A Green Get-Together

We celebrate eco-living the only way we know how -- by throwing an awesome party! It's easier (and a lot more fun) than you may think. Just use fresh ingredients and household items for an incredible spread. Then stage a laid-back tree-planting ceremony that'll make a lasting impression on the planet ... and your friends.
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tips + how-tos

TIPS + TRICKS

A-Green-Get-Together

11 EASY WAYS TO GO GREEN

1. Transform plant pots into centerpiece bread bowls: Place dough in foil-lined, 4" terra cotta clay pots (starnursery.com), sprinkle with herbs and coarse salt, then bake. Once cooled, insert wooden plant markers (gardeners.com) and set them in on the table.

 
A-Green-Get-Together
A-Green-Get-Together

2. Shooting off an Evite may reduce your carbon footprint, but it's not personal. Instead, send Plantable Seeded invitations (plantablepaper.com), which are embedded with tiny wildflower seeds.

3. Fill large glass tumblers with dried lentils and beans, then nestle soy or beeswax candles inside. The natural candles won't pollute the air like paraffin-based ones do.

4. Turn old jar lids into clever coasters by giving them a new coat of paint. No leftover cans of paint in the garage? Wrap the lids in scraps of wallpaper or wrapping paper instead.

5. Collect smooth stones from the yard and write your guests' names on each with chalk or washable marker. Post-party, simply rinse the stones with water and return them to their original spot outside.

6. Instead of buying plastic water bottles, fill a wine carafe or an old wine bottle with tap water. Throw in a few cucumber spears or lemon wedges to glam things up even more.

7. Set your outdoor table with regular dinner plates, flatware and glasses. Cleanup may take a little longer, but you'll save money and create less trash at the same time. Plus, your table will look a lot prettier when it's not covered in disposable plastic!

8. Our party spread includes dishes made with seasonal fruits and veggies. Buying regional produce saves in shipping costs and fuel consumption.

9. Send guests home with homemade bird feeders to hang on their own tree: Collect sturdy pine cones, cover each in peanut butter and dip in birdseed. Or try other animal-friendly toppings, like crispy rice cereal or sesame seeds.

10. Not even leftovers will go to waste at this party! Pile them into bento boxes made from cardboard boxes and pass them out as friends are leaving. Been saving mismatched ribbon from birthday gifts? Grab a few pieces from your stash to tie around each container.

11. Make cleanup as easy as possible: Place colorful, recycled-plastic buckets near the gathering area and, using scraps of cardboard, label each for glass, paper and plastic rubbish.

 

HOW TO PICK A TREE

Perfectly poised between the summer heat and winter chill, September is the ideal month to plant a tree. The mild weather and occasional rain showers create a healthy environment for the roots to really take hold. Here?s our guide to picking the right tree for your neck of the woods.

Gray dogwood

  • Best for planting in seasonal climates; blooms with white flowers and white-pink fruit
  • Does well in full sun, partial shade and full shade
  • Grows up to 15 feet, with a 10- to 15-foot spread
  • $5 and up

Red maple

  • Good for planting in all climates; tolerant of many different types of soils
  • Flourishes in full sun and partial shade
  • Grows up to 60 feet, with a 40-foot spread
  • $8 and up

Leyland cyprus

  • Best for warm climates; grows fine, pointed needles, which turn dark blue-green in maturity
  • Does well in full sun
  • Grows up to 70 feet, with a 15- to 25-foot spread
  • $6 and up

American arborvitae

  • Perfect for small spaces; grows tall and thin, and works well as a hedge or privacy screen
  • Does well in full sun
  • Grows up to 30 feet, with a 12-foot spread
  • $3 and up

 

HOW TO PLANT A TREE

1. Dig an area 1 foot deep and about five times the diameter of the root ball. This will encourage root growth beyond the ball for a healthier tree.

2. Place the tree in the hole. Always handle the tree by the ball, not by the trunk or branches -- young shoots can break easily.

3. After placing the tree in the earth, pack the soil firmly but not tightly around the roots. Water the soil and place a protective 3-foot circle of mulch around the tree.

HOW GREEN ARE YOU?

Light

Instead of planting trees at the party, give guests a sapling to take home. Include instructions to do the "dirty" work on their own time.

Make small improvements to your shopping list by buying organic wines. Bottles labeled "organic" are made from organically grown grapes and don?t contain any added sulfites.

Use eco-friendly cleaning products to wash your dishes and countertops. The formulas are biodegradable and nontoxic, and won't pollute the water supply when suds wash down the drain.

Medium

Hang LED string lights (brookstone.com) in place of regular incandescent ones. The lights use up to 80 percent less electricity, last much longer, and are safer to use near plants and trees since they produce far less heat.

Eat organic fruits and veggies, which aren't treated with harmful chemicals. If you have to pick and choose for these recipes, look for organic apples, nectarines, grapes and potatoes. When conventionally grown, they carry higher levels of pesticide residue than other produce.

Pump up the recycling effort by creating receptacles for guests to toss their old rechargeable batteries and ink-jet and laser printer cartridges. You'll prevent dozens of toxic items from ending up in landfills.

Dark

Invest in a solar-powered oven (realgoods.com) and sun-bake your pots of bread. You'll dramatically reduce the amount of electricity you use, and amaze friends with a new culinary party trick.

Embrace the raw-food movement by designing a menu that requires no cooking or heat at all. (Translation: no electricity!) Build a delicious and satisfying spread by tossing together fresh salads and ceviches.

One word: compost! It may sound scary (and messy), but the process of turning trash into fertilizer is easy and cheap. And once it's complete, you'll have super-potent plant food for your new tree!

 

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