Ah the holidays, the music, the decorations, the food, the presents and the parties are all in abundance during the holiday season. While hosting a holiday party is a seasonal ritual for many of us, keeping the party green can be a challenge. Incorporating local food and décor into your party is one way to make your holiday a little more green.
Food and Drinks. Begin planning your party by visiting your local farmers market so that you can build your food around local produce. Here in Arizona, we are fortunate to have three growing seasons and year-round produce, but the offerings change depending on the time of year. While local red tomatoes are plentiful in the Spring, they are usually not available in the winter. Planning a locally-themed menu takes planning and talking with the farmers who sell their produce at the market.
At a Christmas gathering last year, we served coq au vin with locally-raised free range chicken, local carrots, onions, garlic, parley, thyme and even local red wine. Only the mushrooms, flour, butter and olive oil came from out of the state. Staying local, or at least 75 percent local, can be a challenge, but it can also give the party a fun theme that allows you free reign to get creative and festive. With our coq au vin, we served Arizona wine, Arizona nuts as snacks and played a festive music cd by a great local talent.
For those who are not fortunate enough to live in a beautiful state like Arizona, which provides a year-round bounty of fresh produce, incorporating local produce might be difficult, but locally-produced meats, cheeses, breads and some drinks tend to be plentiful in most places year-round. In cold states like Maine, local potatoes and apples tend to be available even in the winter. Preserved produce might be another option. With enough planning and efficiency, you could purchase your produce months in advance and either can or freeze it (depending on the produce) so that when the holiday season rolls around, you’ll have a bounty of local produce to build a menu around.
Wherever you live, planning is the key. Take stock of what is available, plan ahead and incorporate as much local flavor as you can.
Decor. Begin planning the décor several months in advance too. What will be in bloom at that time of year? Will you have a backdrop of cactus or pine trees? Incorporate the sights, smells and even the sounds of the season into your party décor. If you are lucky enough to live in a state where pine trees are plentiful, get to work making swags, wreaths and table settings from branches. Here in Arizona, we decorate with red chili peppers. Although they are not locally grown (they come from nearby New Mexico), the bright red chilis make beautiful Christmas wreaths which can either be hung on a wall, door or used as a table centerpiece. We also have plenty of cactus which grow tall enough to look nice when adorned with twinkle lights and ornaments.
Lighting. Dress up your outdoor area with solar lights, even if you are entertaining indoors. Solar lights are easy to use, simple to install and many give off quite a bit of light. Few things say Christmas like festively scented candles. Consider adding a few soy candles for added ambiance, or, if you are ambitious enough, consider making them yourself a few days before the party. Candle making is a fun craft that doesn’t require much special equipment other than a melter dedicated for liquefying the wax.
Paper products. Forego the paper plates, plastic forks and Styrofoam cups and instead use your own plates, utensils and glasses rather than disposable. Yes, it means more in terms of clean-up but it’s little price to pay to save all that trash from the landfill.