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Everyday Environmentalist

Green Outside Party Kit

Are you hosting a backyard BBQ this summer? Check out The Nature Conservancy's Green Outside Party Kit and learn five ways you can throw an environmentally friendly backyard bash.

1. Green Food

When it comes to the goodies you serve at your party, there are 3 things to keep in mind: eat local, organic and vegetarian (or vegan).

A summer BBQ without hamburgers or hot dogs, you say? It ain't easy. But eating vegetarian still tops the list of ways you can help the planet. So get creative with your local veggies — shish kebobs are a fun party food and can be made entirely of whatever vegetables are in season. And really, can you think of a vegetable that doesn't taste good grilled?

Speaking of grilling…gas, propane or electric grills all burn more efficiently and cleaner than charcoal or wood.

(Note: if you really can't stomach the idea of a meat-free summer party, make sure you buy meat that's local and organic — it'll cost more, but it's worth it, for your health and the planet's.)

2. Green Drinks

It's 85 degrees outside — don't let you guests go thirsty! Whether it's beer or wine, the greenest rule of thumb is to buy local. Supporting a local microbrewery or winery means you'll significantly reduce the carbon footprint of shipping and transportation of beverages.

When it comes to serving beer, ask your guests to bring their own reusable cups and consider having a keg of local beer (kegs are returnable, refillable and recyclable!). Many local breweries and markets offer growler fills where you get draft beer poured into a sealed "to-do" vessel, called a growler.

If you're a wine-lover, support local or sustainable wineries, and go organic (a few liquor companies are starting to make organic liquor, too!). And give your guests something to talk about by serving wine from innovative packaging, like Tetra Packs, instead of traditional bottles. These boxes can be recycled and are lighter to ship.

For the kiddos at your party, fill up pitchers with water, homemade lemonade and iced tea instead of buying huge quantities of personal-sized beverage containers. You can garnish the pitchers with mint leaves from your garden!

3. Green Your Lawn and Garden

A backyard BBQ is the perfect time to replace your gas-guzzling lawn mower with an environmentally friendly reel mower. Cutting the grass for one hour with a gasoline-powered mower creates about as much air pollution as a 100-mile car ride. So trim your lawn in style by using a push mower, which is better for the planet and gives you a great workout!

Consider sprucing up your garden by planting native plants a few weeks before the party. Native plants require much less water and fertilizer than non-native plants do. Tight on space? All you need is 4x4 foot area to plant a square foot garden — you'll be able to serve your crops at the party.

4. Green Furniture

The best way to be eco-friendly about your outdoor furniture is to buy used. Need patio chairs and tables? Scour local yard sales (or "tag sales") to find inexpensive items that were probably headed to the dumpster anyway.

But if you want to invest in something new, look for furniture made from recycled materials or sustainably harvested wood. There are a slew of options out there these days — like Adirondack chairs made from recycled plastics to tables made from reclaimed lumber. If you buy new, make sure your furniture is FSC-certified.

5. Green Decorations and Supplies (don't forget the little things!)

Get creative! Reuse past party decorations, make your own, or pick fresh flowers from your garden to top your table. If you're looking to add extra color or aromas to your greenery, potted plants or herbs can do the trick.

Tableware is often the prime suspect in party waste. Take the reusable route for plates, cups, utensils and napkins. Try substituting a tablecloth with an old bed sheet. And avoid using disposable cups! A Styrofoam cup will always be a Styrofoam cup.

Summertime is often synonymous with pesky insect bites. Prevent your guests from turning into mosquito meat by cleaning out your rain gutters and eliminating standing water sources, all common mosquito breeding grounds. And keep a few eco-friendly insect repellents on hand.

Make post-party clean up a breeze by placing clearly labeled compost, recycling and trash bins around your backyard. It will save you time while encouraging your guests to be eco-conscious at their next summer BBQ!

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