The holidays are a time of gathering together and celebrating. All of those festivities, though, can lead to a lot of unnecessary waste. (Just try throwing a party and not using an extra trash bag or two!)
That is not to say you shouldn’t gather and be merry! There is no need to give up the fun simply to be more eco-friendly. In fact, you can make your celebrations even more enjoyable and festive with the following green-living ideas:
You can’t host a party without first extending an invitation to your guests. Paper invitations take time to write out, address, and mail. Then there is the cost of the invitations and postage. Plus, they just end up in the trash after your guests RSVP and save the details in their calendars.
Why not save time and resources by sending out digital invitations? Many are free, and there are a myriad of designs to choose from. You can even upload photos and customize fonts and colors. Plus, you can keep track of your RSVPs online with no hassle.
Throwing an elegant soiree, but you don’t have the number of plates and cups and silverware that you need? Don’t stress about buying more. Simply rent or borrow them. Renting party supplies, from punch bowls and warming trays to china goblets and sterling silver, is not only cost-effective, it’s green-minded too. You won’t be wasting resources for a onetime event.
Hosting a more intimate party and need just a few more supplies? Don’t be shy about asking to borrow items from your neighbors, friends, family, or church. Chances are, they will be happy to lend you dinnerware for your event.
For the ultimate casual dinnerware, disposable plates, cups, and utensils sure do make cleanup a breeze. While disposable party supplies do add waste to the landfills, if you choose items made from the right materials, then you won’t be adding to the trash problem. Look for compostable items made from materials such as bamboo, corn, and sugarcane. These eco-friendly materials can be composted down. Just make sure to actually add them to the compost pile, since they won’t break down in a landfill environment.
Whether it’s a floral centerpiece or a bowl of hummus that went untouched, there can be a lot of extras after a party that can still be put to good use. Encourage your guests to take home leftover food, drinks, and decorations that you won’t be able to use. Or take them to a neighbor or the office break room.
Waste-Free Gift Exchanges
Many parties involve a gift exchange. White elephant gift exchanges are common, where the goal is to find something so weird, unusual, or funny that no one wants to be stuck with that gift. While it’s good for a few minutes of laughter, buying things that no one wants just creates waste and is a waste of money for your guests.
Instead of gifts that are destined for a thrift store pile anyway, why not encourage your guests to bring something more practical to fit a theme? Try foodie favorites, where everyone can walk away with something that is edible and delicious. Or for a humorous white elephant game, simply have people bring a quirky or fun item from their homes (no shopping allowed!).
Or choose to give to others that might not have a lot. Set a dollar amount and encourage your guests to donate to their favorite nonprofit or charity in lieu of a gift exchange. Create a list where guests can write down the charities they supported.
Alternative Party Ideas
Not every fun get-together needs to include party foods or a sit-down meal. Consider hosting an alternative party for your guests. Not only will they be thankful for something a little bit different, but it also makes your gathering stand out in their minds.
Everyone can have fun and mingle while getting together to put up Christmas decorations for an elderly couple in the neighborhood. Add hot chocolate and cookies, and everyone’s sure to enjoy the experience. Or meet at a hospital or nursing home to sing Christmas carols to the residents. For animal lovers, gather to walk shelter animals, and bring along photo props to take pictures of the pets to help find them a home for Christmas. The options are endless! The good that you will do in the world is priceless.
Kimberly Button is the author of The Everything Guide to a Healthy Home. She writes about healthy, eco-friendly living from Orlando, Florida.