Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2018
Happy New Year!  Courtesy of sprungphoto.com.

Happy New Year! Courtesy of sprungphoto.com.

Happy New Year to all!  If you just got engaged, please accept my congratulations.  Enjoy your engagement.  There’s no time like it.  And remember to leave plenty of time to spend with your spouse-to-be, even while you are busy planning your wedding.

Happy Labor Day!

September 4th, 2017
The people who carry stuff from place to place rarely get the credit they deserve.

The people who carry stuff from place to place rarely get the credit they deserve.

I’m always happy to celebrate Labor Day, and all the working people who make possible much of our good lives.  Here are the people I really appreciate when I’m on site at a wedding:  the kitchen staff; the florist’s set-up and tear-down crew; the building engineers who take care of heating and cooling and make sure the lights are working; the security guards; the people who set up and clean portable restrooms; the delivery drivers; anyone who carries heavy stuff from a truck to a room or back out again; the sound engineers; the good people who come in at the end of the night to clean the floors and take out the trash.

Most of the time all of these excellent people are invisible to an event.  They aren’t glamorous.  But they are all indispensable.  Today is a day to celebrate their contributions to your party, wedding, or other event.  Happy Labor Day to all of you!!

Eco-Friendly Party Decor

December 16th, 2013

Since everyone is thinking about holidays and parties just about now, I am revisiting some thoughts on how to decorate for a party and still be green.  You can adapt many of these ideas to any party, not just Christmas or “holiday,” as they call it. But since a lot of people have Christmas on the brain at this season, I’ll start with that holiday.

Live plants are good centerpieces at any season.   Photo courtesy of christytylerphotography.com.

Live plants are good centerpieces at any season. Photo courtesy of christytylerphotography.com.

For decor that is environmentally friendly, I suggest using live plants. There are several traditional holiday plants (for example, miniature live pine trees, ivy, poinsettias, Christmas cactus) that could be part of holiday decor. Try juxtaposing a miniature red rose bush with English ivy for a festive centerpiece. For extra credit on the environmental side, look for live plants that have been grown locally and organically. Local greenhouses are a great place to find them.  If you don’t want the plants at home after your party, be sure to send them home with guests who want them.

If you have plants in your yard that would work for holiday decorating, cut a few branches of fir or holly for a mantlepiece decoration. And then compost or chip them after the party and use the result on your garden next year.

Locally grown, organic flowers are always a sustainable choice. In the winter, that means greenhouse flowers, too.  There are florists who specialize in local, organic flower arrangements.

You’ll probably be looking for some candles for your festive table.  In Chicago, there are several organizations that keep bees and sell their products, including beeswax candles. For starters, try the Chicago Honey Co-op. Beeswax is less polluting than petroleum-based wax candles, and coming from a local source makes it doubly eco-friendly. It also smells nice!

If you are celebrating Chanuka, beeswax Chanuka candles are available in specialty shops and online, although I have yet to find any made locally. (If you know of a local source, please let me know.)

In the last few years, LED holiday lights have really taken off.  In my opinion, most of the white lights look too bluish to be very attractive, but the red, green, and blue ones I have seen are quite nice, and the pale yellow ones are a fine substitute for white. LEDs use a tiny fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent lights, and they ought to last a very long time. Both those qualities make them environmentally friendly.

A simple fruit basket can be a suitable centerpiece.

A simple fruit basket can be a suitable centerpiece.

For any kind of party, any time of year, you can make your food part of your decorations. Edible centerpieces look nice and taste great. You can buy “flower” arrangements made of fruit, or create something yourself. Even something as simple as a basket of unshelled nuts or fresh fruit with a colorful napkin can provide both snacks and visual interest. If you’re playing dreidel, the unshelled nuts of your centerpiece can also be the “chips” in the game.

A completely different approach to decorating is the second-hand idea. It is often possible to find very nice decor items in second-hand shops, especially in expensive neighborhoods or towns. Of course, if this requires many long car trips, that would offset the benefits of not buying new, so plan your shopping trips carefully. If you are lucky or live near a lot of resale or vintage shops, though, you might find vases, last year’s novelty items, theme knick-knacks, and other useful decorating items. This approach may require advance planning and some creative thinking.

Also, for eco-friendly food service, nothing beats real china, linen, silver, and glassware. Yes, it uses a lot of water to clean up after the party, but it is still a better eco choice than disposables. It also looks very festive. Compostable disposable dishes are another option, but you will probably have to pay a composting service in order to compost them.  Most home compost piles are not hot enough to break them down.  (See my exploration of that topic recently.)

But the most environmentally conscious thing you can do when decorating is remembering that less is more. The more new stuff you acquire and the more you have to throw away, the less eco-friendly your decorations will be. Consider renting large items, instead of buying them, if you are doing elaborate decorations. But if you do find yourself with decorations you don’t plan to use again, minimize their impact by either donating them to a second-hand shop or giving them away on your local Freecycle group.

Have happy and green celebrations!