Eco-Friendly Outdoor Entertaining Tips: Reduce Energy and Water Consumption
Many Southern California homeowners expect their utility bills to increase as the weather gets warmer.
Between air conditioning, fans, plants needing more water, and the additional lights and patio heaters used when entertaining outdoors at night, summers can seriously impact the price we pay for gas, electricity and water each month.
Thankfully, there are lots of ways to reduce energy and water consumption when entertaining outdoors to help you save money and do your part to save the planet.
Some are simple, inexpensive fixes, and some are a bit more of an investment, but every step you take to use less electricity, water or gas is a step in the right direction.
How to Conserve Water and Energy —
If you plan on entertaining after the sun goes down, you are going to need some type of lighting to guide your guests safely through your yard, accentuate certain landscaping features and provide adequate illumination for your event.
Here are five lower-energy ways to light your outdoor living spaces and landscaping:
1. Use solar-powered path lights along walkways and the edges of your 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.
There are no wires to worry about, they can be placed almost anywhere, and they are free to run once you make the initial investment of purchasing them.
If you choose options with LED bulbs, you can also save money by enjoying your solar lights for years without having to worry about changing light bulbs or replacing the lights.
2. Use solar-powered landscape lighting to accentuate water features and other interesting landscaping features.
With no wires and no plugs needed, solar landscape lights are perfect for placing in even the most remote areas of your yard.
As long as they are positioned to receive some sun during the day, you can enjoy beautiful backyard lighting at night.
3. Keep your gathering close to your fire pit or patio fireplace.
If you plan on using your fire pit or fireplace as a heat source or to set the mood, you can also use it as a light source for your party.
If you set up food, drinks, seating and entertainment near your fire features, you can take advantage of the light they give off and avoid lighting areas of your yard that are farther away.
Just make sure you do not place textiles dangerously close to the fire, and keep your food and drinks far enough away to keep them from being affected.
4. Use soy candles for mood lighting.
Soy candles burn much cleaner than those made of paraffin wax and are much better for the environment and the health of your guests.
When you use all-natural, non-toxic candles for mood lighting, you can also avoid using electric lights.
5. Use flameless, LED candles along pathways, as centerpieces or to set the mood.
Battery-powered, flameless candles are safe to use to illuminate walkways, in areas frequented by children and pets, or close to food and drinks to provide light.
If you use rechargeable batteries, you can be even more environmentally friendly.
And if you really want to take things up a notch, you can also invest in a solar-powered battery charger to avoid using electricity to recharge your batteries.
Pulling the cover off of your barbecue and grilling with friends is one of the joys of outdoor entertaining.
Unfortunately, burning charcoal or wood is bad for the environment and not so great for your health.
You can immediately lower your carbon footprint by investing in a cleaner-burning electric, propane or gas grill.
While buying organic, local produce and meats will not help lower your utility bills, it does help reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the amount of energy and pollution related to food transportation.
Make sure you get the most out of your grilling time by preparing your entire meal on the grill and making leftovers to reheat over the next few days.
This will help reduce your overall energy consumption related to meal preparation.
If you have gas burners on your grill, make sure the flame is turned up just enough to heat the pan without coming out from under the bottom or up the sides, which wastes energy.
Here are six things you can do to reduce the energy used in your outdoor kitchen:
1. Choose energy efficient appliances.
2. Consider installing enough solar panels to power your outdoor kitchen.
3. If you only use your outdoor refrigerator when entertaining, unplug it between events.
4. When in use, keep your refrigerator full to help it function more efficiently.
5. Allow leftovers to cool to room temperature before placing them in the refrigerator.
6. Unplug blenders, ice makers and other appliances when not in use.
Fire Pits and Fireplaces
Burning wood is not good for the environment, but it is hard to pass up the chance to gather around a fire to swap stories and spend quality time with family and friends.
To make using your fire feature a bit more environmentally friendly, you can at least burn wood that might otherwise have ended up in a landfill.
For example, you can save the branches you trim from trees and twigs you rake from your lawn to burn when you have a party.
Burning some of your safe-to-burn yard waste also allows you to take advantage of the heat and light from the fire feature to avoid using electric lights or heaters.
This will help you save a little energy and money.
You do not want to burn anything that has been chemically treated, and avoid using lighter fluid to get the fire going.
Outdoor Water Usage
Here are seven ways you can save water in your outdoor living areas:
1. If you have an outdoor shower for folks to use before or after enjoying your pool, install a low-flow showerhead to conserve water.
If you have hot and cold water in your outdoor shower, a low-flow showerhead will also reduce the amount of energy used to heat the water.
2. Fix leaky faucets to save water.
3. Install a drip irrigation system to more efficiently water landscaping features.
4. Choose low-water plants and native species to reduce your yard’s water requirements.
5. When designing your landscape, include more hardscape features, such as paving stone patios and walkways, for a lower-maintenance, lower-water design.
6. Consider including dry streams in your landscape design.
This newer landscaping design trend is increasing in popularity as more homeowners search for ways to include the idea of water in their design while maintaining their commitment to low-water landscaping.
7. Replace natural grass lawns with artificial turf.
Artificial turf can help you save water, electricity and gas, since it never needs to be mowed, edged, aerated or watered.
General Tips for Conserving Water and Energy
1. Consider using manual tools instead of those powered by gas or electricity.
Burn more calories and reduce your energy usage by opting for a reel mower and a rake, instead of a leaf blower and gas or electric mower.
2. Use citronella candles for lights and pest control, instead of electric bug zappers.
3. Indoor-outdoor parties mean lots of doors being left open or repeatedly opened and closed.
If you have the air conditioning on in your house, this increases the energy needed to keep your home cool.
Keep the party outdoors and start it a little later in the day to reduce air conditioning costs and energy usage.
4. Invest in a solar-powered pump for your pond, fountain or other water feature.
If you are concerned that your water feature will not work once the sun goes down, purchase a hybrid pump instead.
This will still allow you to save energy during the day when the sun is out.
6. Use reusable plates and silverware to reduce waste, and then wash them in your energy-efficient dishwasher to conserve energy and water.
Be sure to only run the dishwasher when it is full.
7. Strategically plant trees to shield your patio from the sun to reduce your need to run outdoor ceiling fans and to make your patio a more enjoyable place to hang out.
Keeping your patio cool will also make it easier to convince your party guests to stay outdoors.
8. You can be pretty sure at least one guest will ask if they can plug in their phone charger while they are at your party.
Be prepared with solar chargers that will impress your guests and save electricity.
9. Read our post about the Top 7 Ways to Reduce Your Pool’s Energy Use.
What are your favorite ways to save water, energy and money when entertaining outdoors?
Share your tips with us in the comments below!
Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Belgard Hardscapes; Belgard Hardscapes; morgueFile, Ladyheart; morgueFile, iceman0; Belgard Hardscapes