Green Tips for an Eco-Friendly Summer Party

I love to host summer parties and barbeques where I can enjoy good food and beer outside with friends. But after a few seasons of hauling trash bags full of cups and plates to the landfill, I started to look for realistic ways to make my gatherings more eco-friendly. Here are some easy green tips you can try, too!

Reuse

personalized beer tumbler
  1. Plates. Everyone knows disposable plates are bad for the environment. But what can you use instead? A few summers ago I went to my local big box home goods store in late July and bought up 2 dozen dishwasher-safe plastic plates on clearance. They've survived many runs through the dishwasher, and guests enjoy eating from something solid instead of something flimsy. Of course, there are occasions when you may need more plates than you care to own, in which case consider an eco-friendly option like this compostable plate from Susty Party.
  2. Cups. Those red solo cups just end up in the trash. You can buy reusable outdoor drinkware on clearance like I did with the plates, but the cups are not as resilient as the plates and will start to crack after a few summers in the dishwasher. The best outdoor drinkware solution is an insulated stainless steel tumbler that will not only keep your guests' drinks cold, but will last forever and never need replacing. And since they'll last forever, you can get them personalized and add flair to your home parties. I even bring my tumbler to other parties so I always know which beer is mine.
  3. Utensils. Plastic knives and forks don't work very well and can't be reused. Fortunately, large quantities of inexpensive metal utensils can be found at kitchen supply warehouses, thrift stores and garage sales. Any time I see them I pick a few up. Now I have a sizable collection of mismatched forks, knives and spoons that are perfect for picnics and not anything I would miss if they accidentally got thrown out or lost.

Reduce

backyard water cooler
  1. Reduce food waste with a little planning.  We tend to over-buy because we want our guests to have plenty of food, but studies have shown that people eat less at parties because they spend more time socializing and less time eating. When planning your shopping list, take a moment to realistically consider how much food you'll need. A general rule of thumb is 6-7 appetizer bites and one pound of main course per adult. Or if you are the type of person who loves to analyze (like I am!) you can use an online tool like this one to really tighten up your menu. It's okay to have a few leftovers, but the idea is to avoid throwing out lots of food afterwards.
  2. Reduce container waste by providing water. For most of the country, drinking tap water is perfectly safe, especially if it is filtered. But we're so used to reaching for a plastic water bottle that it is easy to overlook a very easy green solution: Set out pitchers of water or a water cooler so that guests can take what they need when they get a little thirsty instead of grabbing a whole bottle of water when they only want a few sips.

Recycle

Bottle opener for back porch
  1. Provide the right bins for your guests. Most people want to dispose of their waste responsibly, but they will not interrupt the host's conversation to ask where the recycle bin is. Take a tip from environmentally conscious retailers like IKEA and provide clear disposal solutions for your guests. It can be as simple as picking up a blue recycle bin from Home Depot and placing it next to the trash can so that people know where to put their empty beer bottles. If you compost, add a second trash can labelled "Food Waste." If it's easy and obvious, your guests will use it.
  2. Catch the bottle caps. Bottle caps are recyclable, too! Install an outdoor Capcatcher and your guests will not only open their beers with ease, you will avoid picking bottle caps out of the grass and can easily empty the pouch into the recycle bin at the end of the party.

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