Throw the best holiday party this year with ideas and tips from Hollywood event planner, April Luca.

Styrofoam plates, plastic cutlery, tossed out leftovers, cheap and disposable decorations, a new dress and a pair of shoes to match...The list of wasteful party practices could go on and on. What you might be thinking next is common. You’re used to these conveniences, or habits when it comes to having get-togethers, and now you don’t know how to change.

This time of year is already stressful enough, but you don’t have to let throwing a less wasteful party add to your fears and anxieties--these sustainable holiday party ideas are designed to be intuitive while bringing you back to the roots of a simpler time. And simple is a really good thing.

Meet April Luca, a Hollywood event planner who also happens to have a degree in Environmental Science. That might sound like an oxymoron at first, given tinsel town’s reputation for lavish spending and excess waste, but Luca’s work through her company, Gold Sky Productions, with clients like Variety, Vanity Fair, Disney, Essence, and Ford has taught her something very valuable: You don’t need a lot to have a lot.

April Luca

April Luca, event planner and owner of Gold Sky Productions

To adopt a more eco-friendly lifestyle, Luca explains that many of her business’s items are designed for multi-use. She also makes it a point to focus on eco-friendly printing and encourages her clients to “use credentials made of compostable or recycled materials versus the standard laminated type.”

Luca believes “many holiday traditions have been turned into disposable consumption-based traditions,” making them “wasteful, unnecessary and toxic,” and that the “holidays can easily be celebrated with minimal waste and maximal enjoyment with friends and family.”

Sustainable holiday party ideas thrown Luca’s way ensures they’ll never be bland, expensive, high-tech, or restricted in beliefs. Instead, her tips are designed to help you think and grow organically in a way that Luca says dates back to the way her grandparents did things in Italy, before coming to the U.S.--they grew and ate almost everything they consumed. And while you don’t have to take it quite to that degree (Not that anyone is stopping you!), the basis of so many of these tips are drawn from local, homemade efforts with a highly personalized, loved, and lived-in feel.

The Invitations

You know, you know, go with the digital invite. It saves trees, cuts down on waste, etc., etc. But not so fast! Luca offered up two ideas that can be personalized to fit your style and holiday party’s theme. She “always suggests plantable paper as a really fantastic option for hard stock invites.” And also suggested the idea of creating a keepsake invitation that your guests can hold on to for years to come, like an ornament.

The Menu

When it comes to sustainable holiday party ideas, Luca supports the belief that buying and eating locally-grown food, second to growing your own, is still the best option for lowering the environmental impact. She also recommends to “buy in bulk and bring reusable containers for purchases.”

When it comes to guests, Luca suggests asking them to bring their own “to-go” containers, and reminds us all to invest in reusable glass or metal straw for drinks.

As far as spirits, wine, and beer are concerned, shop around at a local winery or brewery and do a little background check on your favorite liquor. You may find that there’s an equally yummy sustainable version available for the swap.

The Decor

Rather than purchase plastic ornaments, garland, and other odds and ends, Luca recommends decking your halls with the beauty of Mother Nature. “Especially handy for winter holiday decor,” she says, “use items from nature, your yard, the beach, [and] the woods.”

Incorporate spending time with family and loved ones making a few things for your home. And if you don’t have time for DIYs, she suggests hitting up your local neighborhood specialty markets to support local and small business and artisans.

Create a simple seasonal veggie display with gourds and squashes that can be cooked later, gather some shiny fruit and place it in a decorative bowl, and/or bundle herbs and tie them with a strand of jute. In addition to those holiday party ideas, Luca also suggests drawing inspiration from potted plants, fir trees, acorns, maple leaves, branches, and even simple stones as table decor. Near the beach? No problem. She says a mix of shells and local fauna will work just fine.

The Venue

If you’re hosting at home, Luca suggests using soy or beeswax candles whenever possible for lighting, and switching to LED bulbs where you cannot. Maybe you aren’t able to host the party at home. In this case, Luca says there are many venues you can rent that are sustainability-savvy, including one she recommends in Brooklyn, 1 Hotel.

The Gifts

Sometimes parties have games, contests, or gift exchanges which warrants a prize or present for guests. If this is the case at your get-together, Luca says she is “a fan of things that are consumable, like desserts, freshly baked mini loaves, locally sourced or homemade jam in reusable glass jars, and infused cooking oils,” adding, “If you are handy in the kitchen you can even make your own!”

For larger presents, Luca prefers to give the gift of experiences--membership to a local garden, tickets to the theater, or a day at a sustainable winery. And, of course, she believes that charitable gifts always have a place in holiday gift giving.

Luca made it a point to mention the wastefulness of holiday wardrobes, and she’s so right! There is always a little extra pressure this time of year to buy something new to wear. Instead, she suggests you get creative and look through your closet first to see if there is a new combination you can come up with.

Vintage necklaces, scarves, or a wrap can make a plain dress look spectacular. She also suggests asking a friend to swap outfits before the parties begin, or consider purchasing something new from a conscious clothing company, like Reformation, Amour Vert, Stella McCartney, Edun, United by Blue, H&M Conscious.

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