It’s Spring! You know what that means! The Spring holidays are here and, inevitably, it’s time to entertain. No matter what you are celebrating, the days will be filled with friends and family, laughter and food (maybe a little stress, too?). Entertaining can be great but with our minds preoccupied with all there is to do, being eco-friendly can sometimes fall on the back-burner. I have your back! Here are a couple, super easy (I mean it!) tips for keeping on the green path while entertaining this week. Enjoy!
Candles Set the Mood but are They an Environmental Buzzkill?
Creating the perfect ambiance can make or break a dinner party. The lighting, the décor and the perfect scent all play an important role in setting the mood and what better way to tick all those boxes then with some beautiful candles? I’m a huge fan, myself, of the little scented wonders but, for tiny, little things, candles can have some pretty scary impacts on the environment.
Many of your everyday, store-bought candles are made of paraffin. These types of candles produce harmful byproducts and greenhouse gases like cetaldehyde, acrolein, benzene, formaldehyde, polyaromatic hydrocarbons and toluene-not good for you or for the environment! Even their wicks may contain chemical additives like lead and zinc. In fact, according to an experiment done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, burning just nine candles in a room (with good air circulation) would release enough toxic particulate matter to result in higher levels of pollution than would be legally allowed outdoors. Scary stuff, right? Paraffin candles are also a petroleum-based product. That means they are made using non-renewable resources.
Okay, so that was the bad news. The good news is there are better candles out there! Soy and beeswax candles are really good alternatives to paraffin candles. Soy is a renewable resource and the candles burn longer than their paraffin counterparts but make sure you find a soy candle that has the USDA-certified organic label. If not, it is likely that the soy is made from genetically modified soy (over 90% of U.S. grown soy is). Beeswax, on the other hand, is non-allergenic, non-polluting and non-toxic. Its wax is the only one that occurs naturally on Earth and it has that wonderfully natural, sweet honey smell, making it my number one choice for candles.
(BONUS #1: If you decide candles aren’t your thing but you’d still like to fill your home with some delightful smells, bake a batch of cookies before your guests arrive. Your home will be filled with the wonderful, natural smell of vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate! Yum!)
Set the Mood by Dimming the Lights
Candles definitely help set the mood but, as I mentioned, lighting is super important too. Getting the lighting just right can make dinner a success. Light dimmers are your entertaining and energy Godsend! The science behind dimmers is simple: they save energy by reducing the flow of electricity to the bulb and allowing your lights to operate with lower power outputs. Because your lights and bulbs are using less energy, they tend to last longer too! Each year, nearly 15% of the average U.S. home’s electricity costs can be attributed to lighting. Lowering the lights by 25%, using a dimmer, results in a 25% energy savings. Even more savings can be seen when these fixtures and bulbs are upgraded to their high-efficiency cousins! Not too shabby for a little mood-lighting!
Air-Dry Your Dishes for a Greener Clean-Up
I touched on this briefly in my last post but I think it’s worth getting into the down and dirty of dishwashers! Cleanup is the worst part of entertaining but it doesn’t have to be the least efficient. Take advantage of your dishwasher’s air-dry setting. Using this setting can actually reduce your dishwasher’s energy usage by 15-50 percent depending on your dishwasher! Most of the energy used by dishwashers is used to heat the hot water so, by cutting back on the heat needed to dry the dishes, you can save a ton of energy! If your dishwasher doesn’t have an air-dry setting, or if you’d rather air-dry the old-fashioned way, just turn off the appliance once the load has finished washing and open the door a crack. Leaving the door open just a bit allows the heat to stay inside but also lets the dishes dry. Leave them to sit overnight and check on the dishes in the morning. Voila!
(BONUS #2: This may go without saying but only run your dishwasher when it’s full. Using your dishwasher this way is much more efficient and can save so much energy and water. In fact, the average household can save approximately 1,000 gallons of water each month by only running their dishwasher when it’s full. Staggering, isn’t it?)
There you have it. Super easy, right? These tricks should have you eco-entertaining in no time! I hope everyone enjoys the time they spend with their friends and family over the next week or so. Happy Spring! We’ll be back next week with more tips!