It's the most wonderful time of the year, when you have to attend at least one holiday party a week. If you're very lucky, you also have the responsibility of hosting one! Maybe it feels like too much to fill your house with cheer while also guarding the safety of our planet, but just a few small changes can make your festivus much more eco-friendly.
Image via Flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil.
So, the barbecue has been fired up. The cat has climbed to the top of the tree. You've cleared an area for people to drop their bags. But have you prepared for the planet? Never fear. Before you even get started, you have an opportunity to cut down on waste:
1. Evite Me
Folks rarely send handwritten cards to invite people to holidays any more, but The Guardian suggests in its eco-friendly guide to general party throwing that we take advantage of the internet. Kill only the tree you will ceremoniously decorate, and don't waste paper. Or, if the tradition of sending Christmas cards and invites is too deeply engrained, buy recycled cards and envelopes. Green Your Decor evens recommends these nifty cards that turn into seed packets. After they read your loving party invitation, guests can shove it in the ground and watch it grow, as nature intended. They ship internationally, but if you're concerned about customs (or shipping times) you can get Australian seeded cards from Seed Paper Australia and Paper-Go-Round.
2. Invest In Permanent Decorations
This may just sound like home decorating, but consider buying permanent decorations. Actually having banners, table cloths, and other flourishes made from cloth that can be hung up, taken down and reused is far better for the planet than buying thematic tissue paper for every holiday. Personally, I made several strings of colourful flags that were just pieces of scrap cloth laying around. They were cheerful, suited any occasion, and I probably used them a dozen times before they became hopelessly tangled. Cloth decorations also have a home-y feel that can't be replicated with bin-clogging tinsel. And the cats won't eat it.
You talked about your plans with your friends face to face, you made a Facebook event page and invited them - but people still seem to flake out on you. What gives? Well, you're still not making it easy enough for them.
As Green Your Decor points out, people like disposable cups, silverware and glasses for cleanup. Obviously, all those things create a lot of trash. But to justify the short-term inconvenience of having to actually wash your post-party dishes instead of simply throwing them away, consider how much money you save over time by having a small dish set just for parties. And if your circumstances are such that owning real dishes for hosting is truly too much of a hassle, you can still buy more eco-friendly products, such as compostable straws, for those delicious Santa approved cocktails. Like... eggnog.
4. Green Your Menu
I won't get into a huge back and forth about what diet is best for the planet, as there are plenty of arguments from all sides of the issue. But you can definitely take into consideration how much waste the food you're feeding your guests on this one special day will produce. Individual packaging on things such as prepared dips or pre-chopped vegetables is bad. Things you can make in large batches at home, then put in a washable bowl, are good. If you're very optimistic, you can provide reusable containers for guests to take home leftovers, per Green Your Decor's suggestion. In my experience, however, friends will likely eat everything and the plate the cheese was laid out on, so leftovers may be a moot point.
When you're planning a party that's going to feature drinking, one of the worst things you can do is just not invite your sober friends. Oh, they don't drink, I don't want to make them uncomfortable. Let them make that call for themselves. And there's a lot you can do to make sure sober guests will feel welcome and comfortable at a party, even if other people are drinking.
5. Mind Your Garbage
Most hosts consider garbage bags at parties, but don't forget a recycling bag and, if you can swing it, a compost area. Yes, tell your guests to throw their holiday orange peels in the bin, along with any other compostable food waste. (Printing out handy signs for what goes in each bin is an easy visual aid, and will prevent you from having to explain the difference a dozen times over the course of the night.) Maybe it will make you seem uptight and weird about garbage; or maybe your friends get an important lesson about landfills.
Either way, you won't care because you'll be deep in that goon - bulk items produce less waste, after all.