By Ryan Elizabeth Cope –
This winter, instead of reaching for the easy option or quickest option, take a pause and give this idea a try: don’t make excuses; make plans. Plans are what allow us to commit to ideas and follow them through. In the world of low-waste living, plans are essential, however annoying or time-consuming they might be. When a plan becomes a routine, it becomes embedded in the fabric of our being and this is where habits are formed. This is the birthplace of consistent, low-waste living: plans, routine, habits.
Low-waste living feels easy when life feels easy: warmer temps, abundant farmer’s markets, easy bike riding, extra time to ponder zero-waste meals and get-togethers, and warm, productive compost heaps easily turned by human hands or chicken scratching. In the winter, at least here in Canada, low-waste living can start to feel a bit like, well, a chore. People retreat, snow makes for tricky commutes, the chickens stay inside, food is harder to keep warm, and our ideas of tables bursting with vibrant, colourful meals are met with a reality that is not as vividly colourful once local food boundaries and packaging-free options are taken into consideration.
But what of the low-waster who is eager to gather her friends and celebrate the coming of cozy winter months with a party as spangled as the average company office party, minus the mess, waste, and Costco cake?
All it takes is a little planning, some bravery, and a team. This winter try these tricks to ensure your snowy get-together, whether it be a weekend getaway in the wintery woods, a glitzy home holiday party, or a board game night with friends, is waste-less yet beautiful and abundant to boot.
Figure out the food. One of the trickiest aspects of party-creation is the food, and this is where many of us fall down when it comes to planning any kind of winter escapade. Without a plan, and particularly when hosting a gathering at a remote location, the easy route is often the most wasteful, full of chip bags and plastic-wrapped veggies from who-knows-where. Plan ahead. Buy in bulk (BYO Bag, of course), meal prep before leaving the comfort of your own home, and shop seasonally to avoid excessive food waste. The fresher the food, even if it’s all squash, all the time, will mean your food can handle some travel time before being turned into delicious pie, stew, or dip.
Delegate. Parties are for everyone so spread the love. Hire a caterer, assign dishes and desserts to friends, and make it a real team effort. Doing this will also ease your brain and allow you to think about other things, like how you’ll convince your friends not to bring plastic-wrapped cookies to your low-waste party.
Invite pals, establish ground rules, but also relax. One thing is clear about winter gatherings: they often have a mind of their own. Maybe it’s because in the winter, we’re all typically crammed into one space, versus flowing breezily from the outdoors in, but gather anything more than 10 adults in one space in the middle of a blizzard, and things happen despite our best laid plans. Upon inviting your friends to your snowy spectacle, kindly remind them that yours will be a low-waste affair with suggestions about options they can bring.
Favour natural materials for your decorations. Winterberry, pussy willow branches, dried grasses, cedar boughs, and other natural delights are abundant in our beautiful province of BC. Of course, harvest with respect, acknowledge the natural world around you, or better yet: host your gathering outside.
Gift the gift of space and time. Hosting a gathering, no matter the size, is an opportunity for your friends to be together. That is a gift most precious in an age where our attention is constantly being pulled in many directions. By creating the space for community, you are giving the ultimate gift.
Gatherings in the winter are special. They feel different, cozier, more thoughtful. Waste shouldn’t get in the way of having a good time and with a little planning, your low-waste parties will become the new-norm.
Ryan Elizabeth Cope is a Kelowna, BC-based advocate for plastic-less, healthful living. She blogs at Seven in the Ocean (sevenintheocean.com) where she marries her love of food with her disdain for plastic-wrapped garbage.
Homemade Almond Joy
A recipe for a low-waste sweet-treat!
I came across this recipe nine years ago in a fit of frustration at all the overly processed, excessively packaged candy that is typically found at a grocery store. All I wanted was to do was make candy, as simply as possible. After eating just one homemade Almond Joy, you’ll never want to buy the candy again. To make this a truly low-waste treat, purchase all ingredients in bulk or in glass jars.
1 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
4 egg whites (or, use 4 Tbsp golden flaxseed meal combined with 6 Tbsp water)
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 oz whole roasted almonds (unsalted)
6 oz dark chocolate chips
½ stick butter (or Earth Balance)
Optional: paraffin wax (1 Tbsp shaved or enough to keep chocolate glossy-looking)
- Mix coconut, sugar, flour, and salt in a saucepan.
- In a bowl, combine egg whites (or flax meal/water) with honey and whisk until foamy.
- Add egg mixture to the saucepan containing the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly with a rubber spatula. Add in vanilla.
- Cook over medium-high heat until batter thickens slightly and takes on a little colour, about 10 minutes. Stir constantly to prevent sticking.
- Remove from heat.When batter is cool enough to handle, form spoonfuls into oval bars. Lightly press two whole almonds into the top of each bar. Place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Allow bars to cool at room temp.
- While bars are cooling, combine chocolate, butter and wax in a double boiler. Allow the chocolate to melt slowly, mixing it with butter and wax.
- Drizzle melted chocolate over the bars so that the tops are completely coated. Chill the bars in the fridge until they’ve firmed up a little and then dig in!