Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day Party Ideas

This year Earth Day seems to be more prominent everywhere I go. From Office Depot ads to the local grocery store, advertisers are jumping on the green bandwagon with a vengeance. As I've learned, however, being mindful of our resources will never go out of style and you don't need to spend a lot of money to go green for your next event.

Here are some party tips on how to help save the environment AND help save you money:

1. Use real dishes and silverware. Yes, you have to load the dishwaher more than once and the extras might pile up in the sink, but you wont be throwing away tons of paper plates and utensils OR paying extra for them. If you feel so inclined, break out the fancy china that sits all by its lonesome in a box or in your buffet. Your guests will thank you.

2. Cloth napkins. You can make your own, you know. Martha even gives a great tutorial on how to make light, summery fringed cloth napkins from old button-up shirts. Goodwill and thrift stores are also great places to find these.

3. Use what you already have in new ways. Raid your closets and shelves (or Goodwill) for decorative items for centerpieces. You'd be surprised what you can do if you just look at what you have in a different light-- an old purse or basket (lined with a plastic bag--reused, of course!) could make a centerpiece for flowers. Hang mismatched earrings around the rim of a plain candle holder, place a candle on top to hold them in place, and you have a sparkly new tabletopper! See what else you can imagine!

4. Don't use the oven or other appliances when preparing food for your next intimate party or tête–à–tête . Serve finger sandwiches, fruit salad, a gelatin or other cold dessert, and iced drinks. This works especially well in the summer, even for evening parties. Think of the energy you will save from not turning on the oven for an entire day!

5. Have an evening party with the lights out. Millions of people took part in Earth Hour, but why not turn the electricity off one a month or once a week? If you are not fortunate enough to enjoy the lengthening daylight hours, candlelight can add a soft atmosphere to your next event. Line up tealights (very inexpensive on sale) or strategically place a few odd-numbered pillar candle collections around the room.

6. Find new ways to entertain using what you already have without resorting to technology. Playing board games, using sheets and popsicle sticks to make a puppet theater, creating mini framed collages from old magazines or participating in some other sort of repurposing craft project are activities that even adults can enjoy! One of my favorite ways to spend an evening is to invite folks to bring their instruments (if they play) and have an impromptu concert or jam session. Sing songs familiar to the group, perhaps even around a campfire. Maybe even roast some s'mores! It will feel like that memorable summer when you were 12 all over again.

7. Finally...take the party outdoors! Pack a lunch for your group (or invite each person to bring their own in reusable containers with cloth napkins and real utensils) and plan a playdate in the park. Gather some friends to go hiking on your birthday. Watch some fireworks in the town square. Visit a nature center (if it's free). A good celebration doesn't always have to be a sit-down affair! If you don't have a picnic basket, I've found World Market to be a great source for many affordable wicker styles, as well as reusable melanine plates and the aforementioned cloth napkins. Use an old sheet for a tablecloth and you are ready to party!

Have any more eco-friendly party ideas? Please share them in the comments!

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