Parties are on my mind of late weve been happily slogging through a bunch of birthday parties, end-of-school fairs, and plenty of summer gatherings. Ive gotten several emails lately asking how to green these parties, including 4th of July celebrations. Here are my suggestions. Fittingly, Im typing these on my own birthday.
Buy Local, Buy Organic
'Tis the season to serve local food. Opt for organic local when you can find it. Why bother with cupcakes when you can serve a flat of local blueberries and first of the season peaches?
Serve Grass-fed Beef (or Why Not Squash?)
The number one way to reduce the impact of a BBQ party is to serve grass-fed hamburgers. The environmental toll of conventional meat is gargantuan. Its also totally inhumane. See the excellent film Food Inc. for an education (or a refresher course) on hamburger patties, agribusiness chickens and more. Grilled squash burgers are another fabulous option cut pattypans into thick rounds and grill.
Be Careful with Your Condiments
Dont forget about going organic for mustard, ketchup, pickles, buns and more. If youre using charcoal, buy sustainable briquettes (Whole Foods carries some or try these and never use lighter fluid. Its highly toxic.
Avoid Fishy Fish
If youre serving fish, choose wisely. Double check its health concerns and environmental impact by surfing over to any number of seafood selectors.
Do DIY Desserts
If youre bothering with cupcakes or cake for that matter, make them yourself so you can use local eggs, organic butter, and Fair Trade sugar. Or buy them from a bakery that considers these sorts of things. Use non-GM soy or beeswax birthday candles.
Choose Local Bevies, Too
Drink wisely. Choose local wines (preferably from organically grown grapes) and beers, and give the kiddies water (float some local blueberries in it to make it more exciting). Or local (100 percent, no sugar added) juice. In my farmers market right now this includes cider as well as currant juice (this has honey added actually, as the beekeeper also grows currants).
Try BYO Plates, Cups and Utensils
Dont use disposable plates, utensils, cups, or napkins. You use them for 20 minutes or so, they last a lifetime in a landfill. If youre throwing a school party, give people $1 off food items if they bring their own plates. We did this recently at our preschool spring fair (it wasnt even my idea) and it worked very well. We saved $7 dollars more than enough for several ice cream cones.
Compost, Don't Toss
If youre using disposables, opt for compostable disposables like corn-derived plastic cups, and biodegradable plates. Do compost them when youre done. Even biodegradable items dont biodegrade in overcrowded landfills.
Check out The Lazy Environmentalists episode about greening the waste created by a lazy familys barbeque. NB: Host Josh Dorfman doesnt go into meat choices with the family, just waste. Maybe he realized he couldnt change everything in a family that didnt even believe in climate change!? Baby steps...
Green Your Cleanup
Use environmentally friendly cleaners and reusable rags to mop up spills, wipe off tables, scrub the grill and more.
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