Simply Wood Rings’ (almost) 10th Anniversary

Simply Wood Rings has always been about collaboration, connection, evolution, and what if’s. In fact, that’s how it started.  In 2005 Simply Wood Rings’ Gustav Reyes was woodworking in his basement, making all manner of right-angled boxes and clocks. One day, his wife Juanita posed a question: What if you could make wooden jewelry? And what if it were a ring, the kind anyone could wear?

Initially Gustav said, “No, you can’t do that. You could drill them out of the wood, but they would break.”

“I’m not talking about drilling it out,” Juanita said. Gustav looked at her sideways, but a few days later, she brought him a piece of plain white paper, and began to roll it. “You can make it thin like this, and strong like this,” she explained.
Gustav began to understand.

The first wood rings were crude, but Gustav continued to refine the process until the rings were both structurally strong and aesthetically beautiful. Later came wood- and stone-inlays, and the incorporation of metal. Each evolution made wider the possibility of making even more meaningful rings.

SWRRingTrio

to r: ailanthus & walnut with concrete inlay, rosewood engagement profile, mahogany with lapis lazuli

Now, almost 10 years later, Gustav, who heads the studio, and Juanita, who works in the office, feel honored to work with some of the most thoughtful and kind clients in the world. Along with a small team of artisans, Simply Wood Rings has grown into an ethical, progressive, and ever-evolving company, and one that holds strong to its simple origin: partners pushing each other to learn, grow, and create.

Simply Wood Rings always has one foot in tradition and one foot in innovation. Gustav asks himself: how are we honoring the wood and the lives it represents? And also, how can we do better; how can we make the rings even more reflective of the manifest beauty of life on Earth, and of the lives of the wearers?

So, for the company’s almost-10 year anniversary, Simply Wood Rings is launching a new website, reflective of the company’s and the work’s embedded values. “The new site is about telling stories, about refreshing and returning to simplicity and connection,” Gustav says. “We want to communicate our story to clients so that they feel even more welcome to share their own.”

At their heart, Simply Wood Rings are about cohabitating with the past and the future while remaining mindful of the present moment. They are about experiencing the natural world and human life as continuous, magnifying what’s important in life, and celebrating the authentic.

“We’ve always been on the cutting edge of wood ring craftsmanship,” Gustav says. “but what the rings symbolize is age-old: how humans connect to nature, and how they connect to each other.”

Visit the new site at http://simplywoodrings.com.

Celebrating Simply Wood Rings’ (almost) 10th Anniversary

SWRSimply Wood Rings has always been about collaboration, connection, evolution, and what if’s. In fact, that’s how it started. In 2005 Simply Wood Rings’ Gustav Reyes was woodworking in his basement, making all manner of right-angled boxes and clocks. One day, his wife Juanita posed a question: What if you could make wooden jewelry? And what if it were a ring, the kind anyone could wear?

Initially Gustav said, “No, you can’t do that. You could drill them out of the wood, but they would break.”

“I’m not talking about drilling it out,” Juanita said. Gustav looked at her sideways, but a few days later, she brought him a piece of plain white paper, and began to roll it. “You can make it thin like this, and strong like this,” she explained. Gustav began to understand.

The first wood rings were crude, but Gustav continued to refine the process until the rings were both structurally strong and aesthetically beautiful. Later came wood- and stone-inlays, and the incorporation of metal. Each evolution made wider the possibility of making even more meaningful rings.

SWR2

Now, almost 10 years later, Gustav, who heads the studio, and Juanita, who works in the office, feel honored to work with some of the most thoughtful and kind clients in the world. Along with a small team of artisans, Simply Wood Rings has grown into an ethical, progressive, and ever-evolving company, and one that holds strong to its simple origin: partners pushing each other to learn, grow, and create.

Simply Wood Rings always has one foot in tradition and one foot in innovation. Gustav asks himself: how are we honoring the wood and the lives it represents? And also, how can we do better; how can we make the rings even more reflective of the manifest beauty of life on Earth, and of the lives of the wearers?

So, for the company’s almost-10 year anniversary, Simply Wood Rings is launching a new website, reflective of the company’s and the work’s embedded values. “The new site is about telling stories, about refreshing and returning to simplicity and connection,” Gustav says. “We want to communicate our story to clients so that they feel even more welcome to share their own.”

At their heart, Simply Wood Rings are about cohabitating with the past and the future while remaining mindful of the present moment. They are about experiencing the natural world and human life as continuous, magnifying what’s important in life, and celebrating the authentic.

“We’ve always been on the cutting edge of wood ring craftsmanship,” Gustav says. “but what the rings symbolize is age-old: how humans connect to nature, and how they connect to each other.”

Visit the new site at http://simplywoodrings.com.

Event Recap: The Great Wedding Recyclery

by Kate Lerman of Chicago Vintage Weddings

Photo by Shane Welch Photography

Photo by Shane Welch Photography

As someone who runs a vintage rental company, I have a hard time resisting a good garage sale. There are all sorts of hidden gems and unique pieces to be found. One problem I encounter when rummaging through those sales, though, is that it can be hard to find enough matching items to create a look that’s consistent enough to decorate an entire wedding. I just don’t have the time to spend going from sale to sale, sourcing enough pieces to make the look work.
Photo by Shane Welch Photography

Photo by Shane Welch Photography


There’s also the issue of leftovers, of course. After the wedding is over, my rental couples and planning clients almost always come to me with pieces that they bought for their big day but can’t keep. After all, who really needs 30 vases or a box full of table number holders?
Photo by Shane Welch Photography

Photo by Shane Welch Photography


Photo by The Way We Click

Photo by The Way We Click

A wedding-centric garage sale is just the solution to these problems! It’s where newlyweds and engaged couples come together to swap wedding goods in style. This year’s second annual Wedding Recyclery, hosted by the Green Wedding Alliance last month at member venue Loft on Lake, was a massive success. Hundreds of bargain hunters lined the block from early in the morning to get a jump on the best deals.
Photo by Shane Welch Photography

Photo by Shane Welch Photography

They were greeted by GWA ambassadors bearing complimentary hot chocolate from Luscious Layers, keeping them nice and toasty until they could get through the doors and score that great find. Everything from gowns to glassware was featured at garage sale prices.
Photo by Shane Welch Photography

Photo by Shane Welch Photography


The event raised over $1,000 that the GWA will use to continue promoting eco-conscious weddings for all. Savvy shoppers who attended the Recyclery took a big step in the right direction, reusing some ultracool wedding goods rather than buying new (and more expensive) ones. We’re thrilled with the turnout and even more thrilled that so many pounds of waste were saved. See you at next year’s event!

Stress-Free & Sustainable Engagement Tips

The author, Carolyn Mullany is a recently-engaged bride and is also a wedding-vendor, whose insider’s perspective into the wedding world has been extremely helpful. She’s passionate about reminding people to keep their engagements enjoyable, stress free, and special. Here are a few engagement tips that worked best for her:

Don’t Worry About “supposed to-s”: I’m all about taking back the wedding. Some people (cough cough names will not be named!) will feel they deserve a say in your wedding when no opinion is asked. A wedding is about the start of a marriage and a marriage is between two people. Worried about leaving someone out of the bridal party? Don’t, they’ll get over it! Heck, don’t even have a bridal party if you don’t want one! Anxious over having to register for kitchenware even though it’s not 1950 anymore and you’ve lived on your own for 10 years? I say register for that bicycle you’ve been eyeing! For me, I didn’t want a cheesy engagement session, so superheroes it was!

Doing What We Want: Engagement Session - Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography Doing What We Want: Engagement Session – Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography

Get off Pinterest! Pinterest is for collecting or sharing ideas, not inspiration. If you want your wedding to reflect your style, think about what inspires you. Reflect on yourself and your partner and put aspects of those things that best represent you into your wedding. Is it the outdoors, a certain artist, a song, a tucked away spot in the city? For me, I’m inspired by modern art and the colors of Kandinksy. Comparing your wedding to what you see on Pinterest will only stress you out.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913 Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913

Save the fun stuff for last! Once the date is set, venue booked, caterer and photographer selected, and dreaded guest list made – things for me were more fun. This allowed space to really enjoy the things I found exciting like dress shopping, cake tasting, and honeymoon planning! It may be tempting to go out and try on dresses immediately, but saving it for later will be worth the wait!

If it doesn’t get done it doesn’t matter. Think about it, if there is something you don’t have done the week of your wedding, it truly doesn’t matter. If you really didn’t bother to take care of it earlier – it wasn’t that important to you.

Thrift store finds Thrift store finds

Seek Out Alternate Resources: Thrift stores, garage sales, scrap warehouses are your friend! Yes weddings are expensive, but whatever your budget is you can work around it. Seriously. As a designer, I have a huge inventory of vases and I’ve never paid more than $2 for each vase. It may be second hand but anything and everything can be altered to reflect your style..get creative!! Check out CGWA’s The Great Wedding Recyclery on April 27th for amazing goods!!

The Great Wedding Recyclery

Remember the bigger picture. At the end of the day you should be planning for a marriage, not just a wedding. I love weddings but I believe in marriages and I believe every relationship (whether married or not) deserves care, time, and cultivation. Remember this the next time you wake up in the middle of the night worried about floral arrangements!

Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography

Tips for a stress free engagement

by Carolyn Mullany of The Bread & Butterfly

As a new member of The Chicago Green Wedding Alliance (and a fairly new business owner), my insider’s perspective into the wedding world has been extremely helpful as I plan my own upcoming wedding. As my business continues to grow, one thing I feel passionate about is reminding people to keep engagements enjoyable, stress free, and special. Here are a few things I learned work best:

Don’t Worry About “supposed to-s”: I’m all about taking back the wedding. Some people (cough cough names will not be named!) will feel they deserve a say in your wedding when no opinion is asked. A wedding is about the start of a marriage and a marriage is between two people. Worried about leaving someone out of the bridal party? Don’t, they’ll get over it! Heck, don’t even have a bridal party if you don’t want one! Anxious over having to register for kitchenware even though it’s not 1950 anymore and you’ve lived on your own for 10 years? I say register for that bicycle you’ve been eyeing! For me, I didn’t want a cheesy engagement session, so superheroes it was!

Doing What We Want: Engagement Session - Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography

Doing What We Want: Engagement Session – Photo by Chrystl Roberge Photography

Get off Pinterest! Pinterest is for collecting or sharing ideas, not inspiration. If you want your wedding to reflect your style, think about what inspires you. Reflect on yourself and your partner and put aspects of those things that best represent you into your wedding. Is it the outdoors, a certain artist, a song, a tucked away spot in the city? For me, I’m inspired by modern art and the colors of Kandinksy. Comparing your wedding to what you see on Pinterest will only stress you out.

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913

Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), “Composition VII, 1913

Save the fun stuff for last! Once the date is set, venue booked, caterer and photographer selected, and dreaded guest list made – things for me were more fun. This allowed space to really enjoy the things I found exciting like dress shopping, cake tasting, and honeymoon planning! It may be tempting to go out and try on dresses immediately, but saving it for later will be worth the wait!

If it doesn’t get done it doesn’t matter. Think about it, if there is something you don’t have done the week of your wedding, it truly doesn’t matter. If you really didn’t bother to take care of it earlier – it wasn’t that important to you.

Thrift store finds

Thrift store finds

Seek Out Alternate Resources: Thrift stores, garage sales, scrap warehouses are your friend! Yes weddings are expensive, but whatever your budget is you can work around it. Seriously. As a designer, I have a huge inventory of vases and I’ve never paid more than $2 for each vase. It may be second hand but anything and everything can be altered to reflect your style..get creative!! Check out CGWA’s The Great Wedding Recyclery on April 27th for amazing goods!!

The Great Wedding Recyclery

Remember the bigger picture. At the end of the day you should be planning for a marriage, not just a wedding. I love weddings but I believe in marriages and I believe every relationship (whether married or not) deserves care, time, and cultivation. Remember this the next time you wake up in the middle of the night worried about floral arrangements!

Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography

Photo by Chrysl Roberge Photography

Committed 2014: GWA’s Annual Green Wedding Event was a Success!

by Tom Maluga, from Celebrate Your Love


Well if you didn’t make it to Committed, the CGWA’s wedding show last month, you missed out. I am a new member to the group and didn’t participate this year, but decided to attend to see what it was all about. And, let me tell you Committed broke the mold of a wedding show.

Fabulous blooms by Larkspur - Photo by Tuan B

Fabulous blooms by Larkspur – Photo by Tuan B Photography

Mignonette designs - Photo by Cage & Aquarium

Mignonette designs – Photo by Cage & Aquarium

Punch by FIG Catering/Bowl from Nimble Well - Photo by Cage & Aquarium

Punch by FIG Catering/Bowl from Nimble Well – Photo by Cage & Aquarium


How do you have a wedding show that doesn’t fit the mold? Start with a group of wedding vendors that break it! Committed is not only the name of the show and a reference to the act of marriage, it expresses the commitment of people who care about their crafts, their clients, and about making our world a better place through their practices. That passionate ethos alone makes Committed a show unlike any other.
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Cake toppers from Luscious Layers - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Cake toppers from Luscious Layers – Photo by Tuan B Photography


But this ethos that makes a difference is understated. It is offered as a reassurance to those who share our values and an invitation to those who are open to consider. Few ‘green’ flags were waved and the mental images of the experience did not all have a green hue. The tone wasn’t hippie-dippy or “granola,” but rather offered professional vendors who just happened to be eco-friendly.
Yum by Pure Kitchen Catering - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Yum by Pure Kitchen Catering – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Elotes from Goose Island Catering - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Elotes from Goose Island Catering – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

The real banner waving over Committed was the banner of having a good time. It was that vibe that really shattered the tired dynamic of a typical ‘trade show.’ Creative genius that could be seen, heard, touch, smelled, and tasted was prominent. Each vendor offered unique contributions to making a wedding the unique experience it should be – DJs laid down beats, taste buds were tantalized by caterers and sweet vendors, boozy drinks were poured, and visual treats abounded. And, best of all, no high pressured sales…the lives of couples planning weddings don’t need any more anxiety! Instead Committed exuded a laid back, chill vibe committed to having fun. Whether it was in the rumpus room with the DIY activities, posing for photos with fun head-ware, making your own hot chocolate marvel, or interacting with competent and eco-responsible wedding vendors, Committed was the party intended to help you make your weddings the party of your lifetime (and allow you to do it a little greener).

Wedding ring toss with Catalyst Ranch - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Wedding ring toss with Catalyst Ranch – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Dancing - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Dancing – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Viewmaster with Greenhouse Loft - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Viewmaster with Greenhouse Loft – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Our one nod to greenness - explaining how we composted with Collective Resource

Our one nod to greenness – explaining how we composted with Collective Resource

Committed 2014: A review

by Tom Maluga, from Celebrate Your Love

Sign at Greenhouse Loft - Photo by Tuan Bui

Sign at Greenhouse Loft – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Well if you didn’t make it to Committed, the CGWA’s wedding show last month, you missed out. I am a new member to the group and didn’t participate this year, but decided to attend to see what it was all about. And, let me tell you Committed broke the mold of a wedding show.

Fabulous blooms by Larkspur - Photo by Tuan B

Fabulous blooms by Larkspur – Photo by Tuan B Photography

Mignonette designs - Photo by Cage & Aquarium

Mignonette designs – Photo by Cage & Aquarium

Punch by FIG Catering/Bowl from Nimble Well - Photo by Cage & Aquarium

Punch by FIG Catering/Bowl from Nimble Well – Photo by Cage & Aquarium


How do you have a wedding show that doesn’t fit the mold? Start with a group of wedding vendors that break it! Committed is not only the name of the show and a reference to the act of marriage, it expresses the commitment of people who care about their crafts, their clients, and about making our world a better place through their practices. That passionate ethos alone makes Committed a show unlike any other.
66_022314

71_022314

09_022314

Cake toppers from Luscious Layers - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Cake toppers from Luscious Layers – Photo by Tuan B Photography


But this ethos that makes a difference is understated. It is offered as a reassurance to those who share our values and an invitation to those who are open to consider. Few ‘green’ flags were waved and the mental images of the experience did not all have a green hue. The tone wasn’t hippie-dippy or “granola,” but rather offered professional vendors who just happened to be eco-friendly.
Yum by Pure Kitchen Catering - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Yum by Pure Kitchen Catering – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Elotes from Goose Island Catering - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Elotes from Goose Island Catering – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Photo by Cage + Aquarium

Photo by Cage + Aquarium

The real banner waving over Committed was the banner of having a good time. It was that vibe that really shattered the tired dynamic of a typical ‘trade show.’ Creative genius that could be seen, heard, touch, smelled, and tasted was prominent. Each vendor offered unique contributions to making a wedding the unique experience it should be – DJs laid down beats, taste buds were tantalized by caterers and sweet vendors, boozy drinks were poured, and visual treats abounded. And, best of all, no high pressured sales…the lives of couples planning weddings don’t need any more anxiety! Instead Committed exuded a laid back, chill vibe committed to having fun. Whether it was in the rumpus room with the DIY activities, posing for photos with fun head-ware, making your own hot chocolate marvel, or interacting with competent and eco-responsible wedding vendors, Committed was the party intended to help you make your weddings the party of your lifetime (and allow you to do it a little greener).

Wedding ring toss with Catalyst Ranch - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Wedding ring toss with Catalyst Ranch – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Dancing - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Dancing – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Viewmaster with Greenhouse Loft - Photo by Tuan B Photography

Viewmaster with Greenhouse Loft – Photo by Tuan B Photography


Our one nod to greenness - explaining how we composted with Collective Resource

Our one nod to greenness – explaining how we composted with Collective Resource

Cheers for Bridetoberfest!

This post is a little late but we’re still buzzing over here at the CGWA about Bridetoberfest. What a fun night! Thanks to all who came out and to everyone involved.

If you didn’t make it over to the DANK Haus in October to celebrate with us, you missed some good beers and brats! We had nine breweries in the mix serving up some seriously delicious beers—some of which Chicago had never untapped before! We also had our CGWA approved caterers and sweeties serving the best Oktoberfest style foods.

Bridetoberfest_14 Bridetoberfest_12 Bridetoberfest_15 Bridetoberfest_17 Bridetoberfest_18 Bridetoberfest_19 Bridetoberfest_20 Bridetoberfest_21 Bridetoberfest_25 Bridetoberfest_22

Our planning lounge was a huge hit too. Couples got the chance to walk around in the lounge area and get ideas for their wedding or shop vendors without being “sold” to. This was great for the couple that wants to meet cool vendors who are green and non-traditional, but doesn’t want to experience the hustle and bustle of a formal wedding show.

Bridetoberfest_08 Bridetoberfest_01 Bridetoberfest_02 Bridetoberfest_03 Bridetoberfest_04 Bridetoberfest_07 Bridetoberfest_09 Bridetoberfest_10 Bridetoberfest_11

Cage and Aquarium kept the night alive with their tunes and helped us make some very important announcements. You see, not only did we have food and drink Fit for a King, we also had a pretty sweet raffle! We announced winners every hour and some lucky couples took home hundreds of dollars worth of goodies. From Parisian earrings and engagement sessions to sauerkraut kits and beer, we had something for everyone.

Best of all, our event was nearly zero waste with Collective Resource composting all disposables, food, and even the décor! The next show is not to be missed. Just check out all these photos from Allison Williams Photography!

Bridetoberfest_13 Bridetoberfest_23 Bridetoberfest_24

Our brewery lineup:

Goose Island Brewery, Revolution Brewing, Tighthead Brewing, Two Brothers Brewing, Metropolitan Brewing, Half Acre Beer Company, Finch’s Beer Co., Lakefront Brewery, 3 Sheeps Brewing

Our eats and sweets vendors:

FIG Catering, Goose Island Catering, Pure Kitchen Catering, Katherine Anne Confections, Luscious Layers

Other vendors seen at Bridetoberfest:

Beauty- Karen Marie Salon, Noktivo Salon & Spa

Décor- Nimble Well, Chicago Vintage Weddings, Art of Imagination

Dress and accessories- Simply Wood Rings, Mignonette Bridal

Favors- Bright Endeavors

Flowers- Pollen, Larkspur

Photographers- Serendipity Portraits, Allison Williams Photography, Tuan H. Bui Photographer, Heather DeCamp Photography, The Way We Click Photography

Planners- Lisa Gordon Events, Naturally Yours Events

Stationery- Spilled Ink Press, Tweedle Press

Venues- Catalyst Ranch, Loft on Lake, Greenhouse Loft

Tips for Eco-Friendly Wedding Decor

by Lisa Gordon from Lisa Gordon Events

Since everyone is thinking about holiday parties now, I am revisiting some thoughts on eco-friendly wedding decor. You can adapt many of these ideas to any party, but since I have Channukkah and Christmas on the brain, I’ll start with them.

For decor that is environmentally friendly, I suggest using live plants. There are several traditional holiday plants (for example, miniature live pine trees, ivy, poinsettias, Christmas cactus) that could be part of holiday decor. Try juxtaposing a miniature red rose bush with English ivy for a festive centerpiece. For extra credit on the environmental side, look for live plants that have been grown locally and organically. Local greenhouses are a great place to find them. If you don’t want the plants at home after your party, be sure to send them home with guests who want them. Locally grown, organic flowers are always a sustainable choice. In the winter, that means greenhouse flowers, too. There are florists who specialize in local, organic flower arrangements, including members of the Green Wedding Alliance.
basil centerpiece
You’ll probably be looking for some candles for your festive table. Chicago Honey Co-op is a local organization that keeps bees and makes products, including beeswax candles, and Bright Endeavors provides job training for at-risk women and produces soy candles. Beeswax and soy are less polluting than petroleum-based wax candles, and coming from a local source makes it doubly eco-friendly. It also smells nice! If you are celebrating Chanukkah, beeswax Chanukkah candles are available in specialty shops and online, although I have yet to find any made locally.

In the last few years, LED holiday lights have really taken off. In my opinion, most of the white lights look too bluish to be very attractive, but the red, green, and real blue ones I have seen are quite nice, and the pale yellow ones are a fine substitute for white. LEDs use a tiny fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent lights, and they ought to last a very long time. Both those qualities make them environmentally friendly.

outdoor tablesFor any kind of party, any time of year, you can make your food part of your decorations. Edible centerpieces look nice and taste great. You can buy “flower” arrangements made of fruit, or create something yourself. Even something as simple as a basket of unshelled nuts or fresh fruit with a colorful napkin can provide both snacks and visual interest. If you’re playing dreidel, the unshelled nuts of your centerpiece can also be the “chips” in the game.

For eco-friendly food service, nothing beats real china, linen, silver, and glassware. Yes, it uses a lot of water to clean up after the party, but it is still a better eco choice than disposables. It also looks very festive. Compostable disposable dishes are another option, but you will probably have to pay a composting service in order to compost them. Most home compost piles are not hot enough to break them down.

But the most environmentally conscious thing you can do when decorating is remembering that less is more. The more new stuff you acquire and the more you have to throw away, the less eco-friendly your decorations will be. Consider renting large items, instead of buying them, if you are doing elaborate decorations. But if you do find yourself with decorations you don’t plan to use again, minimize their impact by either donating them to a second-hand shop or giving them away on your local Freecycle group.

Have happy and green celebrations!

Eco-friendly Decor

by Lisa Gordon from Lisa Gordon Events

Since everyone is thinking about holiday parties now, I am revisiting some thoughts on how to decorate for a party and still be green. You can adapt many of these ideas to any party, but since I have Channukkah and Christmas on the brain I’ll start with them.

For decor that is environmentally friendly, I suggest using live plants. There are several traditional holiday plants (for example, miniature live pine trees, ivy, poinsettias, Christmas cactus) that could be part of holiday decor. Try juxtaposing a miniature red rose bush with English ivy for a festive centerpiece. For extra credit on the environmental side, look for live plants that have been grown locally and organically. Local greenhouses are a great place to find them. If you don’t want the plants at home after your party, be sure to send them home with guests who want them. Locally grown, organic flowers are always a sustainable choice. In the winter, that means greenhouse flowers, too. There are florists who specialize in local, organic flower arrangements, including members of the Green Wedding Alliance.
basil centerpiece
You’ll probably be looking for some candles for your festive table. Chicago Honey Co-op is a local organization that keeps bees and makes products, including beeswax candles, and Bright Endeavors provides job training for at-risk women and produces soy candles. Beeswax and soy are less polluting than petroleum-based wax candles, and coming from a local source makes it doubly eco-friendly. It also smells nice! If you are celebrating Chanukkah, beeswax Chanukkah candles are available in specialty shops and online, although I have yet to find any made locally.

In the last few years, LED holiday lights have really taken off. In my opinion, most of the white lights look too bluish to be very attractive, but the red, green, and real blue ones I have seen are quite nice, and the pale yellow ones are a fine substitute for white. LEDs use a tiny fraction of the energy of traditional incandescent lights, and they ought to last a very long time. Both those qualities make them environmentally friendly.

outdoor tablesFor any kind of party, any time of year, you can make your food part of your decorations. Edible centerpieces look nice and taste great. You can buy “flower” arrangements made of fruit, or create something yourself. Even something as simple as a basket of unshelled nuts or fresh fruit with a colorful napkin can provide both snacks and visual interest. If you’re playing dreidel, the unshelled nuts of your centerpiece can also be the “chips” in the game.

For eco-friendly food service, nothing beats real china, linen, silver, and glassware. Yes, it uses a lot of water to clean up after the party, but it is still a better eco choice than disposables. It also looks very festive. Compostable disposable dishes are another option, but you will probably have to pay a composting service in order to compost them. Most home compost piles are not hot enough to break them down.

But the most environmentally conscious thing you can do when decorating is remembering that less is more. The more new stuff you acquire and the more you have to throw away, the less eco-friendly your decorations will be. Consider renting large items, instead of buying them, if you are doing elaborate decorations. But if you do find yourself with decorations you don’t plan to use again, minimize their impact by either donating them to a second-hand shop or giving them away on your local Freecycle group.

Have happy and green celebrations!