It’s holiday season, and that means … parties! When you’re hosting a gathering, it can be easy for the costs to mount up – to your wallet, to the planet, and even to your sanity. Here are some ways to have a great time, without busting your budget, without suffering green guilt, and without getting stressed out. Sounds good? Read on (and don’t forget to add your own tips in the comments at the bottom).
Invites and Arrivals
If you’re sending out party invites, use email – it’s cheaper and greener than sending out paper invitations.
Suggest that guests carpool if possible, especially if any are coming a long distance – perhaps approach a couple of close friends to ask if they’re willing to offer lifts. Many guests will be glad to have a designated driver so that they can enjoy a few drinks.
Give people instructions on how to find the party venue using public transport. You might want to ensure that the party starts and ends at times which make it easy for people to travel to you.
Use Natural or Reusable Decorations
Rather than decorating with paper streamers and rubber balloons, find ways to use natural decorations which have no impact on the planet. How about picking up fallen pine cones, or putting some long twigs into a vase on the hearth? This is completely free – saving you a good few dollars on decorations which would only get binned after the party. Once you’re done with the cones or twigs, just put them back outside!
Alternatively, buy holiday decorations which can be stored away and reused year after year. Colorful banners, lanterns and all sorts of other goodies will last for years. Don’t forget tablecloths: use cloth rather than plastic or paper.
Reusable Glasses and Plates
Although it might be tempting to use disposable plates and cups at a big gathering, this creates a lot of trash. It’s also an additional cost. Instead, use your own plates and glasses (and ask a friend to lend extras if you’re not going to have enough). If you’re meeting in a community hall, they may well have a stock of crockery and glasswear which you can use to serve food and drinks.
When it comes to washing up, rope in some volunteers to help! If you’re using a dishwasher, make sure you fill it fully – and if you’re washing up by hand, don’t use more water than you need.
Serve Veggie Foods
You don’t have to make your entire party veggie – but keeping meat and fish dishes to a minimum means that you’ll slash the food costs, as well as the environmental impact of the food. (You can read more about this in Eating Less Meat – Benefits for You and the Planet.)
Buffet-style meals are a great way to have a range of different foods, and people are unlikely to notice that there’s not much meat. Most food poisoning incidents are from fish or meat, too, so you won’t need to worry so much about giving your guests a party to remember for all the wrong reasons…
If you can afford to, buy organic wine, cider or beer – from local producers where possible. Or go for large boxes of wine rather than bottles: less packaging, and buying in bulk means more wine for your money! Planet Green have a great article on How to Choose an Eco-Friendly Wine that might help you make your selection.
Instead of serving bottled water, put jugs of iced water out for guests to help themselves: again, you’ll be saving yourself a few dollars.
If you’re going out to eat, consider picking a restaurant which has good green credentials. You might also want to choose a veggie place (especially if this isn’t something you’d ever normally pick – it could make it an evening with a difference!)
Rather than having a three-course meal, have just starters and entrees, or entrees and desserts: people are very unlikely to go hungry, and you’ll also save some cash. When it comes to drinks, ask for tap water for the table: it lets people quench their thirst without glugging down yet more alcohol.
Try to find a local, independent restaurant: they’re much more likely to have a seasonal menu which makes good use of local produce. If you can walk there, that not only saves on taxi fares or gas, it also means that everyone can have a drink!
After the Party
When you’re a party host, you probably feel like just collapsing into bed as soon as the party is over! However, taking a few eco-friendly steps can make life easier for you the next day – and can prevent any unnecessary expenses.
- If you were at a hired venue, such as a village hall, then make sure you’ve followed all instructions about leaving it clean, turning heaters off, locking doors and so on. You don’t want to lose your deposit.
- At home, check you’ve switched off lights, music equipment, games equipment or anything else electronic used during the party.
- Get any rubbish picked up and sorted into recycling boxes. If you leave it till the next day (when you’re tired and hungover), you’ll just be tempted to put it all into the trash.
What holiday parties will you be hosting – or attending – this year? How can you help keep the environmental impact down, while saving some money too?
(Image above by mathplourde)