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GUIDE TO SUSTAINABLE ENTERTAINING

What's not to love about a good party? Plenty -- if you're the planet it's being held on! That's because the average bash is typically a no-holds-barred night of waste that all too often leaves the environment with the biggest hangover of all. Yet by taking just a few simple steps, you can host a sustainable gathering that lets guests party like it's Earth Day 1999. Here's our guide to making your celebration one for the ages:

Don't invite disposable dinnerware. Yes, clean up will take a little longer, but the Earth will have a much better time at your soiree if you use real plates and cups, metal utensils, and cloth napkins. Guests will enjoy everything more, too!

If you have to use disposable serving supplies look for compostable plates, cups, flatware and napkins made from post-consumer recycled paper and things like biodegradable corn and potato polymers. Always avoid Styrofoam and other non-renewable, non-biodegradable materials.

If you don't have enough dinnerware on hand for the crowd that's coming, borrow from friends or family, or rent a set from a party supply company. If parties happen regularly in your home, purchase some inexpensive reusable partyware that you can pull out for any and every occasion.

If you want to decorate, skip the plastic store-bought stuff and create a uniquely festive atmosphere with recyclable materials like paper and compostable natural accents that won't need to be taken out with the trash.

If yours is a formal dinner with place cards, get creative and make them yourself from recycled paper or other materials you have on hand.

Send your invitations electronically. Free websites like Evite make it easy to do. Or send a digital greeting card with the invitation at the end.

Encourage carpooling. If your house is served by mass transit, provide routes and directions with your invitation.

If you plan to present party-goers with a small gift, make it a carbon offset that will compensate for the emissions your party will create.

Make it easy for your guests to reduce waste as they party on. Put your trash, composting and recycling containers where they're easy to find, and clearly label each with a list of what goes where. Clean-up will be super simple, and you'll make sure recyclables get sorted.

If yours is a winter gathering, turn down your heat once guests start to arrive. The body heat they'll generate will likely maintain your home's temperature at a comfortable level. If not, adjust your thermostat a degree at a time to find the sweet spot without wasting energy.

Plan your menu carefully and pay close attention to portion control in order to avoid wasting food. Here are some guidelines:

For hors d'oeuvres, figure six bites per person before a meal or 6-8 bites per hour if finger foods are all you'll be serving. (Keep in mind studies that show people eat between 30-50% more when they eat in groups!)

For meats and fish, calculate between six and eight ounces per guest.

For rice and grains served as a side dish, allot 1.5 ounces per person.

Pasta servings are about two ounces per person for side dishes, three ounces for a first course, and four ounces for entrees.

For potatoes, figure about five ounces per guest.

Go with four ounces per person for each vegetable served as a side.

Salad size should be about an ounce (undressed) per person

Calculate a cup of soup for each guest, a cup and a half if it's served sit-down.

Figure one slice per guest for pies, cakes, and tarts; four ounces for creamy desserts like a mousse or pudding; five ounces for ice cream and sorbets, etc.; and two to three cookies per person.

Feed guests the gift of local and/organic foods. Label all the dishes you serve to underscore the importance of your choices and help guests fully appreciate each selection.

Contact local food shelves or soup kitchens prior to your party to see if they can take any significant leftovers.

That's how we celebrate everything from special occasions to a slow weekend in need of a boost. How does your family do it? Share your ideas for sustainable entertaining in the and let everyone in on your secrets. Together we can make sure that we don't walk all over the earth when it's time to put on our party shoes!

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Written by: Seventh Generation


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