A Shift in Thinking by Gia Machlin, June 01 2011, 0 Comments

Last weekend was my son Noah's Bar Mitzvah (that would explain my infrequent posts over the last year). It was AWESOME!!!! But I'm not here to boast or bore you with my personal feelings of pride and contentment. No. What I want to share is how a small shift in thinking can make a big difference. Depending on where you live, you may have never heard of a Bar Mitzvah or you may have been to quite a few. It's a Jewish coming of age ritual for 13 year old boys and girls. Anyway, after the service it is customary to have a luncheon or banquet or party of some kind. Going into this, I knew there would be waste and a footprint associated with the party but I also knew I wanted to minimize it however I could. So, here are a few choices we made that when adopted by others too, could help lessen our collective impact:

  • We chose a "sustainable" caterer that used organic and sustainably sourced food. All leftovers were donated to the homeless shelter in the same building.
  • We asked the caterer to remove the plastic bottled water from the menu and instead provide pitchers of iced tap water.
  • We used China, silverware, and glasses instead of disposable dinnerware.
  • The place cards were made of plantable wildflower seed paper.
  • We used potted flowered plants as centerpieces. People took them home to plant in their gardens.
  • The kids' giveaways were reusable stainless steel water bottles customized with Noah's name and filled with candy.
  • Instead of a steady flow of plastic junk from the MC/DJ that is customary at these events - sunglasses, glo sticks, hats, flashing LED wands, pins and necklaces - we had one 3D LED necklace per kid (I know- better to have none - but we didn't want to spoil all the fun!)
  • We minimized the meat on the menu serving mostly veggie, fish, and pasta.
  • One thing that could have been less wasteful was our invitations. Although we used FSC certified paper (we could not find any affordable invitations made of recycled paper) we still had a card for the service, another card for the reception and a third reply card with envelope to be sent back via snail mail. I later got a number of invitations to his classmates' events with a simple reply to email address. Good idea. Should have done that (although I have to admit I enjoyed receiving all the reply cards with personal notes and smiley faces on them and will keep them all in a memory box).

So, whether you are throwing a huge party for a life cycle event, or just going about your daily routine, think about the small changes you can make that could reduce waste and emissions.  I'm sure that compared to some, my event may seem extravagant and wasteful, and compared to others it may seem green and frugal.  The point is, no matter where you are along the spectrum of conservation and environmentalism, it's important to think about the choices you are making and ask yourself: Is this really necessary?  Is there a less wasteful way to do this?  Is there a greener alternative.  My friends at the Broadway Green Alliance say that there is no such thing as "green", only "greener."  Just by living we are consuming resources every day.  The question to ask is: what small changes can I make to reduce my impact, while still maintaining (or enhancing) the quality of life I love?