By Natalie Friton
Within any circle of family and friends there are no doubt a number of celebrations beyond traditional holidays that take place throughout the year. From bridal showers to baby showers, birthday parties to retirement parties, housewarming to Super Bowls, there are endless reasons to throw a party and celebrate. And for nearly every milestone or event that is being celebrated, there is a gift that must be given.
In keeping with more environmentally friendly lifestyle practices, the trend of eco-parties is gaining momentum. The idea behind hosting an eco-shower or eco-party is that as much as possible related to the event is either created with recyclable or sustainable materials and that guests participate in the theme by engaging the "reduce, reuse, recycle" mindset and in many cases "re-gift" can also be added to the mantra.
Parties accumulate stuff, so the intention of an eco-party is to reduce the amount of waste often created in getting groups of people together, beginning with the invitation. The online invitation service, Evite, probably inspired some of the first paper-free invitation methods. It's easy enough to gather a group together via an email blast, but with services like Evite or Facebook's Event planning tool you can customize invitations, track RSVPs, communicate with guests, and share photos, all without using a scrap of paper. The compromise of course, is that you must use energy to activate the computer and internet to use the services. Should a more formal event require mailed invitations, in addition to using recycled paper, there are even greener options made from one-hundred percent post-consumer waste paper containing seeds that allow the invitation to be planted after it's no longer needed.
Once the invitation is sent, some thought must be put into the rest of the details to throw a successful eco-party. If it is a party that requires gifts, encourage guests to be creative with their wrapping and to use as many recyclable materials as possible. Depending on the celebration, it may be appropriate to also encourage guests to re-gift items rather than purchasing new. Guests attending a baby shower who no longer need their child's car seat could re-gift that large piece of plastic to the expecting mother. In the case of an "over the hill" party where gag gifts are always entertaining but often wasteful purchases, ask guests to make a donation to an environment support group and come up with cheesy games the group can play to keep the same fun spirit alive.
To create an event that is green from all angles, serving organic food is a great way to support natural foods and when possible include items from local growers on the menu. While serving organic could be a little more expensive than buying in bulk, you can save money by using washable dishes, utensils, glasses, and even cloth napkins. Clean-up might take a little longer, but you can soak your plates knowing it's for a good cause.
As a parting gift for guests, enable them to continue greener giving even after the party. Fill a reusable shopping bag with flower bulbs, vegetable seeds, or perhaps a coupon to a local farm share. Eco-parties are an ideal way to spread a green theme into some otherwise traditional events while also inspiring creativity for all involved.