Summer time, and the living is easy...

Summer has arrived and with it has come warmer weather and the desire for outdoor gatherings and celebrations.  Here are some ideas for how to save energy (and some money) while planning and hosting your backyard bash.

Prepping Your Yard

Sure, it will be great to greet guests with a nice-looking yard, but to spruce it up, use manual tools instead of those powered by electricity to trim hedges and edge your lawn.

Air Conditioning and Fans

Did your parents say something like “I’m not paying to cool the neighborhood” like mine did?  Have guests enter directly through the backyard instead of through the front door.  Keeping your door closed helps keep cool air inside and prevents air loss when guests (or children, or spouses) who always forget to close the sliding door do so.  Before your guests arrive, increase the temperature on your thermostat so that the air isn't cooling an empty house.  Make sure to turn off any indoor ceiling fans.  Fans cool people, not rooms.

Food and Drink

Pre-party cooking can drive up your energy costs, so go potluck style and share the work (and energy costs) with your guests.  If you really prefer to cook everything yourself, try to prepare the entire meal on the grill.  It will make cleanup easier, save on energy and not heat up the kitchen.

Keep extra bags of ice in your freezer as it operates most efficiently when it’s full.  Keep glasses full of cold drinks as temperatures outside heat up, so people won’t feel the need to go inside to cool off or refill their glasses on their own.  The fewer people who go in and out, the less air loss you’ll have in the house.

Plates, cups, utensils and serving trays that are disposable (and recyclable) will not only make cleanup easier, but you won’t have to run the dishwasher as often.  If you use reusable plates and silverware, make sure to only run the dishwasher when it is full.  Pre-rinsing dirty dishes is unnecessary, it uses energy and wastes water.  Most dishwashers can handle a little bit of mess.  Just make sure to scrape any excess food into the trash.

Have leftover containers ready to go!  When everyone has finished eating, transfer the leftovers into containers and place them in the fridge all at one time. This reduces opening and closing the fridge door as you clean up – better yet send the leftovers home with your guests!

Saying Good-Bye

Show your guests the way out by using solar-powered path lights along walkways and the edges of patios.  Solar path lights gather the sun’s energy during the day and then use that energy to light the way once the sun goes down.  No electricity needed!  You can also add a more festive touch with hanging solar lanterns.  They’re pretty to look at during the day and add some color and whimsy after dark.