It’s the holiday season, which means parties galore! If you’re hosting this season, these eco-friendly tips will make an impact on your guests, not the environment:

1. Send electronic invites.

Facebook events are becoming the norm for party invites, but if your holiday party is a bit more formal, you might want an invitation to match. However, printing multiple invitations that will most likely be tossed after the party (no offense) is a wasteful use of paper. There are several websites, like this one or this one, that make elegant cards, comparable in style to your mailed variety, with less cost to your bank account and the environment. 

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2. Decorate your table with greenery or wildflowers. 

It’s easy to believe that sprucing your space with natural décor, like cut flowers, is environmentally friendly. But think outside of the vase. Those flowers from your supermarket are often wrapped in cellophane, which, though biodegradable, often still ends up in landfills. When trapped in landfills without oxygen, the cellophane will release methane, a greenhouse gas that can warm the environment. The flowers themselves do the same thing when thrown in the trash rather than composted. 

Gathering greenery and wildflowers from outside can create beautiful tablescapes, without the environmental impacts. After they die, try pressing them. 

3. Buy local veggies. 

From the farm to the farmers market to your kitchen: This three-step journey helps retain the nutrients of your produce compared to nonlocal produce. The vegetables in a grocery store typically travel long distances and can take weeks before they make it to your supermarket shelves. This process makes the food less fresh and less flavorful. 

By buying local, you’ll also be supporting the maintenance of small farms, which are typically more ethically run and organic, by contributing to their financial well-being. 

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4. Use metal silverware.

This goes without saying, but single-use plastic silverware is bad for the environment. Of the 9 billion tons of plastic produced, only 9% ends up in recycling, according to the United Nations Environment Program. The rest of this plastic ends up in landfills and oceans. Scientists estimate that each year, 8 million tons of plastic are washed into the sea, leading to the death of marine animals through drowning or suffocation. And don’t even get us started on plastic straws. 

Swap these single-use plastics for metal and glass alternatives. If you’re hosting for a crowd, ask everyone to BYOF (bring your own fork), and make sure you have a buddy who can stick around and help with the dishes. 

5. Drink organic wines. 

Not only are organic wines healthier for you and your guests, they also help the  environment. Organic vineyards avoid the harmful chemicals in pesticides and herbicides, which can eliminate biodiversity. Instead, organic wine producers create habitats for other wildlife and insects whose natural processes (tread from walking, and poop) nurture the soil.

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6. Make use of your leftovers.

For a grown-up, eco-friendly party favor, order a bundle of Stasher bags and send guests home with leftovers. If the bags are beyond your budget, ask guests to bring a side or a dessert. Not only does this take the pressure off of you to cook everything (or accommodate food allergies), it also allows guests to repurpose their empty serving dishes as leftover trays. Just remember, not everyone is an expert cook; it’s OK if a guest brings a bottle of wine instead of a dish. You can work through that when the time comes. 

7. Compost food scraps.

We would never tell you to save the food scraps left on your guests’ plates, but just because you won’t be eating them doesn’t mean you should toss them in the garbage. Yes, you can make environmentally friendly choices with your food scraps. If you don’t have a compost bin at home, try getting started with these easy composting tips. Most cities also have drop-off points, typically at local farmers markets, that make composting easy. Get in the habit of doing this with all of your food scraps, eggshells, and coffee grounds in the future.

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