Pinterest and lifestyle blogs are constantly showcasing amazing tablescapes–detailed, beautiful giant tables filled with plates and dishes, silverware, decorations, candles and all sorts of stunning inventiveness. But most of the shindigs I’ve been to rely more on takeout boxes and plasticware than serving platters and napkin design. You’ve probably graduated from pizza boxes and a stack of napkins, but you may not yet have a set of dishes that can support a full house party, let alone a table to set. But with Labor Day around the corner, you may want to ditch the paper plates and red cups for a few upgrades that won’t take up precious space in your apartment or have a major environmental impact.
1. Use as few paper products as possible, from the e-vites/texts sent in place of paper invitations, to the napkins used at the party. Use “real” dishes and silverware–if you don’t have enough, consider compromising by buying reusuable plastic dishes that can be put through the dishwasher until they wear out. You can also invest in cloth napkins, because they tend to cost only a little and can be washed with the rest of your laundry.
2. Channel True Blood and dine by candlelight to save electricity. Use candles that are natural-based, with soy or beeswax, so as not to emit toxic fumes and smoke, like with petroleum-based paraffin candles. Or for non-vampires, party during the day when sunlight is plentiful, powerful and free!
3. Decorate with growing plants and flowers. If you’re feeling generous, they can double as party favors for your guests.
4. Buy local and organic foodstuffs for your green party. Make it a potluck so that you aren’t out a ton of cash, and having a theme can make it seem more like a party and less of a burden for your guests. Consider a soup or pasta exchange with emails of the recipes. These dishes tend to be easy and affordable, and it’s always great to have a new recipe under your belt. If you decide to do your own cooking, try not to preheat the oven. No sense wasting extra energy before there’s anything inside to cook.
5. Provide a recycling bin in addition to the trash bag made of biodegradable plastic. If you’re into it, you can even have a compost bin at the ready for leftover crusts and crumbs.
6. And when the party’s over, clean up green: Use ingredients like vinegar and lemon juice, or a green store-bought cleansing product, to clean and disinfect your place after the guests have gone. (And before they arrive, too. Nothing like an icky bathroom to ensure it is the last popular party you throw.) If you use paper towels, rather than more environmentally friendly cloth rags, buy the kind made from recycled paper.
Having a party that isn’t a financial burden or an environmental hazard may not be as easy as dialing for delivery–but it doesn’t take much additional effort, either. Your efforts will be rewarded in teaching friends a few tips on how to host their own eco-friendly parties.