Americans, as a nation, like to party—and why not? It’s fun to celebrate little Jason’s first birthday or great aunt Marge’s 100th, to witness the marriage of a couple destined for each other, or take some time to give a special shout-out to all the mothers and fathers out there.

But the trappings of extravagant parties and other special occasions, while enjoyable, often wreak environmental damage. Millions of birthdays occur each month and approximately 2.3 million couples tie the knot each year in the US, often contributing to the consumption of natural resources (think gifts) and waste problems (from packaging, wrapping paper, etc.).[1] Unsustainable menus, food waste, long-distance party travel, and throw-away decorations and favors only compound the growing bash trash problem.

The flowers that provide that beautiful natural decorating accent to parties and other events, as well as delight recipients with surprise deliveries, may also prompt eco-concern as only 6 percent of flowers sold in the US are certified as eco-friendly and socially responsible, and more than 70 percent are imported, primarily from Latin America.[2]

Add to that the ubiquitous greeting card, of which Americans buy almost 7 billion annually.[3] Though these snail mail missives aren't large in size, their sheer volume has an environmental impact, especially during manufacturing and disposal.

Even eagerly anticipated vacations, which put nearly 900 million worldwide tourists on the road, in the skies, or on the high seas each year, can exert some hefty impacts on local ecosystems, water, air, and wildlife.[4]

No worries though: there are innumerable actions you can take to lessen the eco-effects of your next big bash or getaway and still have every bit as much fun.