Five tips to green your next party
(Photo: Getty Images)
Last year, I threw a birthday party for my father, and while the event made him all smiles, I could see how a traditional party can put a big sad face on the planet with all the gift wrapping, decorations, and food ordering,. I got to thinking about how many birthday parties must be thrown for kids and adults every year and how much waste we create celebrating the people we love. So I created this list of easy tips for a more eco-friendly event.
Paying for paper invites and postage is so 2001! Online and email is the way to go these days. Evite is a great way to invite people to an event -- it's free and easy to set up. Facebook also has an event invite feature.
If you use Outlook, Microsoft Office Online offers lots of free email party invite templates, and Yahoo! Mail has a nifty Pingg invitation app to design professional-looking invitations right in your mail program. Yahoo! Mail also has a variety of fun backgrounds and font choices to spice up a regular email.
Challenge yourself not to buy any new gift wrap paper and rethink ways to wrap. Look around your house and see what can be repurposed -- those stacks of newspapers and magazines can make excellent, creative wrap. Save the fronts of birthday and holiday cards and make a collage. A lone pillowcase that no longer matches your sheets can be repurposed into a gift bag with the help of a ribbon. A paper grocery bag can be cut to fit and decorated on the blank side with glitter pens.
If you feel your creative skills really don't cut it, look for gift wrap made from recycled paper that is also recyclable when you're done. Be sure to save the ribbon, bows, and paper that doesn't get too torn or crumpled for reuse. Gift bags are also great reusable options.
Choose something the recipient can use, instead of giving useless clutter. How many cutesy trinkets or silly gag gifts does a person need? Most of those end up sitting on someone's shelf collecting dust until they are tossed in a landfill.
For adults, try giving gadgets that do something useful or save them money, or give gift cards/certificates that can used on practical items or a wonderful experience such as movies, gas, maid service, a massage, a class, or a dinner at a favorite restaurant. You could also consider a donation in a person's name to a charity you know the recipient is passionate about.
For kids, party stores would love you to fill up your goodie bags with plastic do-dads and noise makers. Instead, opt for something the little ones can use to get their minds and bodies working such as art supplies, educational games, or sports gear.
While the party may be focused on fun and socializing, everyone will appreciate a little something to nosh on, so plan to serve a few light and healthy snacks. Fruit, nuts, and appetizers should suffice.
Shop local by purchasing ingredients from your nearby farmer's market. If the neighborhood natural food market is more convenient, check out the books filled with recipes using the unique foods found in both Whole Foods and Trader Joe's.
If you don't have time to pull this off, consider catering because organic options are now widely available. Or try the organic pizza menu from the Z Pizza chain. And don't forget the cake!
Set up and decor
Use real plates and utensils instead of paper and plastic disposables. If you have kids and know you'll be having birthday parties every year until they hit their teens, invest in a stack of colorful plates that you'll be able to reuse for every party. They'll know that special set is just for them on their special day.
The same goes for decorations. It may be worth making one trip to the party store for some streamers and cardboard cutouts if you plan to keep them and reuse them (go for generic themes such as stars or color schemes). But skip the balloons -- the material is treated with toxins, and once deflated, they are dangerous if ingested by wildlife.
So party on, with an event that leaves everyone happy, especially the planet.
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