The holiday season can bring a lot of challenges to keeping a green lifestyle. The festive parties you used to throw without caution to your carbon footprint are now a public platform for your guests to pick up your eco-habits.
Endless traditions run through your mind. What people will think if your plastic garland from the 90s ornates the banister? Should you switch your turkey for a tofurkey?
Two experts say don’t give up turkey; it’s the little things that are going to count. Tiffany Dasilva, co-founder of Talen Events in Ontario, Canada and Jaye Graham, event director of It’s Personal Occasions in Ontario, and the producer of Canada’s upcoming Eco Wedding and Lifestyle Show have identified some key points on throwing a green holiday party.
“What people usually think when they are throwing a party and want to stay environmentally friendly is that there are all these thing they can screw up on,” said Dasilva. “We try to tell people every step you make is a step in the right direction. You are being the change that you want to see in the world. “
We’ve narrowed their tips into six categories. We’re calling them the six ingredients to party planning, and these women claim it doesn’t have to be hard to stay inside the green lines.
Q: How can we keep invitations green?
Tiffany: There are so many other ways to invite people. There’s e-vites, there’s Facebook, and there’s the long lost phone. Bring it back to talking to people.
Jaye: “There are invitation companies out there that are eco friendly. There are also plantable invitations. You can send an invitation that’s also a tree sapling or a flower if you plant it.
Q: How can we keep transportation to and from our party green?
Tiffany: While you are inviting people, incorporate transportation. If you know someone is coming from one direction ask them to pick grandma up on the way. By taking that extra step you are making them think carpool without telling them: you need to need to be eco friendly to come to my party.
Q: Décor. Christmas decorations are often plastic or synthetic material. Should we keep that stuff in the closet for fear of looking like we didn’t take the time to care?
Jaye: If you’re really crafty you can make garlands out of fabric or yarn, popcorn and cranberries. Try making decorations out of gingerbreads, cookies, and pinecones. Fruit and food make nice centerpieces as well. I think it’s all about going back to the traditional Christmas that our grandparents and great grandparents had. Back then they were thrifty. They made their own stuff, and it was all edible or biodegradable because it was all they had. So think old fashioned. Our grandparents had it right.
Tiffany: I say, in with the old, out with the new. Use what you have. You don’t want to say ok I’m going to be eco-friendly so let me throw away all these things that are bad for the environment. You’ve already purchased it, so you might as well use it until it’s gone.
Jaye: If you want a more modern feel it’s possible. Go with glass decorations. Centerpieces with pebbles and food colorings are nice. Black and white linens are classic and you can use them every year and look really nice with metallic colors like silver.
Tiffany: I think when you bring out the old décor that means something, and it becomes more of a talking piece. Once you go that route, decor is just making people feel more relaxed which is what it’s supposed to do to begin with.
Q: How can lighting be a part of our party?
Jaye: Use LED lights. You can stuff a pile of them in a vase and then they can decorate the table. Whatever you do, don’t use paraffin wax candles. They are a bit cheaper but beeswax and soy are a lot less toxic.
Tiffany: When you see big extravagant parties people always incorporate lighting, but people don’t realize they can do it in their own home. In some rooms, think about just using beeswax candles for a relaxed setting. In another, maybe the only lighting you need is the Christmas tree. You can incorporate lighting, and conserve energy while you are setting your mood.
Jaye: Instead of using scented candles, put a pot of water on the stove on the lowest setting. Put in cinnamon sticks and orange peels. It’ll hydrate the home, and make it smell nice.
Q: How can my food and drink selection be environmentally friendly without having to serve tofu?
Jaye: Buy fair trade and organic food. Better yet, make it a potluck. There are lots of organic spirits, wines, and beers. Do your research about them, but anything to encourage companies to be a little bit more mindful is a good idea.
Tiffany: I have a share at a local farm. So every week I can pick up a basket of whatever vegetables they have. Sometimes I get the craziest vegetables you’ve ever seen. It’s fun to tell people about what’s available because they might not know about all their options. This way your food becomes a talking piece. It’s not just a turkey dinner; it’s a turkey dinner from that guy down the street who owns that big farm that we pass by everyday. It’s a way to showcase what the city has and what kind of local foods are available.
Q: Does cleaning up have to be a drag?
Jaye: The biggest thing for home parties is to avoid the disposable anything. Most people have a dishwasher: use it. Don’t be lazy. I’ve seen parties where as soon as they have more than five people over they don’t want to do the dishes. If you are going to spend money on disposables, why not take that money to a thrift store and buy a pile of plates. That way people can take their plates or teacups home afterwards and reuse them.
Tiffany: When we get married we get all this nice dishware, but when people come over they bring out the plastic and disposable stuff. It’s a great time to bring out all your nice stuff. I know that when we have a party we make it an event to clean up afterwards.
Jaye: If you really hate cleaning up, rent. Rent your cutlery and your plates, and the company will pick them up and wash them for you. If you’ve got a big party that’s what you should do because you won’t be throwing stuff away and it doesn’t cost that much.
Tiffany: Make sure to use green cleaning products. And that pretty much wraps up a great party.
Jaye: Just relax. Take a breath and do what you normally do and try and avoid things that get thrown out. That’s the main thing. Most of all just have a great time.
For more tips on throwing great parties you can check out Talen Event’s blog at http://blog.talenevents.ca/. For lots of other great green ideas Jaye has a blogging venue at http://eco-style-events.blogspot.com/.