Tips for More Sustainable Holiday Gatherings

In the hustle and bustle of the season, staying mindful of our environmental impact can sometimes take a back seat to more pressing matters—especially when we’re planning holiday gatherings.

But there are some surprisingly simple, safe and creative ideas we can incorporate into our parties and get-togethers that can help conserve natural resources as well as reduce the amount of trash we generate, particularly the plastic and paper waste that tends to increase this time of year.

1Let Mother Nature help you decorate.
Twigs, berries and branches collected from a local park or nature trail look pretty in vases and used as centerpieces. Get creative with pinecones, leaves, acorns and other little gifts from nature. They’re 100% compostable, free and a great way to highlight the beauty of the season.

2Send electronic greeting cards and invitations instead of paper ones.
This not only cuts down on the use of paper resources, it also reduces carbon emissions from the production and delivery of paper cards and invites. And because they can be customized, they are also a great outlet for your creativity!

3Steer clear of harsh chemicals when you’re preparing for the party.
Some guests may be particularly sensitive to the toxic chemicals and “fragrances” in some cleaning agents, air fresheners and candles. If you do use candles, opt for soy or beeswax candles over those containing paraffin, which has been shown to negatively affect indoor air quality.

4Opt for cloth.
Using cloth napkins instead of paper can add a touch of elegance to your table as well as reduce waste from paper towels and napkins.
Idea: Get creative and make your own napkins by hemming squares cut from colorful fabric remnants.

5Pitch the plastic.
Instead of plastic cups, use glass or crystal pitchers and drinking glasses to serve cold beverages; and use your ceramic or china coffee cups and mugs for hot drinks. If plastic bottles or aluminum cans will be a part of your festivities, be sure to have a recycle bin ready for the empties.

6Go for the gold (or silver).
Did you know that about 40 billion plastic utensils are used each year in the U.S. alone? Or that plastic cutlery is non-biodegradable, can leach toxic chemicals when handled improperly, and is usually discarded after just one use? All great reasons to bring out the flatware for your holiday gatherings!

7Compost your leftovers or, better yet, send them home with your guests.
Encourage guests to bring their own reusable containers for any remaining turkey and dressing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. This also helps remove those tempting additional calories from your refrigerator! If you do compost, avoid putting meat or bones in your composting bin so as not to attract unwanted attention from animals.

Do you have more ideas for promoting sustainability during the holidays? We’d love to hear from you! Just leave a suggestion in the comment section below.

Resources:

Tips for a Sustainable Holiday Gathering

Happy Holidays – Sustainability

How-to Geek: The Best Websites for Creating and Sending Free eCards

USGBC: Your cheat sheet for a sustainable holiday season

EarthShare: Green Your Holiday Gatherings

Farmers’ Almanac: Reduce Paper Waste!

Somebody's Gotta Do It star Mike Rowe visits Washed Ashore‘Somebody’s Gotta Do It’ star Mike Rowe visits Washed Ashore

Watch Mike Rowe build “Zorabella the Penguin” from marine debris with Washed Ashore leader Angela Haseltine Pozzi on CNN.
Show Time: Sunday Nov. 29 – 10pm ET / 7pm PT on CNN
Sneak Peek:
CNN Video: Turning trash into spectacular sculptures
BWW Article: ‘Somebody’s Gotta Do It’ star Mike Rowe visits Washed Ashore

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