Sustainable Event Planning in Three Easy Steps

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By Staff Writer Brendan Pringle.

Planning a party or celebration can sometimes be a nightmare. From deciding on invitees to planning the food, the details are endless.  Amidst these considerations, we often neglect to think about Mother Nature. Eco-friendly party planning can be simple and cost-effective. Follow these suggestions when you plan your next party, and you may just become the greenest host on the block.

Invitations

Let’s face it . . . sending out invites can be a waste of paper, especially when people discard them. Regardless of the occasion, the ugly truth is that almost all invitations end up in the circular file.

Fortunately, many stationary/invitations companies are becoming more focused on eco-friendly practices such as using recycled paper, paper alternatives, and/or soy-based inks. Then again, if you want to show off your inner Hallmark skills, you can easily print basic, customized invitations from the computer via online greeting card templates or a design program.

Or, if you would rather be pro-actively green at the same time, you can now send out plant-able invitations. Companies like Botanical Paper Works and Leaning Tree offer paper and envelopes with seeds embedded in them. You can find these products at your local nursery or you can order them on the web.

You may instead wish to skip the paper invite and opt for e-vites. The web can often be more effective at reaching people and encourages immediate response (guests can send an email confirmation in seconds). Moreover, invitees can check for status updates and add the event to their online/computer calendars almost instantaneously. Of course, for a wedding, it would not seem very appropriate to “go digital” on invitations, but this method is perfectly fine for several other less-formal occasions.

There are a handful of online companies that are more than happy to assist you through this process. Websites like Evite.com (often used by professional event planners) and http://Pingg.com provide excellent templates and tools (for free) to make the perfect, customized invitation, and Facebook is ideal for receiving quick RSVPs. Your eco-conscious behavior may even encourage people to turn up at your party.

Food Choices: The SLOW Way to Go

Food is the focal point of any celebration. When there is good food, people tend to stay. Just because you’re going green doesn’t mean you have to go vegan or serve a bunch of flavorless slop.

Really, it’s all about taking it SLOW. This clever acronym stands for Seasonal, Local, Organic, and Whole Foods.

Seasonal refers to produce that is of the right season. When this is not the case, the environment or the produce is ultimately being manipulated in some way. Plus, this harms the flavor. To find out which produce is in season, check out SustainableTable.org.

Locally grown foods are those that you can track back to a local farm, and can be procured most easily at the nearest farmer’s market. By buying local, you not only support the community, but also spare the gas used for transportation. It’s also typically fresher and cheaper.

Organic refers to the ingredients contained in the foods you consume. The National Organic Standards Board approves food items as 100% organic when the items contain 95% organically produced ingredients and 5% non-organic ingredients. When the food label reads “Made with Organic Ingredients, only 70% of the ingredients have to be organic.

We have all heard about the importance of eating whole-grain foods, but the term “Whole Foods” corresponds to those foods that are not processed. The less food is processed (whether it’s meat, legumes, grains, or other produce), the greater the nutrition value.

A party or event is the perfect place to showcase the SLOW lifestyle to your family and friends.

Setup and Cleanup: More than Just Recycling

Reduce: First of all, reduce air pollution by encouraging carpool among your guests. This can be easily incorporated into the RSVP process, and is the perfect way to get guests to mix before they even arrive.

To save money on energy, keep all beverages in reusable ice tubs rather than in the fridge. By doing this, you’ll save on energy costs not only in cooling the beverages but also in not having to open and close the fridge so many times.

Reuse: As for event set-up, cloth napkins are a much better alternative to the usual paper ones. Paper napkins not only kill trees, but also add contaminating bleaching chemicals into the environment during their production. Cloth napkins are reusable and they look classier. The same goes for glasses and plates. After all, this may be the closest thing to royal treatment that your guests ever experience.

Recycle: If you don’t want to go through the hassle of cleaning afterwards (or risk breaking your fine china), paper products are always better than those made from polystyrene. Even better, buy biodegradable, cornstarch composite plates, cups and utensils which dissolve into their harmless components after they are discarded. The Sugar Cane Paper Company actually makes plates and other items out of the biodegradable fibrous residue left over from the processing of sugar cane.

And finally, what would a sustainable event be without a designated recycling area? Asking people to separate their trash can be as awkward as asking people to take off their shoes before entering your house, but the trick is to put your labeled recycle bins in plain view and to hide your trashcans. Make a clear list of the items that should go in each one (compost, recycling, other miscellaneous trash), and people will follow it.

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Obviously, every celebration is unique and contains diverse demands. Nonetheless, there are always simple and effective ways to go green. It may require a trip to the Farmers Market and/or a little research on the part of the planner, but it makes for better grub and saves waste. You may even inspire some guests.

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