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Copyright © 2008
Express Publishing Inc
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The Sun Valley Guide magazine is distributed free four times a year to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area communities.

Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express newspaper will receive the Sun Valley Guide with their subscription.

Do habitat
party for the planet
Dana DuGan takes on the task of throwing an environmentally friendly party
writer: Dana DuGan
photographer: Thia Konig

With all the talk simmering about green this and green that, I figured someone ought to throw a green party (no, that old vote-splitter Ralph Nader wasn’t invited), just to see if it was possible. Since I’m not a fan of St. Patrick’s Day (in New York City, we used to call it "amateur day"), I didn’t want to wait for the obvious. Early December fit the bill and my calendar.

First, I considered what would be involved in hosting a green party, from invites to clothing to anything random that might impact the environment, negatively or positively. Reducing the energy expended on the party was the key to bringing it to fruition. So, determined to emit as little carbon as was feasibly possible, I went to work.

Using the online invitation service, to save paper, I suggested people arrive at 7:10 p.m., a reasonable time in my estimation. But people did inquire. Looking at it from a different perspective, upside down and backwards, it spelled OIL. This party was to be the opposite of oil, in all its negative, gas-guzzling terms.

Sorting out guest transportation in an area where residents are spread far apart was challenging. I knew that a line of SUVs and trucks parked outside my house would be the antithesis of green, so guests were requested to carpool or walk, and they did, overwhelmingly. On the day of the party, my husband was allowed only one combined grocery and liquor store run.

Food for this potluck affair needed to be brought in recyclable containers. I also suggested that those not be paper, plastic or styrofoam, so that, except for numerous wine bottles in the recycling bin the next day, there was very little trash of which to dispose.

No shoes were to be worn indoors, and people complied—one or two carried slippers with them. This eliminated the need for vacuuming after the party.

By the time the party began, soy and beeswax candles were lighted all over the house, replacing my energy inefficient light bulbs—although thankfully, as it was pretty dark, the front door light and the kitchen light remained on, as both are Energy Star compliant compact fluorescents.

So much for details, but what’s a party without music? I was dismayed late in the game to realize that turning on the stereo would be a drain on the electricity we had so far succeeded in carefully conserving. But it wasn’t a problem. We are blessed hereabouts with many professional and amateur musicians who love nothing better than taking over a porch or living room. Soon, percussive instruments, guitars, a mandolin, piano and out-of-tune voices provided music.

While party planning and execution took into account as many different environmentally friendly practices and savings as possible, it was the food that emerged as the shining green star of the party.

I had requested guests bring only edibles that were organic and locavore—Idaho grown or produced—thereby reducing the impact of chemicals on the land and reducing the amount of energy needed to get our food to us. Also, because I decided not to use plates or silverware, to avoid using the dishwasher, finger food was the order of the day. The only guest who took offense was a 3-year-old who just couldn’t get around doing something her parents had told her never to do, (eating without silverware from a communal dish). For her, I was forced to dig out a forbidden plate. At least she was comfortable, which is important for a tiny person in a room of giants.

For my contribution, I whipped up mini-crustless quiches using cheese from Gooding-based Ballard Dairy, local eggs, and herbs from my garden. I also invented a spaghetti squash bruscheta, purchased through Idaho’s Bounty (a regional food co-operative) with local tomatoes, herbs and an organic olive oil spread on Ketchum’s Big Wood Bakery bread.

Though people called at the last minute with questions about where to find locavore food, the contributions were inventive, and guests said they were surprised how much was available in local stores.

Among the dishes were carrots and tomatoes from Hagerman, organic corn tortilla chips and homemade green salsa made with vegetables from a garden north of Ketchum, a dip made from grilled Idaho salmon, and organic Montana buffalo meatballs. A hunter, who climbed 2,000 feet into the mountains for it, brought an offering of grilled Idaho venison and elk. There were deviled local eggs, smoked Idaho Trout, little roasted red potatoes from the Ketchum Farmers’ Market and Lava Lake Lamb bites.

Beverages were made from Blue Ice Vodka distilled in Driggs, Idaho, and wine included the Ketchum fermented and bottled Frenchman’s Gulch, as well as several excellent French organic wines. A keg of beer came from valley-based River Bend Brewing Company, one guest donated a bottle of homebrewed brown ale, and several bottles of Sun Valley Brewery Golden Ale rounded out the impressive local selection.

The party was a success. Enthusiastic folks moved with care through my crowded house, keeping everything body-heat warm so I could keep the thermostat low.

The next day my clean-up time was reduced due to my careful precautions. Environmentally friendly cleaning fluid made by Method and Seventh Generation, both available at local stores, did the trick in the somewhat discombobulated kitchen.

Feeling a bit smug with the success of my experiment, I vowed, as did others in their thank you notes ( does those, too) to do all future parties as green as possible, with the exception of St. Paddy’s Day on which I usually don purple.