Summertime is Eco-friendly Party Time!
June 21st marks the first day of summer and the beginning of a season of barbeques, garden parties and late evenings spent on the patio with friends. Green Venture has received a few questions lately about how we can be environmentally friendly when hosting a get-together. Here is the GV Guide to Eco-friendly Summer Parties!
Print your invitations on recycled paper or eliminate paper waste completely by sending your invitations electronically by e-mail or using a website such as Smilebox. Attach Hamilton biking and transit maps to invitations, or encourage your guests to arrange carpools to cut back on carbon emissions.
Reduce unnecessary waste by asking guests to make a charitable donation or forego the gifts altogether. Alternatively, creating a gift registry ensures you only receive things you truly need. Re-gifting items you don’t have a use for is also a very environmentally-friendly practice!
Forget one-use paper streamers and balloons! Head outdoors and let the beauty of nature be the centrepiece of your party. Invest in flowering native perennials for your garden or find a pretty bunch of cut flowers at a market. Try hanging energy-efficient LED Christmas lights to provide light for celebrations that go on long into the night.
Stock up for your next event at a local farmers’ market. Buying local and in-season produce reduces the number of kilometres driven (and the associated pollution) to get the food from the farm to your table. Meat production is very water and energy intensive, so reducing or eliminating meat at your gathering will help preserve valuable resources. For delicious vegetarian recipes that even my carnivorous teenage brother enjoys, visit allrecipes.com‘s veg section. If you’re still hungry, check out foodgawker.
Dishes and Utensils
When it comes to serving your guests, my recommendation is to use your regular dishes and utensils. They are reusable (no waste) and can be cleaned efficiently in a (fully-loaded) dishwasher. However, I understand that for large parties and in other circumstances, using your own dishes is not possible. First, consider asking your guests to bring their own plates and cutlery. If you can fit it into your budget, using rented plates and cutlery is as environmentally-friendly as providing your own dishes and many companies will even do the washing.
If you must use disposable dishes, avoid Styrofoam. Although it is accepted in containers recycling, any plates or cups that accidentally end up in the trash will never break down. There have also been concerns about the effects of Styrofoam on human health. Paper dishes require a lot of water to produce, but a benefit is that they are accepted in green bins in Hamilton. Look for the highest recycled content and chlorine-free processing when purchasing.
Compostable and biodegradable dishes are also available. “Compostable” means that the product is consumed completely by microorganisms to produce water, CO2 and organic compounds. “Biodegradable” means that the product breaks down, but continues to exist in very small pieces of its original form. Choose compostable products over biodegradable ones when possible. Compostable dishes are commonly made out of potato and corn based-products. However, compostable items ARE NOT accepted in Hamilton’s green bin and are not recommended for your backyard composter unless they bear the following logo:
This logo indicates that the material will degrade in industrial composting systems, such as Hamilton’s. Unfortunately, all compostable dishes on the market right now will not degrade quickly enough to meet this standard. To maintain the quality of the city’s compost, compostable dishes must be excluded. The city is currently looking into alternative composting methods to break down these items faster. It is important to remember though, that compostable and biodegradable products will break down in landfills too, so they are definitely a better choice than Styrofoam.
Make it easy for your guests to put their waste in the right place. Have a green bin, containers recycling, paper recycling and a garbage can in each room/space where guests will be. This is called precycling. You may also want to put out a separate container for beer bottles or other containers that you will be returning for refund.
Keep these tips in mind when planning your next party to keep your guests and our planet happy!