If you're hosting a party and you want to ride the leading edge of the greening trend, there are a number of ways you can make your celebration "green," or more ecologically-sound. From the ingredients you choose to the farms you patronize, remember that your money is going towards making the world a better place–and you get to choose exactly how it happens!

The Green movement is gaining popularity, and for good reason. This isn't about hippies throwing potlucks in their parents' back yard. Organic, sustainable food is now the focus of a growing number of gourmet restaurants and major chains. Supermarkets and food vendors everywhere, from upscale supermarkets to your local Wal Mart, have embraced the growing "green" trend and are now offering organic, sustainable product lines. This is great news for the couple looking to make their wedding more earth-friendly; you now have more options than ever.

Organic Food

Organic foods use ingredients that haven't been farmed with synthetic pesticides or fertilizers. They haven't been genetically modified or irradiated, and are allowed to develop naturally. Believe it or not, foods grown like this are actually are quite different than inorganic foods. For example, inorganic potatoes grow fewer "eyes" and are harder to sprout in a garden, whereas organic potatoes will easily grow new potatoes if they're planted in your yard. If you want to feel like the food you're eating is more "natural," going organic is your best bet.

Does it have to say "organic" to be safe? Not exactly. Since the "organic" label is highly regulated and expensive to attain, many smaller farms opt out of the certification process, even though their foods are, essentially, organic. Look for labels that say "pesticide free," "non-GMO," and "hormone free." Look for specific promises, though, and don't be fooled by the words, "all-natural." This phrase is very common and isn't as strictly regulated as you may think. The most important thing is to know the farmer who's providing the food. If you can call them, or speak to a representative at your local farmer's market, you should be able to get answers to the questions you find most important.

Sustainable caterers will usually have existing connections to organic farmers or wholesalers, so before you do any heavy research, ask your caterers. If they seem knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the topic and they can answer your questions easily, you'll know you've found the right person.

Local Ingredients

When you choose caterers that use local, in-season ingredients, you'll enjoy several advantages. First, the food doesn't have to be shipped long distances. That means it will arrive fresher and taste better. Second, not shipping the food as far means that you'll reduce the amount of fossil fuels that need to be burned to make your catering possible. A smaller carbon footprint means a greener, happier party! As a final advantage, you'll also be keeping your money in your own community. By bolstering the local economy, everyone will benefit; including you!

Cruelty-Free

Even if your feast isn't vegan or vegetarian, it can still feature animals that were raised humanely. Look for farms that raise their animals (both meat and dairy animals) in free-range conditions and with natural diets that simulate what the animals would be eating in the wild. Look for cage free animals that aren't raised in overcrowded conditions; it means they won't get sick as often. Healthier meat is healthier for you, and better tasting, too.

Serving Style

Green catering isn't just about the menu items. Look for companies that don't use plastic or disposable supplies. Reusable is the key word in all areas, including serving dishes, silverware, tablecloths, glasses, and table settings. Ask your caterer or party rental company if they wash their dishes and linens with biodegradable soap, if you want to be thorough.

Another way you can go green is by reducing waste after the event. Look for caterers who recycle–or, better yet, who compost. If food kitchens near you allow donations of prepared food, you may want to donate any extra platters that weren't served at your party. You can also encourage guests to leave with extras of any dishes they enjoyed; now there's a party favor they're guaranteed to enjoy!

Reasonable Prices

Just because a catering company calls themselves "green," it shouldn’t mean they can quadruple their prices. High quality food is more expensive than fast food, true, but you don’t have to spend a fortune. Look for ways to conserve your budget by asking your caterer what ingredients are in-season. Often, there will be a surplus of a particular ingredient and you'll be able to craft a menu that features it. If you look for caterers who use food from their own gardens, the price is often cheaper, as well.

Keep in mind that the food ingredients only make up a modest portion of a catering company's overall cost, so you may be able to save money by shopping around and comparing prices for different levels of service. (And if you want to feel especially good about the money you spend on healthy fare, you can always factor in the amount you'll save on medical bills later in life!) When you put forth the effort to create a sustainable, healthy, planet-friendly party, you'll be sure to impress your guests. Anyone who can't make it will go "green" with envy!

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