The holidays and special occasions come around so often that it seems like we've just taken down the tinsel and mistletoe before we are decorating our homes with green shamrocks for St. Paddy's Day, brightly coloured eggs for Easter, or balloons and streamers for children's birthday parties. With all of these luminous liners and plastic novelties, come mountains of rubbish destined for the landfills. The good news, however, is that when planning the décor for your next event, you can make eco-friendly choices to reduce your festivity's carbon footprint.
Many of us go all out when decorating our homes, offices, schools, gardens, cars and streets for the holidays. Some people spend thousands in kitting up their space, trying to out-class their neighbours, who had the glow-in-the-dark Santa who ho-ho-hoed for a whole month on their roof. But you needn't dig into your nest eggs to decorate your home and office. Instead, consider using items that you already have in your homes, repurposing them for your next party. Additionally, use decorations that are environmentally friendly, saving the planet from unnecessary waste and resource use. You may also find that doing things the eco-savvy way may save you some serious cash.
Bringing in the bling
If you don't have the time to find novelty nonsense, or the urge to splurge on themed décor, why not opt to lease some lights, props or backdrops from a reputable events company. Rentals are inherently green, as people are reusing existing items, as opposed to buying one-time-use, custom or disposable products. And unless you are planning on creating a theme around your next five events, with blow up cacti and sombreros, it often makes both environmental and economic sense to bring in a rental company for your décor needs. There is obviously a cost element in doing this, so weigh up the options first, or perhaps consider some of the points listed below.
Very few of us enjoy diving into the dustbin or swimming through the skip to find things that other people have thrown out. But, by donning your green goggles and snorkel, you may well find an abundance of sunken treasure beneath the mounds of mess. People throw out the most incredibly useful objects, so keep your eyes peeled!
If you're not up for thrashing through some trash, why not work with what you already have at home. Rummage around your garden shed, through the garage, and at the back of your cupboards for items that may work perfectly at a party.
Old glassware, tins, baskets or crates can be found at flea markets and thrift stores, and can star on your table with a simple plant tucked inside. Using your old trophies for table dressings is a win-win for nature and you.
The majority of your events have tables adorned with fantastic foods, glittering gifts and divine décor. Why not go green at your next social gathering, and spruce up your table attire with some sustainable stunners.
Many celebrity party planners have been doing this for years: using living plants in table centrepieces not only cuts down the environmental cost of fresh flowers, but adds eco-brownie points, as these plants can go home with your guests at the end of the event. If you're using large amounts of foliage in your décor, consider using indigenous, seasonal greenery. Not only do you bring the outdoors inside, but you limit the amount of pollution caused by shipping floral pieces in from distant ports. To be even greener, consider using greenery from your own garden.
Events like weddings, birthdays and funerals call for cut flowers. But even though floral arrangements add a touch of glamour, sophistication or beauty to a function, they come with significant costs – both economic and environmental. When looking for cut flowers that have green credentials, you'll quickly discover that the selection is somewhat limited. Even though many farmers are using less pesticides and fertilisers, they still use too many chemicals to be certified organic. So, if you're dead set on daffodils and daisies, consider looking for local growers who implement sustainable farming practices. The flowers travel less to get to your event, therefore costing you less, and reducing the amount of environmental pollution caused from transporting the precious petals. When looking to use flowers, use what's in your garden. This way, you use not only seasonal blooms, which may suit your theme superbly, but you also save significant sums of cash on cut flowers.
If you have reservations about pollen and petals on your tablecloth, consider a simple display of fruit or vegetables to make a bold statement. Use seasonal produce to theme your Thanksgiving table or haunt your Halloween house.
Festive fabrics: tablecloths, runners, and napkins
Many of us have scraps of old material lying forgotten in cupboards and boxes in the basement. Why not give these bits of fabric a new lease on life by incorporating them into your décor design? Many top designers and event planners are going back to the basics by using organic cottons, vintage fabric and bits and bobs from the sewing cupboard to make marvellous material objects. If you don't have these odds and ends lying around your home, why not use existing tablecloths and runners instead of going out and buying new ones. Offcuts from a fabric store are often sold, giving you extra cash to spend on other party favours.
Backdrops, banners and balloons
Creating themed cutouts, impressive backdrops and eye-catching banners takes time and energy. They also take their toll on the environment, with paper, cardboard, paint, ink and other art supplies needed to produce the visual votives. When thinking of expressing yourself artistically, be sure to look into sustainable sources for your supplies. From recycled paper and card, to vegetable dyes, your next bash's backdrops and banners can be environmentally friendly and party-perfect. Biodegradable balloons are a fantastic eco-friendly alternative to other latex options. Even though these orbs of awesomeness are relatively small, it is normally the case that many are used at once, which means that the collective impact on the environment can be larger than you would imagine.
Lighting the way to green décor
Lights If your merrymaking takes you outdoors in the evening, you may need to consider illuminating the event. Opt for outdoor lights with energy-efficient LED light bulbs, that may be solar-powered, and are low maintenance and safe.
Combining LED bulbs with solar collectors and efficient batteries makes solar-powered LED outdoor lighting even more accessible to the merry masses, at a lower ecological and environmental cost too. Some of the benefits of these new systems include:
- Better illumination: Fluorescents produce a wide beam angle which sends light in all directions. LED's produce directional beams of light, which means less light lost.
- Increased efficiency and directability: LED's can produce light when and where they're needed, which means the solar panels and batteries can decrease in size.
- Long life: LED's require very little energy to run, so the batteries can be smaller than with any other bulbs, and will last longer too.
- All weather: LED's work well in all weather conditions, even the cold.
Green lanterns If you want to skip the electricity, look into getting some lanterns to string around or release at your event. There are numerous environmentally-friendly brands on the market today, which include:
- No metal parts to stop animals getting caught in them.
- Biodegradable paper, wood and string, which limits the amount of pollution and the opportunity for animals to choke if consumed.
- Flame retardant paper, so that sustainable candles can be used.
Candle in the wind These waxy wonders offer moody lighting to a function, so consider using candles wherever you can, just be sure to choose clean-burning candles, otherwise your guests and the planet will be coughing from the air pollution. Common paraffin wax candles are a petroleum by-product, and release greenhouse gases into the air, so instead of choosing the cheap products at the supermarket or department store, opt to go green. There are many sustainable candle options to choose from, made from beeswax, soy, and other plant-based waxes. These products often burn for longer and do not release harmful chemicals into our homes or the environment, and they support local businesses.
So, when glamming up your graduation, or bedazzling your birthday, look into using what you already have tucked away at home and at the office, or using eco-friendly products. Your guests will love the personal touch to your décor, and the planet will love not having the burden of more landfill-bound rubbish.
Check out more from our guest blogger Green 24 for more advice on living green. Find LEED certified and other green-friendly venues at Unique Venues.