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Eco-friendly parties

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Backyard barbecue season is upon us, as well as Cinco de Mayo fiestas, Fourth of July cookouts and summer weddings. Just because it's party season doesn't mean we should forget all that we've been celebrating with Earth Day.

Throwing parties doesn't have to produce a lot of waste. Paper plates and cups are popular options at picnics and summer gatherings, but they usually just end up in the trash (they could become compost if you are willing to tear them up into little pieces). Opt for plastic plates instead. They are not only reusable (and often dishwasher safe) but also come in more colors than plain old paper. For utensils, just use silverware. If it's a big party, shop around at a few garage sales and you'll be able to pick up all the knives and forks you need.

Instead of sending out paper invitations, why not send an e-mail? It costs less than stationary and stamps and gets to the recipients faster (assuming they check their e-mail, of course). There are also some pretty cool invitation sites online where guests can see who is invited, who is attending and even RSVP comments. Or opt for recycled paper invitations that are Earth friendly.

Planning a wedding? Instead of registering for gifts, ask guests to make a contribution to a charity in the name of the bride and groom. Many caterers are willing to work with the desires of their clients, so insist on as much local food as possible. Not only will that directly support the local economy, but also the produce won't have to be driven (or flown) across the country.

So throw a party and have some fun—just consider your impact.

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