As much fun as summer is, most of us can't wait for fall to roll around. Aside from the cozy fashion, brisk weather and holidays, there are all the warm flavors of the season to celebrate, too.
All these assets combined also provide you with ample inspiration for a fall-inspired dinner party. As a bonus, the feast you prepare can go easy on the Earth, too. Here are six tips for a party that's equal parts enjoyable, autumnal, and eco-friendly.
1. Shop Local...
This tip should apply all the time if you're actively in pursuit of a green lifestyle. Local shopping benefits the Earth as much as it does you and the local community. For starters, transporting a nearby farmer's goods to you requires much less fuel than, say, an international flight tasked with bringing the same products from overseas. On top of that, you'll be putting your money back into the local community, thus building up small businesses. If you need any more incentive for buying locally, the food tends to have more nutritional value than something grown and shipped from somewhere else. Time to find a nearby supplier and get shopping.
2. ...and Seasonal
To that end, your fall dinner party menu will undoubtedly incorporate those seasonal flavors we mentioned previously. This is good news, because buying produce that's in season is a boon to the environment. If you're buying something out-of-season—say, a sweet, summertime watermelon in the middle of fall—then you know it had to be shipped in from somewhere with the right climate. That's not good for the environment, nor is it good for you, as we've already learned.
You'll want to familiarize yourself with the produce that's suited for fall growing. From apples and pumpkins to Brussels sprouts and pomegranates, you have plenty of perfect autumnal choices. Imagine all the good you can do by combining tips one and two and planning your dinner party menu with local, seasonal ingredients. You, your community and your guests will all be pleased with your careful shopping.
3. Have One Hearty Headliner
It's no secret that the production of meat, dairy and eggs hurts the environment. According to Smithsonian Magazine, livestock-centric food production creates one-fifth of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. The worst offender of all is beef, as cows require the most land, water and fertilizer to grow. They also produce five times more greenhouse gases than their livestock counterparts.
For your fall feast, steer clear of a red meat centerpiece. Instead, opt for a single hearty headliner made of an environmentally friendly protein. You could go completely meat-free, serving up a vegan or vegetarian main, or you could mix things up with an in-season fish, such as luxurious Maine lobster, which is typically caught between June and December. You can make plenty of show-stopping recipes with just the lobster meat or tails—no boiling of the live animal required.
4. Decorate Naturally
Your dinner party table will probably feel incomplete without a bit of decoration. However, buying a bunch of one-time-use ornamentation won't fly, considering the green-living policies you follow.
Decorate your table with the natural elements you see around you. One of the simplest ways to do it is to collect the gorgeous fallen leaves that represent the season. Examine them for any dirt or hiding insects before laying them at the center of your table. You could also try collecting pinecones and placing them into decorative jars or doing the same with seasonal fruit that you'll later eat. Another eco-friendly option: candles made of beeswax or soy. You can even make them yourself to ensure they are up to your standards.
5. Don't Overdo It
As you're piecing together your fall dinner party menu, it is easy to let your stomach get the better of your good sense—it all sounds so good, doesn't it? However, cooking too many dishes means you'll have leftovers that might not get eaten, which means you'll be wasting a lot of food when you throw it in your compost pile.
Try and consolidate your cooking plan so it's just enough food for everyone invited. Whittle your focus down to two to four recipes, depending on how many people will attend. That way, there's just enough for everyone to eat without being wasteful. Bonus points if you can prepare parts or all of a recipe ahead of time—your guests want to hang out with you instead of watching you slave over the stove all night.
6. Buy Extras Secondhand
We already mentioned the fact that you can decorate for your party with nature's bounty. Unfortunately, you probably won't find a fancy fall platter or serving utensils in the middle of the forest. That means you might have to buy a few supplies to host your party properly. To do so in an eco-friendly way, head to the local thrift shop to see if they have what you need first. That way, you won't be wasting any resources to make your meal—the dish you'll purchase will have already been well-loved by someone else before they passed it on to you, nothing new required. It'll be a budget-friendly buy, too.
With these six tips in mind—and the ample fall inspiration around you—you'll throw a dinner party that's just as memorable as the season itself. While that feels pretty darn good, it'll be even better knowing that your soiree was completely Earth-friendly, just the way you wanted it to be.