Q: I’m hosting a holiday party this year. I tend to feed my family a fair amount of organic food, so I’m happy to be in charge of the sourcing instead of leaving it up to my in-laws! Got any great ideas for greening the festivities including food but also beyond food? Thanks.
A: You know we have tons of ideas! Thanks for asking. Here are six ways to throw and eco-friendly holiday party this season:
Food and Drink
Buying organic and local if possible is the way to go to minimize exposure to pesticide residues, hormones, antibiotics — and to make taste buds happy. If you’re serving things like beans, choosing fresh, frozen or dried instead of canned will help you avoid the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), found in those can linings. When it comes to drinks, serving filtered tap water and organic, or at least sustainably produced wine (bubbly or not), are great options to add to your green holiday table.
When you serve meals or just appetizers on reusable — not disposable — plates and beverages in reusable glasses, you drastically reduce waste. Real silverware instead of plastic and cloth napkins instead of paper round out any eco-celebration. If you don’t have enough reusable plates to go around, you can always ask guests to BYO place settings. Sounds quirky, but more and more people are doing it these days. And kids especially love doing this — they can compare their favorite plates with their friends’. Not an option? Look for disposable-ware that can be composted and/or that contains post-consumer or recycled content.
Ditch store-bought holiday decorations in favor of items from nature. And rope the kids in. Send them outside to find pinecones, branches, and other items that will make for pretty table settings and green holiday decorations. Resist the urge to burn scented candles. Burning anything especially petroleum-derived wax candles — pollutes indoor air. And most candles are made with scented synthetic perfumes, which contain hormone-disrupting phthalates and can be lung irritants. Another thing to be aware of is wicks; conventional candle wicks can be made with metals like zinc, tin, and even lead. If you’d really like to burn a candle or two, opt for ones made from unscented beeswax or essential-oil-scented non-GM soy wax with cloth wicks.
Use whatever guests leave behind. Did you make a turkey? Make turkey stock. Do you have a lot of vegetable scraps from peeling endless piles of carrots? Make veggie stock. Recycle and compost whatever else remains that isn’t useable. And make sure to store your leftovers in glass (which is inert) instead of plastic (which can leech its chemical components into your food).
Most of us clean our kitchens with a mix of questionable chemicals found in conventional cleaning products. This is ironic; there is nothing “clean” about bleach or, say, ammonia residue on your cutting board or on the table you eat off of. Ditch the toxic fumes and residues and clean with a product made of natural ingredients—and from a company that willingly discloses its formulas on the bottles. Or make your own. There’s no holiday party that can’t be cleaned up with some mix of vinegar, water, lemon, hydrogen peroxide, and/or baking soda.