In this column, staff at the Center for EcoTechnology offer advice on easy ways for people — and businesses — to introduce green changes in their daily lives.
Q: Summer is here and party season is in full swing. How can I have a good time while saving money and reducing waste?
A: Glad you asked! One sign of summer's arrival in western Massachusetts is the profusion of farmers markets that spring up seemingly in every parking lot. When you start thinking about cooking during this time of year, consider purchasing your ingredients from one of these markets. Not only are you buying food that didn't travel thousands of miles to get to you (adding carbon to the atmosphere every step of the way), but you are supporting local agriculture. It's a win-win!
If you do go to a supermarket, bring reusable bags with you instead of taking the store's plastic bags.
Let's talk about your grill. Grilling with gas is the most eco-friendly option (natural gas is cleaner than propane, which is cleaner than charcoal). Metal grills conduct heat away from your food, so ceramic grills are really the best choice.
If you don't want to buy a new grill, or prefer charcoal, consider lump charcoal as opposed to briquettes. Lump charcoal is typically made without added chemicals, so it burns cleaner and requires less energy to produce. Also, skip the lighter fluid and instead use a chimney starter. Additionally, while grilling, make sure you leave the grill's hood down as much as possible to conserve the heat and ensure even cooking. Finally, your grill cooks most efficiently with more food on it rather than less, so load it up.
Q: Well, that covers the planning, but what can I do on the day of my party?
A: For one thing, if at all possible, use regular dishes and flatware. Not only will you save money and reduce waste by not buying any paper or plastic plates and cutlery, but you can run your dishes through the dishwasher as opposed to hand-washing them for a more-efficient and lower-effort solution.
Don't keep drinks in your refrigerator, because it has to work harder if guests keep opening it. Instead, use a cooler or bucket of ice.
Don't waste leftovers. Have your guests bring their own Tupperware to take food home, donate to a local food bank or soup kitchen, or compost your uneaten food. If necessary, set up a separate bin for composting. Definitely designate a place for cans and bottles, which you can recycle for a deposit.
Above all, enjoy the beautiful weather and have a great time!
Check out cetonline.org for more energy-saving and waste-reduction tips, and remember to Go Green!
Look out for this column every two weeks, and send Go Green questions to GoGreen@cetonline.org.