I’ve been hosting the annual Hinduja Diwali (Hindu New Year) Party with family and close friends for years now, albeit there was a dry 2-year period due to personal circumstances. This year I decided to revive it, but in a less wasteful way. Now mind you, I am a rookie at living a sustainable lifestyle so I wasn’t particularly successful at throwing a 100% eco-friendly party, primarily because I didn’t think of alternatives till two days prior to the party. But I came up with these 5 easy ways to host a sustainable party that I believe anyone can easily follow without breaking the bank.
I’m not going to state the obvious and insult your intelligence by listing “electronic invitations” in this list. So let’s just assume that you resort to invitations via email, phone call, or the sassy evite.com instead of killing trees over paper-invitations.
#1 Ditch Disposables
Let’s face it – disposable plates and bowls and plastic cutlery are far from being friends of the environment. And if you’re chic and classy, these certainly don’t exhibit elegance of any kind; there’s nothing worse than giving your guests plates that easily break or soak through and plastic cutlery that doesn’t cut or pierce through tender chicken pieces. There is a dearth of eco-friendly options and which you choose depends on how much you want to spend:
- Washable & Reusable Tableware – This was my preferred choice and fit nicely within my budget. 20 sets of melamine plates, bowls, forks and spoons cost me $60 + HST at the Dollar Store. Preserve Products is also a great option – I wish they had more neutral colors for grown-up parties. One can argue that the resources that go into producing these items outweigh their reusability benefits. But I’m convinced that it’s still greener to wash and reuse standard crockery than using any form of disposable product. It’s not only fun having friends pitch in to help wash dishes, but it also loosens everyone up and makes them feel useful. I also like the financial aspect of this idea; I don’t think I’ll be spending another penny on tableware for my parties.
- Bamboo Veneerware – If you still want to go disposable, bambooware is a classy (but, expensive) alternative. Made from the stalks of the bamboo plant, which does not impact the plant itself, they biodegrade in 4 to 6 months when thrown in a compost pile. Bamboo Studio and Bambu are some leading brands.
- Bagasse or Sugarcaneware – Also meant for single-use, these products are made from Bagasse, a byproduct of the sugar cane refining process i.e. 100% renewable resources. After use, this product can be recycled for the making of paper, or 100% catabolized as compost.
Products such as paper plates made from recycled paper, tableware made from fallen leaves and palm tree leaves can also be used as alternatives.
#2 Get Fresh
Consider a menu made from organic and local produce. Not only will your guests appreciate you serving healthy and fresh food, but it also helps eliminate pollution since produce does not have to travel across the province or country. Also consider buying fresh flowers or fill a bowl with lemons for your centerpiece – they look just as pretty and smell nicer than beads and streamers.
#3 Buy Local & Organic Spirits
What’s a party without alcohol? We, Ontarians, are lucky to have one of the best wines grown in our backyard. I would even go an extra mile and buy organic wine, where possible. Unfortunately, Frogpond Farm in Niagara-on-the-Lake is the only certified all-organic winery in Ontario. Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake and Malivoire in Beamsville also offer organic alternatives.
Besides organic wines, I also like to support companies that are involved in other sustainable practices. For example, Pelee Island in Kingsville employs a proactive approach to maintaining and bettering the microclimate by investing in renewable energies, recycling, water treatment facilities, composting, bio-dynamic sewage systems and organic farming.
For the beer-drinkers, we have organic and local options such as Nickel Brook in Burlington and Mill Street Brewery in Toronto. Other local options (apart from the Labatt’s and Molson Breweries in Ontario) include Amsterdam in Toronto (no pun intended!), Flying Monkeys in Barrie, Barley Days in Prince Edward County, and Black Oak in Etobicoke among others.
#4 Offer Carpooling & Provide Clear Public Transit Directions
Encourage your guests to carpool or use public transit. Go the extra mile to facilitate and coordinate carpooling options with your guests. Spend some time researching possible transit routes and provide your guests with information on bus/streetcar numbers and stops to get to your residence. Most people leave planning the commute to the last minute and end up driving or cabbing. Your guests will appreciate your efforts in ensuring they don’t spend too much to get to and from your place.
#5 Give the Gift of Giving
How many times have you received a party favor that you just add to your “random assortment of crap” pile? More often than not, a lot of thought and effort has gone towards picking a useful, functional and thoughtful party favor. But chances are some of your guests may not have the same use for the item as you thought they would. So why not consider giving a charitable gift instead of giving them something that you think may be useful? You can make a donation to a charitable organization if you are certain that your guests will feel passionately for the relevant cause. But most times we don’t have a good idea of our friends’ charitable priorities. In these cases, you can hand out charitable gift cards for organizations that deal with multiple charitable causes such as Canada Helps, JustGive.org, and one of my recent favorites Kiva. These ideas work for the host too; in order to ensure guests don’t bring you gifts that may or may not be useful for you, have them donate to a charity of your choice in lieu of a gift. I’ve listed some ideas in my December 1, 2010 post “Give Back This Holiday Season”.
Most of all, have fun! As you can see parties don’t have to be wasteful. It’s a great feeling when you host an eco-friendly party and you would have inspired at least a few of your guests. Lastly, and most importantly, encourage your guests to be earth-friendly but don’t force them.