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Reducing Waste at Your Holiday Party

December 12, 2008

Planning an green holiday party

While most of us look forward to spending time with family and friends over the holiday season, hosting an event can be taxing.  There is shopping to do, invitations to send out, and cleaning of the home to name a few.  With the multitudes of people filing in and out of your home, the amount of trash created can get out of hand.  Surely sanitation workers dread running their routes on the weeks following the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays;  the cans must be 30-40% heavier than usual!  Of course, the real concern the impact our trash has on our environment is from the burgeoning landfills, the use of natural resources to make the product, and the increase in greenhouse gases from the energy in manufacturing and transportation.  With a few small adjustments, you keep all of the traditions your family has come to expect while reducing your ecological footprint at the same time.

More and more people are taking steps to reduce their consumption and limit their waste, but recycling isn’t pervasive enough to avoid those awkward moments in front of your home recycling center.  Any host who is trying to effectively limit waste at an event is going to run into friends or relatives who haven’t given their own amount of household waste a second thought or have assumed that recycling takes too much effort.  By planning ahead, the cleanup after your event will run without a hitch and hopefully demonstrate that adapting to a recycling lifestyle is easier than it may seem.

Here are some tips for limiting waste at your holiday party:

  • Avoid disposable plates, cups, and utentils.  Using resusable plates will increase your load of dishes to wash but will greatly reduce the trash.
  • If you do choose to buy paper plates, shop around for ones made from recycled materials that use far less natural resources to make.
  • In the United States, our food travels an average of 1500 miles before landing on our plates.  To reduce the amount of energy in transportation used to feed your guests, buy local food from your grocer, farmer, or farmers market.  Your business also helps local farmers survive.
  • While you are at it, why not buy organic?  Typically, organic food is healthier, grown sustainable, and (arguably) tastier than its counterpart.
  • When shopping, make a list in advance of the items you need and consolidate your errands to save fuel.
  • Bring your reusable bags while shopping!  Both paper and plastic bags create an inordinate amount of waste and use up our natural resources.  Many retailers sell them for only a few bucks, and there are options for just about any taste or style.
  • Encourage your guests to carpool to avoid save on fuel consumption.
  • With an event with a large amount of people, you may be able to actually turn off your heater despite the winter weather outside.  A large group of people can quickly warm up the home;  by lowering the thermostat or turning off the furnace all together you can save money on your electric bill.
  • Make sure your recycling receptacles are clearly labeled for items like paper and containers or you might find some surprises in your recycling bins!
  • Avoid paper invitations and use email or the phone instead.

Coming soon:  our holiday gift-giving guide.

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