At its heart the holiday season is about people coming together in celebration. After a long year, it’s a wonderful excuse for family and friends to gather and eat, drink, and be merry.

Are you hosting a party this year? We have tips from invite to cleanup to keep the party green and fabulous.

Gather Near to Us

Ditch the paper cards and invites and instead opt for an electronic greeting. This means less writing, addressing, mailing, stamps, paper waste, and carbon emissions. According to Recycle Works, an estimated 2.6 billion holiday cards are sold each year in the United States, enough to fill a football field 10 stories high.

There are a number of electronic invitation services that are not only free, but allow you to customize your card, include maps and track RSVPs among other conveniences. E-vite.com even offers a feature that allows guests to donate to charities with the click of a button.

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Over the River and Through the Woods

Encourage your guests to ride share or take public transportation to the party. A voluntary designated driver can help cut down on unnecessary cars on the road by carpooling – and likely extra trips to collect the cars left overnight after one too many spiked eggnogs.

As a party host, you can rest easy knowing that when your friends drink one too many, they won’t be getting behind the wheel. Check local transit schedules for any public transportation holiday adjustments.

Alternatively, Uber offers a ride share program called UberPool with fare splitting capabilities so everyone can pile in, buckle up, and save the planet.

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Oh, Christmas Tree

A staple of holiday decor is the Christmas tree. We wouldn’t ask you to do without it, but did you know that you can buy sustainably farmed Christmas trees and even potted, replantable trees? Swansons Nursery in King County offers living Christmas trees in support of the county’s Salmon Safe program. Look for the label ‘You Can Donate This Tree’ as you shop. Then, return it by January 18th to be donated to King County Parks to be planted in a restoration site.

If you do buy a cut tree and it’s kicked to the curb after the New Year, you can still participate in a city sponsored tree collection program. Many cities collect and recycle trees, often turning them into compost or mulch for city parks or roadside maintenance. Or create beautiful, pine-scented wood chips for your own garden.

Unless you live in a city that has to ship Christmas trees in from far away (we’re looking at you, Phoenix), don’t buy a fake Christmas tree. While it may seem sustainable because it can be reused, there is a lot of waste in the production, shipping and eventual disposal of the tree, typically made with harmful chemicals. This article by Mother Nature Network provides a great comparison of the CO2 impact of real and fake trees. Sunset Magazine also published a guide for selecting the right Christmas tree for your “zone”.

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Deck the Halls

If you have a Pinterest board, you know there are endless ideas for DIY holiday décor. Avoid purchasing cheesy plastic holiday decorations and get creative with items you own around the home or can find in the garden. Garlands and wreaths can be made from trees and yard trimmings, and pine cones make perfect table centerpieces. Need inspiration? Visit Country Living’s gallery of beautiful holiday table settings and centerpieces. Or, gather the kids around to craft one of these 11 Christmas decorations made from recycled materials.

To wow gets as they arrive, choose LED Christmas lights, which have the same twinkle but save energy and money. And finally, set the mood with the glow of organic, scented candles instead of harsh, overhead lighting.

Any of these activities will not only help you feel more creative and festive, your guests will be thoroughly impressed with the personal touches.

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Bring us Some Figgy Pudding

When it comes to serving your guests, bust out your grandma’s finest china! While it would be convenient to use disposable plates and cutlery, consider using your standard dinnerware to avoid unnecessary waste. If the thought of cleaning all those dishes makes you want to pull out your hair, then choose one of the many compostable options on the market. This earth-friendly dinnerware roundup from Good House Keeping is a good place to start.

Finally, make your recycling and compost containers visible and available to your guests to help with sorting and cleanup.

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Let’s be Jolly

Sounds like the makings of a wonderful holiday party!

If you want to do even more to be sustainable, read our last post on green gift giving. Whatever your plans are this season, make them fun, safe and green!

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