Party Time!

Throwing spa soirees that don't rain on Mother Nature's parade

With the holidays looming and Autumn leaves blowing, it's prime time to show off your spa's festive spirit and entice more visitors through special events. Whether you're throwing an evening cocktail soirée, weekend showcase of mini-services or savoring every lingering drop of warm weather with a picnic in your spa's garden, there are smart ways to fête while still preserving the environment—and without turning eco-savvy party-goers off. The following tips are designed help you, your staff and your guests revel responsibly.

1. Embrace Internet invites. Today's consumers are more likely to religiously check their inboxes than to sort through snail mail. In addition to email and social media event alerts, you can class it up via evite and other free, online invitation services. These also allow you to track RSVPs in one place.

2. Investigate recycling options beforehand. If your spa relies on curbside recycling, you may want to stick to the basics of what's collected—glass, aluminum, steel food cans and plastic bottles. If you're willing to take event waste to a community drop-off recycling center, you may find that in addition, corrugated cardboard, paperboard, mixed paper, batteries and other materials can be recycled. You can find out what's recyclable in any area nationwide by calling 800.CLEANUP. Wherever there's a container for trash, also place a container for recyclables. Don't already have them? They can be purchased inexpensively at retail outlets such as Wal-Mart.

3. When planning your menu, think organic, locally grown fare. Also consider vegetarian choices, which help reduce the environmental impact on water, energy and soil. If the party's outside, consider serving finger foods to eliminate the necessity of utensils. If you do include other foods, use reusable utensils, dishes and flatware. Your guests will appreciate it!

4. No dishwasher? Opt for paper plates and cups. Paper can be composted; even if you throw it away, it won't take as long to break down as polystyrene (one of the most widely used forms of plastic). You can also purchase recycled-content paper napkins and plates. Or, consider using materials made from a biodegradable cornstarch composite, which actually dissolves after use.

5. Serve beverages in communal containers. Think punch bowls, pitchers or urns (they also may amp up your party's social factor). If individual beverages must be served, choose recyclable containers—aluminum cans or plastic liters—and nix the straws. Same goes for condiments such as sugar, honey, mustard or relish. Serve them in bulk containers rather than individual packets. Eliminate plastic or wooden stirrers; use a few spoons instead.

6. If you cater your event, request durable goods—flatware, napkins and tablecloths—and ask ahead of time about recycling arrangements. If they won't accommodate you, there are most likely other outfits in your community that will. Shop around.

7. Employ simple decorations that can be reused for other occasions. Consider using live plants rather than cut flowers. If you must have bouquets, donate leftover arrangements to hospitals, nursing homes or shelters; or compost them for garden use. Using locally grown flowers also reduces energy and pollution costs.

8. Memorialize parties digitally. If you're snapping your own photos, avoid using disposable cameras. If your event calls for special equipment, check first with neighboring businesses to see whether you can use borrowed, rented or secondhand items before purchasing anything new.

Know of any other strategies for throwing a spa bash for (and by) greenies? We'd love to hear them! Please email koreilly@creativeage.com.