Whether you are a newly minted vegan or a vintage vegan practitioner, you value your social time with friends and family. Hosting holiday gatherings, dinners, lunches, brunches, showers and all kinds of parties from birthday to Super Bowl are wonderful ways to maintain your connections.
Have you noticed in both attending and hosting parties that entertaining can come at a cost to the environment? If you’ve ever eaten or sipped from disposables or with a plastic tablecloth under your meal, you know what I mean. At this point we are all generally aware that the cradle to grave impact of such single use items is not laudable. Here are five tips to help your gatherings up their eco cred.
- Make the Menu Vegan. While this might seem obvious, reminding invitees that your gathering is firmly vegan will staunch the flow of non-vegan food brought in by people who are not plant based and may have forgotten as they swung by the store for a food gift or potluck component. Obviously you make the call on what enters, but as we know, a plant-based diet is better for the environment.
- Ditch the Disposables. Individual situations vary from family to family and based on the type of gathering, so you will need to explore what works best for your household. Options include your own daily-use plates and utensils; breaking out your special occasion tableware; or finding secondhand extra plates, bowls, drinkware and silverware (either mismatched, which some people appreciate, or a matching service) and keeping them set aside for entertaining. Likewise, invest in or make a tablecloth or runner that is appropriately special instead of using plastic or vinyl table coverings. Don’t overlook sheets or blankets: while we have some nice tablecloths, my favorite is actually a sheet.
- Jars Still Have Their Place. Yes, mason jars may now be considered somewhat passe by the folks who initially embraced them but they still make long lasting yet easily recyclable holders for candles, flowers, drinks and utensils. If you do not have a stash of mason jars, raid your recycling. Remember that you can alter their look quickly and easily by using flowers, yarn, doilies, twine, leftover cloth, paint, lace or ribbon. Pickle, jelly and pasta sauce jars all make great entertaining assistants.
- Use Eco-Friendly Decorations and Accessories. Thanks to social media, people can feel obligated to have a “Pinterest worthy” gathering — not all of which is planet friendly. Choose paper over plastic and focus your decorations on lower impact choices like paper streamers, paper and fresh flowers, candles or even a DIY orange lamp. You know that holiday lights are not just for holidays any more and add a twinkly, sparkly mood. Stick some in that aforementioned pickle jar for a bright spot. Consider investing in or making a cloth garland or banner. Look for things you already own that you can rearrange to present in a different way; adorn your table(s) with doilies, paper confetti, books, baskets, candies, succulents, fabric, buttons or shells as decorative focal points. Let some of the food be the decoration, whether a beautifully decorated cake, a cupcake tower festooned with flowers, bowls of unpeeled fruit or a watermelon cut into a basket brimming with fresh fruit.
- Reduce Plastic Coming Into Your Home. Remain mindful of packaging coming into your home as you purchase food and beverages for your gathering. Instead of buying jugs of water, serve pitchers of tap water. Can you make your hummus from home-cooked chickpeas? Notice what you are purchasing and if there are alternatives.
Jennifer Gannett is a faculty member at Main Street Vegan Academy, a graduate of Lewis & Clark Law School, a world traveler, a cat socializer, dog lover and a mom who works formally and informally to make the world a better place.