Whether you’re for the monarchy or not, the extra holiday laid on to celebrate Prince William and Kate Middleton’s nuptials is worth celebrating. The UK has a long history of street parties, starting in 1919 when Brits threw ‘Peace Teas’ to celebrate the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. But while street parties are great for getting to know the neighbours, not everything about them is good for the environment. Paper plates and cups, burst balloons and plastic bunting are just some of the many extra bits of rubbish that will be making their way to landfill sites once the music stops.
While paper plates are usually biodegradable, most are made from virgin wood, which leads to more deforestation and a huge carbon footprint. Others are made from Styrofoam – a material made from petrochemicals. But plates aren’t the only party piece that can have a terrible effect on the environment. Synthetic food colouring, cheap alcohol and plastic party favours do the planet no favours. So what can you do to ensure your bash is an environmentally friendly one? From the cake to the buffet and the booze, we’ve rounded up the best ways to make your party stylish and sustainable. We’ll drink to that.
Whether it’s a royal wedding, birthday or anniversary, a party is not a party unless cake is involved. While finding organic eggs, flour, sugar and milk is easy, decorating your cake is a different story. Food dyes, with their chemical ingredients and questionable effect on children’s behaviour, aren’t particularly green and even the natural dyes have problems. Cochineal, for example, is made from the blood of cochineal beetles, so is neither cruelty free nor suitable for vegetarians, and can cause severe allergic reactions in some people. Instead, make your icing from organic, Fairtrade chocolate or try fruit flavourings such as lemon or orange juice. It won’t be as colourful but it will taste amazing. Crank up the sparkle factor with Steenbergs Organic’s Edible Gold Leaf, £23.99. It’s pre-cut so can be sprinkled over cakes and puddings to glittery effect. If time is short, check out the eco-friendly cakes on offer from The Utterly Sexy Café. Made using sustainably sourced, natural ingredients, the cakes can be mail-ordered up to a week in advance and are served on vintage china. Choose from a selection of fairycakes, £4.50 each, and pretty celebration sponges, £49, or go for broke with one of the multi-tiered, beautifully decorated wedding cakes which start at £150. Top pick is the stunning Kissing Songbird cake, £595.
Paper wrapped cupcakes, fizzy drinks and hotdogs are standard party fare but don’t do much for the environment or for your health. Instead of buying party food, try making it yourself using sustainably sourced ingredients. Geetie Singh, owner of organic pub, The Duke of Cambridge, has come up with an exclusive organic, sustainable and seasonal party menu for Ecologist readers (see below), featuring canapé and buffet ideas, which don’t cost the earth and taste utterly fabulous. Top picks include the smoked MSC certified mackerel pate with cornichons, the classic Jersey Royal potato salad and the utterly moreish Eton Mess with bottled damsons. Serve your food on Eco Party Bags’ Bagasse plates, 30p each. Bagasse is a natural material made from the waste fibre created by sugar cane processing, and is fully biodegradable and compostable. Eco Party Bags also sells reusable cutlery, 16p per piece, made from potato and corn starch.
What to drink
No wedding party would be complete without a glass of champagne or two, and there are plenty of great organic options to choose from. Jem Gardener, managing director of organic wine merchants, Vinceremos, suggests Champagne Carte d'Or Brut, José Ardinat, £21.99. ‘It’s great value and an extremely likeable fresh, clean, fruity champagne with hints of green apple and a dry style,’ he says. Jem also recommends José Ardinat’s Champagne Cuvée Spéciale, £47.99, which comes in a 1920s bottle and is a classic fizz with more depth and biscuity notes. If champagne isn’t for you, go for classic G&Ts made with Juniper Green Organic Gin, £15.30, available at Abel & Cole, Vinceremos and Vintage Roots. Serve with Fever-Tree Indian Tonic Water, 89p, which although not organic, is made with natural, botanical ingredients and comes in recyclable glass bottles. For children, try Rocks’ organic cordials, £2.99 each, or Whole Earth’s Sparkling Cola Drink, 65p per can.
How to decorate
While making your own bunting from recycled paper is a green way to go, not everyone has time for a spot of DIY decoration making. If time is short, check out Little Cherry; an eco-friendly party goods company which sells some very patriotic Union Jack bunting, £19.99, made from recycled vintage fabric. They also sell biodegradable balloons made from Fairtrade FSC certified natural latex, £1.99 for 10, which come in a range of colours, including red, blue and white. Display cupcakes and sandwiches on Talking Tables’ kitsch UK-themed cardboard cake stands, £10 for two, which are both reusable and recyclable. Set them on tables covered with Drapers Organic Cotton’s hemp tablecloths, £35.99. Available in a choice of pale blue, cream, aubergine and dark green, they’re a green alternative to the traditional paper version and can be used again and again.
What to wear
Don’t panic buy a dress from Primark; instead choose an outfit that will work for summer parties and BBQs, regardless of who’s throwing them. Reeme Idris, a stylist and fashion blogger, says Stella McCartney's citrus print silk-satin dress, £1,465 at Netaporter, is perfect and suggests teaming it with nude platforms. If Stella is too pricey, Reeme recommends checking out the new Laura Ashley collaboration at People Tree, which starts at £55 for a top. ‘The Laura Ashley prints come in lots of different varieties, so work whether you’re looking for top-to-toe or for just a splash of print,’ she says. ‘Ciel also has a Poppy Liberty Print Dress, £125, that would also work.’ If the idea of prints leaves you cold, take a look at Minna’s range of softly pretty pieces, all made from upcycled vintage fabrics. ‘Sam Ubhi jewellery sits beautifully with Minna’s pretty, playful pieces,’ says Reeme. ‘Toughen the look up with a pair of leather biker boots (the older, the better) for a comfortable celebration.’
The Duke of Cambridge’s Royal Wedding party menu
Making the most of local, seasonal and organic ingredients, Geete Singh’s suggestions are easy to source and simple to prepare. Remember to check that all meat and fish is MSC and RSPCA certified, and aim to buy as much as possible from local farmer’s markets, butchers and greengrocers.
• Root vegetable bravas
• Asparagus with shallot vinaigrette
• Leek, St. Tola goats cheese quiche
• British cheese plate
• Smoked MSC mackerel pate and cornichons
• Beetroot cured organic salmon buckwheat muffin and sweet-mustard
• Pickled MSC herring on rye bread
• British charcuterie plate
• Rare roast grass fed beef, horseradish and rocket
• Jersey royal potato salad
• Purple sprouting broccoli with chilli flakes
• Herb and dried apricot Tabbouleh
• Roast root vegetable and aioli
• Lentil, beetroot, wild garlic and goats curd salad
• White fish fritters with tartar sauce
• Boiled egg stuffed with pickled onion Fish4Ever Anchovy
• Rare breed gammon with seeded mustard and purple sprouting broccoli
• Salt beef baked with bread crumbs, mustard and horseradish
• Mutton and baby leek pie
• Chocolate and walnut brownie with crème fraiche
• Rhubarb crumble and custard
• Beetroot cake with lemon icing
• Lemon posset
• Bottled damson Eton mess
• Bottled pear trifle
To find out more about organic pub, The Duke of Cambridge, go to: www.dukeorganic.co.uk
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