Summer is in full swing, and the longer days and warm temps make now the perfect time to throw an outdoor soiree, whether a small patio gathering or an all-out block party. As you can probably guess, though, these kinds of events often produce a lot of waste -- each year Americans toss out enough paper and plastic cups, forks, and spoons to circle the equator 300 times, says the Clean Air Council.
But you don't have to be a part of those negative statistics -- green can be the theme of your party, or you can incorporate eco-friendly principles into an event of any kind. Here are some tips for a backyard bash sure to please Mother Earth:
Invitations If the party is going to be casual, sending an online invite is a great way to save. Sites like Evite.com offer tons of options to suit any kind of soiree, and it takes just minutes to put together something nice, no design skills necessary. But if a printed piece of paper would be more appropriate for your occasion, look for recycled paper and soy-based inks, like the products offered by Dolphin Blue. One especially fun option is to get paper with seeds inside that can then be planted -- it makes for an invite that your guests won't soon forget and sets the tone for your green party. Check out the innovative designs from Twisted Limb Paperworks, which offers the option to insert flower petals or wildflower seeds into the paper.
Food Think local, local, local. Buying from a farmers market not only gives you the freshest food
possible, it also supports your local economy. Go organic when you can, and serve finger foods -- that way you can cut down on the waste of disposable plates and silverware (if there's no way to get around using throwaway items, go with a company like Preserve Tableware, which offers plates, tumblers, and cutlery made from 100 percent recycled plastic).
If it's a really big bash and you have tons of food left over, consider donating it to a food bank. Find one in your area at Feeding America's site.
Decor and Centerpieces Instead of using cut flowers in vases as a centerpiece, try potted plants, which you can then keep or give to your guests as favors. Fruit (locally grown, of course) also makes for a fun decoration, and artfully arranging oranges, lemons, or limes in a centerpiece adds a bright pop of color to your table setting.
Even branches can make an elegant centerpiece (really!). If the party's at night and you need a little light, try soy candles. Look around your house or backyard to see what you might have that would work -- anything recycled is eco-friendly, and your creativity will be applauded by your guests.