Potlucks: Summer fun can be sustainable

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One of the Grange’s core values is good stewardship of the earth and resources. Another is enjoying a good potluck. This summer, take the challenge to marry the two by organizing a sustainable potluck. This can be a rewarding way to promote environmentally friendly practices and potentially bring your community together.

Here are several strategies to make your potluck event more sustainable:

  • Encourage Local & Seasonal Foods – One of the most impactful ways to reduce the environmental footprint of your potluck is to emphasize the use of local and seasonal ingredients. Local foods typically have a smaller carbon footprint due to reduced transportation needs. Encouraging members and others who attend to source ingredients from local farmers markets or community gardens can support the local economy and ensure fresher, healthier dishes. Seasonal foods, on the other hand, reduce the need for energy-intensive greenhouse production.
  • Reduce Single-Use Plastics – Eliminating single-use plastics is a crucial step toward sustainability. Encourage guests to bring their own reusable plates, cutlery and cups. If this is not feasible, consider providing compostable or biodegradable alternatives. Setting up clearly marked recycling and composting stations at the event can help ensure that waste is properly sorted and minimized.
  • Minimize Food Waste – To minimize food waste, plan carefully and encourage guests to do the same. You can learn more by accessing the Grange’s Guide to Reducing Food Waste. After the event, consider sending meal trays to shut-ins or donating leftover food to local emergency service personnel or colleagues the next day. Setting up a system where guests can take home leftovers in reusable containers can help ensure that no food goes to waste. Connect with a local farmer or homesteader to see if they will accept things like waste created in the preparation process, such as melon rinds or spent corn cobs. Many of these things can be fed to pigs or other individuals may compost what they are able.
  • Eco-Friendly Decorations & Supplies – Opt for eco-friendly decorations and supplies. Avoid disposable decorations and instead use reusable items such as cloth tablecloths, banners made from recycled materials and natural decorations like flowers or greenery. If you need to use disposable items, choose those made from recycled or biodegradable materials.
  • Educate & Engage the Community – Use the potluck as an opportunity to educate attendees about sustainability. Encourage your lecturer to invite other organizations interested in sustainability or providing their own program. Handouts about local farming, composting and other sustainable practices can be useful, but you may also want to put them on the web to reduce paper use.
  • Collaborate with Local Sustainable Businesses – Partnering with local sustainable businesses can enhance your potluck’s eco-friendliness. Local vendors can provide organic, fair trade or sustainably sourced products. These partnerships can also extend your impact by supporting businesses that are committed to environmental responsibility.
  • Monitor & Measure Impact – Keeping track of your event’s sustainability efforts can help you understand what works and what needs improvement. Measure the amount of waste generated and the percentage that was composted or recycled. Gathering feedback from attendees can provide insights into how to enhance sustainability in future events.

You can also encourage carpooling or for some, biking or walking if your meeting space is close enough for travel by foot. This will reduce the carbon footprint associated with transportation.

You may find that increasing sustainability for your potluck is not that difficult and make choices to continue certain practices in place for future events. Continuously seek out new ideas and practices to enhance your sustainability efforts. Engage with your community to share experiences and learn from other sustainable events. By fostering a culture of sustainability within your community, you can make each event progressively more eco-friendly.

By incorporating these strategies, your potluck event can become a model of sustainability, demonstrating to the community the importance and feasibility of environmentally conscious practices.

by Amanda Brozana, National Grange Membership & Leadership Development Director

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