A Fun, Fabulous and Eco-Friendly Dinner Party

A few tweaks for a sustainable soiree!
filled wine glasses on a dinner table
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You're doing it...taking the plunge...Maybe you've just completed home renos and want to celebrate your new space, are thinking of a pot-luck for families, or need some grown-up social time without the pricetag of a fancy restaurant and club. Whatever the reason, you can keep it simple and affordable or go all out for a treat. However you choose to plan it, here are some tips to make it less wasteful, healthier, and more memorable. Bon appetit!

Send the invites

If using invitations, sending them by email will help minimize your carbon footprint and can still be a personalized gesture. Rather than a simple note, include a photograph, poem, or scanned hand-written letter.

Set the mood

Exterior Lighting 

LED lights use 90% less energy than standard lights because they use semi-conduction rather than incandescent filaments. They also have cooler bulbs so they are less of a fire hazard. Average shelf life of LED lights is approximately 2-3 years, although if you invest in commercial grade you can expect 6-7 years. Once again, if you buy better, you can buy less!

Interior Lighting 

Candles made of beeswax - a 100% natural fuel - with cotton wicks are the longest lasting candle, burn the cleanest, and do not produce toxic petrol-soot that can stain surfaces. They also emit negative ions as they burn that can actually clean the air and invigorate the body! 100% Canadian made beeswax candles are widely available and remember that ethically sourced beeswax is also relatively easy to find, although often somewhat more expensive.

Keep Your Guests Engaged

Bring the nostalgia of holidays-past by requesting that modern technology devices be shut off for the evening. Board games, cards, or charades are fun group games that will allow parents and children a chance to have fun with each other. If any of your guests are musical, ask them to bring their instruments along for a group sing-along. Song sheets with lyrics are available online and can be printed off and copied so every guest can participate.

Create a Stunning Table

Shop the autumn yard sales for antique linens. Mismatched linens will create an eclectic look for the table. Tie the look together by rolling the napkins, tying them in string then inserting sprigs of fragrant seasonal rosemary. These are great conversation pieces and your guests can enjoy imagining the dinner parties of yore with each unique napkin pattern.

Table tip 

To freshen and clean antique linens, place overnight in a bathtub of hot water with mild detergent. Rinse and resoak with a splash of vinegar for 15 minutes. Rinse and lay linens flat to dry.

Dramatic centrepieces can be created using evergreen clippings woven into wreaths. Try using pine cones, walnuts, or almonds strewn across the table for accent. These will all look lovely painted too. The effect is particularly attractive when using high-gloss white paint (look for low VOC paint!), making the accents look as if they’re made of porcelain. These can also be used to fill a large glass hurricane jar – try adding bright red cranberries and this makes another great centerpiece option.

Explore the world of local, organic wine

Many Canadian vineyards are including organic or biodynamic options. 100% organic wine essentially means wines produced with grapes that are certified 100% organically grown (no man-made compounds such as pesticides, fertilizers, or fungicides and do not contain added sulphur dioxide during winemaking). Canadian wineries have wonderful organic options from Pinot Noirs and Merlots to Cabernet Francs. Certified vineyards in B.C. include Summerhill Pyramid and Forbidden Fruit Wineries. In Ontario, Southbrook Vineyards and Malivoire have certifications and in Nova Scotia there is L’Acadie Vineyards. In the US, there are many wineries engaged in sustainable practices.

Make the feast memorable

Opt for local ingredients and free-range meats cooked well - and simply! - rather than faddish overly-wrought recipes. The most impressive meals typically centre around the cooking of a large roast, like turkey, rib of beef, goose or lamb. Although this can seem overwhelming to a first time cook, preparing and cooking these roasts is actually remarkably simple. It’s really about stuffing the cavities with the herbs you like and/or a stuffing mixture, then slathering the exterior with butter or olive oil, liberally seasoning the roast with salt and pepper and cooking slowly over several hours.

Tasty lactose- and gluten-free tips

  • Create an amazing alternative for creamy, rich mashed potatoes by using lactose free whipping cream (yogurt also works well) and jazzing it up with a generous dollop of wasabi.
  • Glamourize your veggies with healthy oils instead of butter. No matter how you prefer to cook your seasonal vegetables, a fragrant finishing oil or vinegar will elevate them to restaurant quality in just 10 seconds. Finishing oils work best without high heat and so you should add them only at the very end, after cooking is complete. Try 1-2 tsp hazelnut oil over steamed green beans with toasted almonds, 1 tbsp of a good aged balsamic vinegar over grilled asparagus, or 1-2 tbsp of avocado oil over grilled fennel.
  • Fold maple syrup through spaghetti squash after roasting and serve as a vegetarian main. A homemade, herbed vegetable pot-pie is also a crowd-pleaser.

The cleanup

Many hostesses wouldn’t dream of letting a guest do “work,” however many guests truly like to help out. Washing dishes by hand is an environmentally friendly option (so long you don’t let that tap run!) and provides a unique opportunity for helpful guests to chat and share stories as they wash and dry the silver and the china. You can also place your recycling bins inside so guests can see where to put their recyclables or compost items when it’s time to clear the table.

One final tip

Remember, the most significant thing you can bring to the party is your good cheer. Creating a beautiful and green holiday party is a memory and your guests will enjoy it all the more if you are relaxed and enjoying yourself right along with them.