Picture your last party: The red plastic party cups left all over the house. Garbage bags overflowing with guests' food, paper plates, bottles and soda cans. Pounds of food on the table that will be thrown out in a few hours. A balloon or two floating off into the atmosphere.
These are long-held party standards. But for some, the standard is giving way to more eco-friendly ways to celebrate.
Going green is becoming more and more prevalent in society today.
"People are introducing sustainability to their lives," said Danielle Venokur Greenberg of dvGreen, a sustainable event- planning company based in New York. "Not through huge changes, but things just presumed, like people bringing their own bags to the grocery store, which was really out of the box five years ago. These small changes certainly infiltrate everything, like how they host an event."
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In recent years, with increased demand and competition, green resources are more plentiful and affordable, making it easier to throw a shindig — and save the Earth, one plate at a time.
"For a lot of people it's really an overwhelming process," said Los Angeles-based green event planner Deborah Kattler Kupetz of DKK Events, "and they might think it's a financial barrier. That's not necessarily true."
For example, "if things are local and in season, (the) price is great. If it is the middle of winter and you are trying to find fresh produce, it will be that much harder and limited, and it will be more expensive. But in other areas you will save money, like invitations," Greenberg said.
The more sustainable way to do invitations is online and paperless.
For food and drink, finding local, organic and in-season products at places like farmers markets is key.
For the bar, try local beer and sustainable, biodynamic wine, more and more of which are becoming available.
"Another heavy-hitting area is decor," Greenberg said. "Floral is much like food, in terms of timing and geography — what's in season now; what didn't have to be shipped across the country or world; are there local farmers or florists interested in going green?"
Use candles made from natural resources like beeswax, as opposed to paraffin.
Flowers and candles can be more sustainable decorations than traditional ones like balloons.
"Never use Mylar balloons because they never break down in the environment," Kupetz said.
Tableware that breaks down in the environment is very eco-friendly, so try corn cups, which are cheap alternatives to plastic.
When it comes time for waste disposal, composting and recycling are important, and "often it is more of a back of the house, in the kitchen thing to make sure things are being separated and recycled," Greenberg said.
If party favors are on the agenda, don't give people things that are just going to be clutter.
"Edible is always really nice because people like to eat," Greenberg said. "Think: 'Am I going to want this thing?'"