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|November 20-26, 2008
• Holiday dinner emergency kit
• Set a show-stopping holiday table
Everything you need to know to keep your parties environmentally friendly
by Marti Matsch
The holidays are coming, and coming right along with them are party guests, headed to a home, school or workplace near you to make the Yuletide gay, Hanukkah happy and the New Year cheery. If you’re hosting this year, your top-of-the-mind party plans probably include things like guests, food, venue and decorations. Making the party environmentally friendly — that one may not make it to the top of the list, if it makes it on at all. There are lots of ways to go for greener celebrations, but let’s start with the easy one: Just jot down “Eco-Cycle Zero Waste Event Kit,” and you can painlessly party in planet-friendly style.
The Zero Waste Event Kit (ZWEK) helps avoid the typical post-party scene: Disposable plates, forks, cups, napkins and food piled high in the trash can, contributing to the statistic environmental groups tout every holiday season: Trash rates usually increase by a staggering 25 percent during the holidays.
The result is the destruction of more of our precious and dwindling natural resources. Even tossing out food is a significant part of the problem, as food and other biodegradable materials in a landfill create methane — a greenhouse gas 72 times more potent than carbon dioxide over the short-term.
You just wanted to throw a party, not contribute to environmental devastation. Enter the ZWEK. Eco-Cycle has pulled together in one kit everything you need to celebrate the season without trashing the planet, whether you’re entertaining for 25 or 300.
We encourage you to go with reusable tableware whenever you can, because reusing always uses fewer resources, but when that’s not practical, the Zero Waste Event Kit provides you with compostable tableware and cutlery made from plant starches instead of plastic. The cups your guests use to sip a little cider will be made from corn starch instead of petroleum. The knife for the fruit cake will be made from potato starch, and the bowls for the figgy pudding will be made from bagasse, a sugarcane byproduct.
From the moment they arrive, guests will know there’s something different about this party from the Zero Waste educational table signs. When it’s time to say goodnight, guests simply put their bowls, plates, napkins, utensils and food scraps in the compost collection container, provided in the kit. Food and beverage containers go in the usual recycling bin. After the event is over, you and your guests can be proud of yourselves for a waste-free fiesta.
More Tips for Eco-Partying
Delight with eco-invites
For informal events, use electronic invitations. When sending paper invitations, select those made from post-consumer recycled paper or tree-free alternatives, such as hemp.
Make sure your invitation is recyclable. Avoid bright-colored, dark-colored, fluorescent or metallic papers, all of which cannot be recycled. You can find electronic invitations at www.evite.com or www.sendomatic.com. Recycled paper and invitations are available locally in health food stores and some bookstores, and online at www.twistedlimbpaper.com or www.paporganics.com.
Spread the word
Start talking up your Zero Waste efforts in your invitation. Ask guests to support you by recycling the invitation and by bringing only reusable, recyclable or compostable items with them to the event (especially important if you are hosting a potluck).
Green your transportation
Encourage your guests to bike, walk, take the bus or carpool to your party rather than drive in separate vehicles. Include information about bus routes and nearby bike paths in your invitation. Guests can map their trip by bus with the Front Range Public Transportation Trip Planner at www.rtd-denver.com.
Offset the carbon
To counteract the carbon emissions produced by guest travel and your party’s energy use, purchase carbon offsets for your event. Companies selling these “green credits” can help you calculate how many offsets you’ll need. Find a list of truly renewable, carbon-free offset providers that do not use landfill gas in our Zero Waste Holiday Guide at www.ecocycle.org.
Go for eco-deco
Avoid decorations designed for one-time use (streamers, balloons, etc.). Create centerpieces from what you have, like a pottery piece or glass ornament balls. Or use sprigs of evergreen trees and then compost them. Or make centerpieces from fresh fruit and vegetables. When using flowers, buy local, organically grown flowers whenever possible, or choose potted plants to provide a year-round green.
Choose to reuse
Before you use any kind of single-use products, even the Zero Waste Event Kit, choose to reuse first. Use dishes, cups, utensils and napkins that can be washed and reused. If you do not own enough of an item, rent from a local rental company.
Food and beverages
Plan the menu to include seasonal, organic food from a local farm and serve meatless dishes. (Meat production is responsible for 18 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions and is a major source of land and water degradation). If you decide to serve meat, choose meat raised sustainably by a local farmer. Find local food suppliers at www.localsustainability.net. Choose food with less packaging, and bring your own reusable cloth bags to transport it home. Serve coffee and tea that is organic, shade grown and/or fair trade. Select organic, locally produced wines and spirits. If you are hiring a catering service, choose one that is familiar with the concept of Zero Waste. If a caterer usually serves food in disposable containers, ask if they will use ceramic or glass serving pieces that you or they supply.
Clean it up
Pack leftover food in reusable containers. Avoid plastic wraps, plastic bags and waxed paper. Arrange in advance to donate extra food to a local food bank, or invite your guests to take home any leftovers. Avoid toxic chemicals when cleaning. Consider making your own non-toxic cleaners at home. Many basic cleaners can be made from non-toxic ingredients, such as baking soda, Borax, white vinegar, lemon juice and washing soda.
If you decide to purchase cleaning supplies, pick products made with non-toxic ingredients. Visit www.ecocycle.org for non-toxic cleaner recipes or to shop for staff-recommended cleaners on Eco-Cycle eStore. Visit our hard-to-recycle guide if you are not sure how to reuse or recycle a material leftover from your event.
Give green gifts
Complement your eco-holiday efforts with gifts that promote sustainability throughout the year. Consider reusable, lasting party favors like CFLs or a cloth bag. Check out Eco-Cycle staff recommendations on green products and gifts at the Eco-Cycle eStore at www.ecocycle.org/estore. Or find tips for non-material gift-giving, such as donations to your loved ones’ favorite charities, in Eco-Cycle’s Zero Waste Holiday Guide.
For information about how you can have a holly, jolly eco-holiday, check out Eco-Cycle’s Zero Waste Holiday Guide, available online at www.ecocycle.org/seasonal/winter/.
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