Happy Green Halloween!

by Tiffany Harelik

Halloween is a fun time of the year to ring in fall flavors and have parties.  Whether young or young at heart, there are several things you can do this year to make your Halloween celebrations climate neutral and earth-friendly.

Costumes:

  • Reuse: Organize a costume swap pre-Halloween party
  • Recycle: Get crafty and turn existing clothing into a costume – search “DIY costumes”for ideas

Decorations:

  • Wrap LED Christmas lights around a pumpkin and line the walkway to your front door
  • Remove seeds from a pumpkin (put aside to toast with olive oil and salt).  Wipe interior shell of the pumpkin out with vinegar.  Place a blooming potted plant inside and tie a ribbon around the belly of the pumpkin.

Entertaining:

  • Use glassware to entertain at parties.  Or if you are using themed plastic, consider washing and saving for next year’s Halloween.
  • Have a recycle bin present at your celebrations.
  • Compost food wastes into your fall garden.

Recipes:

Garden Craft:

  • Remove the top of a healthy pumpkin, leaving seeds inside.  Fill with good dirt, and a little water.  This creates a self-containing pumpkin patch.

Give treats that don’t have excessive packaging:

  • Fruit comes in it’s own biodegradable casing and doesn’t require extra plastic bags.  Ex: oranges, apples, bananas.
  • Consider giving out non-food treat ideas that aren’t wasteful (ex: crayons)

More fun sources we found to help you have a Green Halloween: 

Take this quiz to see how Green your Halloween truly is via Planet Green.

Here is a great big list of healthy and earth-friendly treat alternatives for a “Green Halloween.” Follow them on twitter at @greenhalloween

Thanks to @GetGreenBeWell, the 28-day Green-Your-Halloween Challenge has started.  Check out some of their ideas for a greener Halloween.

TreeHugger is one of our favorite go-to sites for useful environmental information.  Here is their take on how to have a Green Halloween.

Eco-Reads for the Summer


by Tiffany Harelik

Hopefully you’ll have some time this summer to grab a good book and read.  In no particular order, here are some eco-reads hot on our list to dive into:

Hot, Flat and Crowded – Why we need a green revolution and how it can renew America

Eco Chic – Guide to making your next vacation environmentally responsible by staying in eco spas and hotels

GrassRoutes – City guides for where to find the businesses that are locally owned and environmentally responsible

Ecotourists Save the World – The environmental volunteer’s guide to more than 300 international adventures to conserve, preserve, and rehabilitate wildlife and habitats

Gunfight at the Eco CorralWestern Cinema and the Environment

Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment

Natural Swimming Pools

by Tiffany Harelik

With summer started, many eco-conscious families are interested in ways to transform their current pools into a more natural environment for swimming. Natural swimming pools utilize native plants in an aquatic garden to circulate the water and keep everything fresh, clean and clear.  These are a little different than the increasingly popular saltwater pools.  The modern trend in natural pools is to replace chemicals and filters with elements from Mother Nature.

Perhaps our ancestors would be laughing that we are seeking out natural swimming pools for our homes since there are so many natural wonders available. If you want to spend more time in the water instead of cleaning it this summer, here are some reasons you might want to consider building a natural pool.

Benefits of a natural pool:

1. Low maintenance: let Mother Nature do the work
2. Costs less: no electricity, plumbing, chemicals
3. Green: healthy for all the plants and organisms in the pond
4. Nature sounds: improve your feng shui

Pro-tips:

1.  Keep your planting zone equal in area to swimming zone
2. Use a variety of water garden plants to keep the space aerated, warm, safe for an animal habitat and beautiful
3. Even though plants are great natural filters, many natural pools will still require an underwater aeration system to keep the water from becoming stagnant

You can also swim at these natural beauties this summer in Central Texas:

1. Barton Springs
2. Deep Eddy
3. Hamilton Pools
4. Krause Springs
5. Blue Hole

We liked what Travel + Leisure had to say about America’s Best Swimming Holes:

1. Havasu Falls (Arizona)
2. Peekamoose Blue Hole (New York)
3. Little River Canyon (Alabama)
4. Carlon Falls (California)

International Compost Awareness Week: May 6-12

by Tiffany Harelik

Let this picture help you see the benefits of composting: the field on the left has utilized compost, the field on the right has not.

Many farmers are weighing the financial benefits of switching from manmade fertilizers to natural compost.  In an article on composting rules in the Southwest, one farmer reports saving nearly $100,000 on his fertilizer bill because of having switched to compost.

This May 6-12 is National Composting Awareness Week.  Although there are several varieties, “compost” is a general reference for decomposed organic material.  We have put together some compelling reasons to compost, a quick guide to getting started, and a fun activity for the next generation of conservationists.

WHY COMPOST?*

  • replenishes nutrients from food waste back into food-growing Earth
  • improves soil pH
  • provides beneficial microorganisms to the soil which helps suppress plant diseases
  • improves soil structure to make a better environment for roots and prevents erosion
  • manages moisture by reducing need for irrigation
  • creates more drought resistance
  • mitigates climate change
  • reduces water pollution through pollution prevention, bioremediation, and stormwater management

HOW TO GET STARTED: COMPOSTING 101

Howtocompost.org gives some great tips for the new composter.  Here are a few they recommend:
  • “Gather all grass clippings and green yard waste but be sure to mix with the “brown” materials like leaves and shredded paper to add carbon. You will need both, but if you only add grass clippings your pile will compact and start to stink.
  • Do not compost meats or pet droppings. Stick with food scraps and yard waste only.
  • Avoid all pesticides and/or herbicide treated material.
  • Turn your pile as often as you can. Each time you turn it will speed up the process.
  • Keep your compost damp but not wet. As you add material to your pile make sure that each layer is moist as it is added. During the summer your pile will dry out and the composting process will slow down.
  • Add compost to your garden a few weeks before you plant. Let the compost have a chance to work into the soil. Try to mix it in and let it sit before you plant.
  • Bugs, worms and most bugs are ok. No need to go crazy trying to keep bugs out of your compost.
  • Since the compost process works best at temperature between 120 and 150 degrees composting in the warmer months is easier to do, if this is your first attempt at composting best to try in the summer.”

For the serious composter, check out this article on composting toilets.

COMPOSTING ACTIVITY FOR KIDS

Cut a recycled 2 liter bottle in half and fill the bottom portion 1/4 way up with water (enough to emerse the upturned other half).  Turn the top half of the bottle upside down and place two wicking strips in the bottom, then fill it with damp, soil-less potting mix and a handful of organic fertilizer.  You can plant seeds or start with a seedling and water from the top.  The wicking fabric will pull water up to the plant, conserving water.

RESOURCES 

The United States Composting Council offers a multitude of resources for people wanting to know more about composting.  They provide a compost locator map to illustrate where to find quality composting as well as educational webinars, training and certification.  They are a national non-profit organization dedicated to the composting industry.  Green Fern Events is proud to be involved with the USCC’s 21st annual conference and trade show in January of 2013 as the conference manager.

Hottest Green Trends: Earth Day 2012

by Tiffany Harelik

1. Slow Food Movement – The Slow Food movement has over 100,000 members globally.  In founder Carlo Petrini’s words, “Slow food unites the pleasure of food with responsiblity, sustainability, and harmony with nature.”  There are multiple local chapters available, and their website is a great source of information for those wanting to know what they can do to be a part of this effort.  
2. Smarter Cities – As our cities are growing, green roofs are becoming an increasingly popular trend.http://www.greenroofs.org/.  Also, check out IBM’s Smarter Cities” initiative. 
3. Organic Cotton – Did you know that the pesticides used on cotton are some of the most harmful chemicals on the planet? Find out why you should care about organic cotton: Organic Trade Association 
4. Renewable Energy – Earth Day Network reports that the Renewable Energy for All Campaign is asking world leaders to “agree on a long-term vision that inspires decision makers, triggers incentives, and bases the green economy on a 100% clean and renewable energy system.” 
5. Clean Technology: Fuel Cells & Hydrogen – 10 trends to watch for 2012 in the fuel cell and hydrogen industry. 
6. Green Films – Check out this list of best documentaries on the environment (http://www.kalev.com).
7. Top 5 Green Cars: The Detroit auto-show named the 2013 Ford Fusion as the top Green car on the market.  Here are the other four.

GFE sponsors recycling for Austin Chamber open house event

Tonight, Green Fern Events is pleased to provide recycling services for the first major event at the new offices for the Austin Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber’s open house will be held at their new home, located at the Hilton downtown at 535 East 5th St. 78701 from 4:30p-7:30p.  Signature food and drink will be provided by local chamber members including Chez Zee, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Carmelo’s, Truluck’s, Another Broken Egg, Hilton Downtown and Twin Liquors.

Green Fern Events will gather plastic cups and aluminum cans and take them to a local recycling facility.  To give you an idea of the environmental impact even a small community event might have, consider this:  400 people are expected to attend tonight’s open house.  We have found the best way to measure plastic cups is by volume (not weight) in cubic yards.  If everyone uses at least one plastic glass, about 400 cups will be used.  By recycling 400 plastic cups, approximately .25 cubic yards of landfill space will be spared and the plastic will be reused!

Recycling and event waste measurement is just one of Green Fern’s services:

GFE Consulting Services Green Fern Events provides consulting services for businesses, organizations and individuals. GFE provides custom proposals based on an hourly rate. Examples include:

1- Development of Sustainable Event Management (SEM) systems for corporations, businesses, & venues
2- Sustainability Event Reporting & Environmental Assessments
3- Education/Training in international sustainable event standards: BS 8901 (ISO 20121), APEX/ASTM Green Meeting Standards, and GRI for Event Organizers
4- Eco-friendly product purchasing at discounted rates
5- Waste management solutions for events 

GFE Recycling Services 
As an extension of our event planning services we also handle waste management services for events of 1000 people or fewer. For less than the cost of a Starbucks latte per person we will manage all the recycling and food compost of your event. We will provide the staff, containers (with proper signage) and haul away services. Post event we will provide you with metrics showing how much waste was diverted from a landfill. This is great PR for any business.

If you hire Green Fern Events to manage and produce your entire event we include this service FREE of charge (Maximum of 250 people). We care that much!

ClearStream
Recycling Bin Rentals

We now offer ClearStream bins with billboard signs for rental.Recycling haul away services are also available for an additional cost
.

Green Fern Events Helps Produce ZERO WASTE Event for 700 Person Bazaarvoice Holiday Party

On Thursday December 15, 2011 Green Fern Events, Austin’s premier sustainable event management company, alongside Wandering River Recycling successfully offset 97% of all the waste for Bazaarvoice’s holiday event held at the Austin Music Hall in downtown Austin, Texas. There were over 700 guests in attendance. Bob McGivney, Owner of Wandering River Recycling said, “In my experience I have never seen an offset percentage as high as this.” He added, “This end result is a testament of how well an offset program can work when proper planning is in place for any event at any size.”  Zero Waste is defined as diverting 90% of trash from landfills by recycling and composting. Not only was this goal met, it was exceeded by 7%.
So how was this achieved?
First, it starts with a company like Bazaarvoice who is dedicated to improving sustainability, minimizing negative environmental impact and demonstrating community goodwill. For the second year in a row, Bazaarvoice hired Green Fern Events to provide recycling and composting services to help “green” their holiday event. Not only is Bazaarvoice a global leader in social commerce solutions and marketing for some of the world’s largest brands, they are setting a powerful example of environmental leadership and corporate social responsibility. With special help from the Bazaarvoice G.I. Joes (a.k.a. the green team), Bazaarvoice implements many green strategies into their business culture, community, as well as for the events they produce.
Second, “It takes a Village.” Green Fern Events, Direct Events staff (management group for Austin Music Hall), Pascal’s Catering, and Red Velvet Events all collaborated in efforts to help minimize waste and environmental impact. 
Third, it requires communication. Emily Kahn, President and Founder of Green Fern Events, effectively communicated the waste management plan to everyone involved. The key to the program’s success was having an informed staff. For example, Green Fern Events asked Pascal’s Catering to provide compostable plates, cutlery, and napkins for the food service. When real china is not available, this is the second-best option. This helped reduce the waste significantly as everything related to food service was compostable and/or biodegradable. Also, all drink containers used for the event were recyclable.
Lastly, limit non-sustainable options. Given the abundance of composting and recycling bins we limited “trash” receptacles; this helped eliminate the option for guests and/or staff to place items in the wrong containers. Pascal’s Catering staff pro-actively bussed the tables and placed all waste in the proper bins. This not only elevated the level of service, it kept all recyclables and compostables from ending up in trash bins.
At the conclusion of Bazaarvoice’s 2011 Holiday event, only 1 bag of trash (weighing 25 pounds) remained. 63% of all the waste was recycled and 34% was composted. The end-result: 97% (600 lbs) of all waste was diverted from a landfill.
About GFE

Green Fern Events is Austin’s premier sustainable event management company. GFE helps clients reduce the negative environmental impact of their events, while at the same time producing flawless, professionally executed events at a cost effective price. More information can be found at http://www.greenfernevents.com. http://www.greenfernevents.com

“Bob & Irene’s Offbeat yet Sustainable Wedding”

Bob & Irene were married Saturday, October 15, 2011 at the beautiful Springdale Farm (Sustainable Urban Farming) in East Austin. Festivities began when the wedding party and approximately half of the guests arrived in a bicycle brigade with the Austin Bike Zoo. Talk about carbon emission reductions! It was a wonderful beginning to one of the most unique and creative weddings I’ve ever experienced.


Preceding the ceremony, guests gathered around the ceremony site for cocktails served in mason jars and a variety of “snacky snacks” as the bride called it. This included local artisan cheeses and crackers, house roasted almonds, and one of the groom’s favorite staples, pretzels. Live music provided by The Inheritance (a local Eastern European folk/experimental dance band) set the perfect mood for the evening.



After the ceremony, guests meandered over to the reception area for an evening filled with “Festivities, Food & Fun.” Whiskey Shivers, an incredibly talented roots music band kept the crowd on their toes with foot-stomping hootenannies and hoe downs throughout the night. Food catered by East Side King (delicious Asian-fusion street food) and Franklin Barbeque (voted best BBQ in America by Bon Appetit) was devoured by everyone.

So besides being incredibly unique, what made this wedding sustainable? Here is a quick rundown of the creative “green” strategy that went into the planning:

Location- Central location near downtown Austin

Venue – Wedding was held at a sustainable urban farm. Rental costs for the venue even went back into the farm to support growth of produce for community.














Transportation – Bicycles and carpooling, local transportation.

Invitations – Were printed on the back of Whole Foods paper shopping bags.

Décor – Centerpieces included reused glass yogurt jars from bride & grooms home, hand-dyed egg shells from their own chickens. No living plants were used. Confetti for the wedding ceremony was also made from crushed egg shells hand-dyed by bride.

Food & Beverage – Real plateware, silverware and linen napkins used. Local foods provided by East Side King and Franklin Barbeque. Salad was made from greens provided by the farm. Homemade margaritas were crafted using simple syrup made from organic raw sugar, hand-squeezed limes and served in mason jars that the bride & groom now have at home for everyday use.



Lighting – LED string lights, compact florescent bulbs, soy candles.


Waste Management – 89% of all waste was recycled or composted. Only 1 bag of trash for over 100 guests.





So now the question many ask..….did it cost more green to go green? It certainly did NOT. This is one of the greatest fallacies we hear in the events industry. Many think it is more expensive to produce sustainable events. This is simply not true. With smart planning, management and implementation, there are many strategies that can be implemented to minimize negative impact without hurting your wallet. This is Green Fern Events area of expertise. As a result, we helped the bride & groom produce a beautiful and unique wedding that was not only cost-effective but sustainable.

To view more picture from the wedding visit HERE
Photography by Zach Hunt

HAPPY HALLOWEEN! Eco-Friendly Trick-or-Treating

SUSTAINBLE TRICK-OR-TREAT TOTE BAG
This FEED trick-or-treat bag is a great way for your kids to collect treats while helping to provide life-saving nutrition for children around the world. Designed by Lauren Bush, this program was launched in 2010 in partnership with UNICEF (United Nation’s Childrens Fund). FEED’s Projects’ mission is to create good products that help feed the world. They do this through sale of FEED bags, bears, t-shirts and other accessories. The products are made using environmentally-friendly and artisan-made materials, along with fair-labor production.
CLICK HERE to learn more.
ORGANIC & FAIR TRADE CANDY OPTIONS
1) Individually wrapped organic lollypops by YUMMY EARTH.
2) Organic candy bars by ANGELL
3) Organic & Natural Gummy Candy and Jelly Beans: SURF SWEETS
Tonight, across the U.S., over 100,000 households will receive candy back. This is in an effort to raise awareness of child labor, forced labor, trafficking, poverty, and environmental degradation that is widespread on cocoa farms. Click on LINK here or above to read more on Equal Exchange’s FACEBOOK.

Green Tips for the 4th of July Weekend!

As you begin to plan your parties here are a few ways to stay green during the 4th of July:

  • The obvious choice is to use real plates, utensils, and glass ware. If you cant, the second best option is using biodegradable, compostable, or bamboo products.
  • Make recycling easy and available!
  • Serve finger foods such as sliced fruit, veggies & dip, cheese & crackers, and mini sliders.
  • Drink local.
  • Compost kitchen scraps (remember no meat, only organic material).
  • When BBQ-ing try burning a propane or electric grill.
Here are a few web sites where you can buy earth-friendly products
  • Located in Austin: http://www.ecowise.com/
  • NatureWorks http://www.natureworksllc.com/Product-And-Applications.aspx