Summer is the season of outdoor block parties and barbecues.
No matter what kind of get-together you’re planning, there are a few simple ways to make it greener—from composting to mosquito control.
1. Set up separate containers for recycling, organics, and garbage
If you live near St. Paul, the city offers special containers you can reserve to help you set up your own easy composting and recycling stations! Ramsey and Hennepin counties will check out recycling containers for events. Details about their programs can be found at their respective websites for Ramsey County and Hennepin County.
With more and more drop-off sites and curb-pickups coming to the Twin Cities, it's easier than ever to dispose of your organics. Organics include all food scraps (fruits, veggies, bread, eggshells, coffee grounds), food-soiled paper, (tissues, non-plastic lined bowls, pizza boxes, napkins) and certified compostable plastics. Commercial organics facilities are designed to handle large volumes of material, so they can also process meat, dairy, bones and non-recycleable paper. If you include paper products in your organics recycling, make sure they do not have a plastic lining.
2. BYOP (bring your own plate)
Provide reusable or compostable plates, cups, silverware and linens, or ask your guests to help contribute dishware! Using reusable and washable items is always the best choice whenever feasible.
3. Ditch the balloons
Consider buying an alternative decoration (like native flowers)! Try to decorate only with items that could be reused, recycled or composted, instead of thrown in the trash at the end of the night.
4. Drink up
If you provide separate recycling containers for empty cans and bottles, you can go one step further by buying bulk-size containers and asking guests to bring reusable cups or mugs.
5. Eat local
Eating local food is easy to do with summer farmers’ markets, co-ops and blooming neighborhood gardens. Eating locally reduces the amount of fuel needed to grow, package, and transport the food, especially when we think of how the average meal travels 1,500 miles to make it to our dinner tables. Try turning your special event into a potluck, or ask your guests to each contribute an item from their gardens. For a directory of local products and vendors, see Minnesota Grown.
6. You’ve got mail
Elect to email invitations when possible to reduce paper waste. It’s also a great idea to tell your guests in the invitation to bring their own food for the potluck or dishware, or at least to share how sustainability is a goal of your event!
7. Pass the ketchup
Buy condiments in bulk to avoid those pesky individual wrappers. Buying food in bulk is an easy way to create less packaging as well!
8. Bring a doggy bag
Remind guests to bring reusable containers so they can take leftovers home. Otherwise, you can gather the leftover food and take it to a compost dropoff site or to Second Harvest Heartland if it follows their guidelines.
Mosquitoes can make or break an outdoor party, but there are surprisingly effective ways of managing them without breaking out the DEET. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved eucalyptus oil as an effective mosquito repellent. A recent study showed that a mixture of 32% lemon eucalyptus oil gave more than 95% protection against mosquitoes for three hours. Just mix one part lemon eucalyptus oil to 10 parts sunflower oil or witch hazel. (Not recommended on children under 3 years old).
10. Say cheese!
Take photos of the trash/recyclables/compost you generated and send them to your guests in a follow-up thank you email. Be proud of how much waste you diverted from a landfill together!