food labels. Every little bit helps.
Try some of these tips at your next outdoor party and take care of the spaces where we love to entertain.♦