It is officially BBQ season here on the West Coast! Time for friends, family, food, drinks, and relaxation. This is one of my favourite times of the year. If you think outside the box and use some of these handy tips there’s no reason why your next gathering can’t be an earth friendly one too.
1. Say NO to Single Use Plastic – Even Red Solo Cups
I’ll admit it that plastic cutlery and plates make cleanup a breeze. In another life I used these items too when we had a larger group of people over. That is until I became aware of how horrible they are for the environment and thought about how much money was wasted yearly on an item you use once, then toss. Seemed pretty silly once I gave it some thought. Using your own dishes does require more clean up, but it is way way better in the long run if your goal is to be more sustainable. Another option is to have people bring their own dishes and tupperwear for leftovers. My sister and husband are admitted minimalist who only own three bowls and two plates so if Mom and I go for a visit we know its BYOP – Bring Your Own Plate. If you absolutely must use plastic make sure they are washed off or rinsed out, then they can go with your other recyclables.
I understand a beer pong game isn’t the same without the red solo cup half full of beer in some intricate layout. However, think of the waste. You have the cardboard (or heaven forbid the plastic rings) the beer came in, the can or bottle, then the red solo cup the beer was poured into for the game. We’ve used our own glass mugs, or camping cups for beer pong. So far only one glass has broken. Thrift stores are a great place to buy cheap dishes and cups for beer pong, parties and camping.
2. Say NO to Paper Plates and Napkins
Yes, this makes cleanup more difficult, but think of all the good you’ll do by not throwing single use paper plates and napkins in the garbage. Alternatives include cloth napkins and regular ol’ dishes. If you’re worried about breaking your good dishes you can always buy cheaper REUSABLE or bamboo dishes. We use these when we go camping. There’re also post-consumer made plates and napkins as an option. These usually lack the pretty designs but can make for a compromise between regular disposable plates, and using your own dishes. Again, if you must use the paper plates and napkins be sure to put them in with all your other food waste so they can be composted.
3. Decorate With Native or Garden Plants
No need to go to the store to buy cut flowers when you have a whole oasis of fresh greens and flowers outside your doorstep. This will save you money too! Use your own garden or house plants to create flower arrangements or cut a few native plants from nearby your home. Unless of course it’s in a park because that’s against the rules. But you knew that already, right? Reusable items such as jam jars, liquor bottles, or nut butter jars make great vases as well. Tie a piece of ribbon raifa or twine around the jars to add a little pizzaz if needed.
4. Use Dishwasher Only if Full
This one is just good practice, but even more so during entertaining season. If you only have a few dishes (or a lot of dishes and a few helpers) it’s best to wash them by hand.
5. Smart Shopping
Shop with packaging in mind. When planning a party, you typically buy items in bulk. For whatever reason “bulk” usually means extra packaging. All items individual wrapped, then wrapped again in a bigger package. This is one of my biggest pet-peeves, but I digress. Try buying produce without putting it in plastic bags. The cashiers really don’t mind I swear. Avoid buying produce wrapped in more plastic and styrofoam like cucumbers and portobello mushrooms. If you need to put things in a bag you can use the brown paper bags that are usually by the bulk mushrooms. I use these if I buy bulk nuts, candy, or grains/flours. Another thing I try to do is buy items whose packaging has a recycling symbol on the back or says it’s made from post-consumer products. I also avoid buying items I know from previous purchase have excess packaging or are individually wrapped. And if you can, buy local and in-season.
Take it outside! Use solar powered lanterns or candles for ambience, have your musically talented friend bring a guitar and suddenly your party is off-grid!
There are endless ways we can all live a more sustainable life, even while entertaing. These are just a few basic simple ones to get you started. If you have any ideas or suggestions we’d love you to share them below. Happy BBQing!