Friday, January 11, 2008

Ringing in a green new year

Ringing in a green new year

How to celebrate in style while treading lightly on the planet

Published on December 23, 2007

Being green is cool this season. Shrug off comments from friends that you're eco-crazy and remember that it's better to be conscious about the environment than destroy the earth. And it's always best to sustain good habits and extend them to as many aspects of life as possible.

This week, as we say farewell to the old year and welcome in the new, experts in different fields share their ideas on how to throw a perfect party while simultaneously reducing our carbon footprint.

Asst Prof Singh Intrachooto

Design director of Osisu, and head of Kasetsart University's Department of Building Technology, Faculty of Architecture

Singh envisages an environ-mentally friendly and romantic party in an old barn or semi-derelict warehouse, ideally by the river.

"I'd use somewhere like this to remind people of the many existing places that aren't being efficiently utilised at the moment," says the environmentally friendly designer of the year.

"Why should we keep on building new places? Besides, large spaces like these are usually naturally ventilated."

Singh's ideal get-together would begin after sunset as the heat of the day dies down. A candle-lit party would soothe guests, with a small classical ensemble or musicians strumming acoustic tunes.

"As you walk into the large hall, you'll see tables lined up - about 20 - metres of them - piled with lots of different fruits and a centrepiece that shows off the vibrant colours of nature. Every couple of metres, the table is dotted with candles, along with cutting boards and peelers," he says.

Blenders and ice buckets are conveniently located on the table, easily accessible by everyone. Guests help themselves to fruit or blend juices to taste.

"Walking, chatting, dancing to the music, everyone gets to enjoy fresh, natural flavours without damaging the health of the earth."

Saengprateep Kaewsakorn

Senior stylist of Health & Cuisine Magazine

Saengprateep suggests throwing an extraordinary outdoor party at home and making use of your own resources wherever possible.

"Home is the best place for family gatherings. You don't need to commute and that saves on fuel consumption," says the stylist, who also writes a column on food presentation.

With the breeze providing the ventilation, and lots of small candle lanterns, you can enjoy a simple and meaningful party while helping to cut carbon emissions.

"Use what you have. Those dishes, glasses and plates in your cabinets will take on a new look under candlelight. No other decorative props are necessary."

For eating, she suggests going for raw and light foods.

"Instead of stews or steaks, which need a lot of energy to produce and process, choose fresh salads with innovative but easy dressings, or brown rice with Thai chilli dips and raw green vegetables grown in your backyard, and fruit juice or cocktails for drinks."

Otherwise, try a New Year brunch party after a merit-making trip to offer food to monks in the early morning of the first day of the year.

"A party doesn't necessarily have to be held at night. A small brunch is also a fantastic way to welcome 2008."

Sutthipong "Karb" Suriya

Food stylist for Karb Style

Noted food stylist Sutthipong, or Karb as he's known to friends and customers, takes the green-party concept quite literally.

"Everything has to be green," he laughs, "from what the guests wear to the drinks."

To Karb, "going green" means opting for health, well-being, harmony and an organic diet, and he likes to wear his heart on his sleeve.

As a result, his green party agenda combines not just food and health but also style. He's tested the formula on a number of occasions and it works.

First and foremost, the party venue must soothe the senses, so opt for a place that's relaxing, comfy, and spacious enough to offer guests a buffer for their personal space. The dining area should be set apart from the party zone.

"It has to be easy to move around. So it's wiser to use sofa beds rather than chairs," he says.

Health must be reflected in the menu, he notes, with vegetables given pride of place and offered alongside chicken, fish and seasonal seafood. Steaks should be avoided because they take longer to digest, put a strain on the system and sap energy from the fun atmosphere.

Guests should add to the green by mixing red and white into their clothing choices, colours that stimulate both the tastebuds and the party mood.

And don't focus just on eating, he warns. Devise some games. Ask the guests to bring a present worth no more than Bt200 to go into a draw. "That will help jazz up the party. A draw is always fun."

For kitchenware, he suggests the corn-fibre cutlery made by Kasetsart University - both chemical-free and biodegradable.

And don't go overboard by inviting too many guests. A small group of 10 to 15 people makes for a good party.

"Remember, every guest needs the same amount of attention. You need to respect them equally," Karb says.

Thitinant Sristhita

Author of "Loke Ron: Took Sing Ti Rao Tham Plean Plang Lok Samuer" ("Global Warming: Everything We Do Can Change the World")

Partygoers should think about car pooling as a way to counter global warming, says Thitinant.

"Or party organisers could urge their guests to use public transport by making a game out of it. For example, show your transport tickets and get a gift," advises the writer, who says she got the idea from eco-concerts abroad where artists encourage the audiences to care for the environment.

Go local, she adds. "Skip imported produce like foie gras, salmon or Alaska crab. Visit a local market, preferably one that has organic farm products. Apart from being fresh and pesticide-free, locally grown organic products have to be transported much shorter distances so less fuel is involved in getting food to your table."

Food, she thinks, is one item where party-givers can do a great deal to help save the earth. "Try focusing more on seasonal vegetables and fruits than on meat. For a cow to gain one kilogram, it needs to consume 15kg of vegetables," explains Thitinant, who works for the Green World Foundation in Thailand.

For decoration, try a flowerpot as a centrepiece instead of cut flowers. "Just use fewer props that are non-reusable," she suggests.

And last but not least, "Don't forget to bring your own tiffin so you can take home untouched food without having to resort to plastic bags."


Former Green Peace activist

Gift also suggests holding your year-end party al fresco.

"Being outdoors saves on energy. Even in the cool season, indoor parties usually mean turning on the aircon. Think of it as saving on electricity bills," she says.

Gift acknowledges that the space may need to be large if you're catering for several people but says the venue shouldn't be too hard to find if you look around.

Foodwise, she recommends going veggie. Bring in a big supply of fresh organic vegetables, preferably locally grown so as to avoid costly logistical issues. Other chemical-free ingredients are also welcome.

"Foods available in your neighbourhood are not expensive, unlike those transported from afar. By opting for vegetarian dishes, you are not overloading the environment with chemicals. Ultimately you are not contributing to global warming too," she emphasises.

Gift doesn't subscribe to the evergreen idea that recyclable, reusable accessories are the ultimate solution, pointing out that the reprocessing itself uses a great deal of water and electricity. Some kitchen products made with paper may look eco-friendly compared to plastic, but they still involve the cutting of more trees. She suggests more eco-friendly forest products like bamboo tubes for making cups and banana leaves for packaging.

"Paper products made from bamboo fibre are okay though as they are biodegradable."

Don't forget His Majesty the King's sufficiency philosophy, she offers, and remember that a green party need not be expensive.

Aree Chaisatien,

Manote Tripathi

The Nation

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