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Fun, Green Summer Cookouts (with Easy Cleanup!)

Summer is finally here! And if you're like me, you are just now beginning to recover from the 2013-2014 Winter of Despair. But fortunately, the sun is now shining, the days are warming up and the garden is a riot of color. You have about three months of outdoor living to do. Starting... now!

Chances are, your summer is going to include a cookout or two. Whether it's a Fourth of July celebration, a birthday party or just a family get-together, you'll want to be prepared with easy and green cleanup solutions, so that the fun of your summer party doesn't fade into domestic drudgery.

So here are five tips that will help your green summer cookout succeed!

1. Use cloth napkins. Not only are cloth napkins more environmentally friendly than their paper counterparts, they are also cheaper in the long run than paper products, and they can add a festive air to your party. And they take no more effort to clean up afterwards than paper napkins- just throw them in with the dirty socks!

But, if you do decide to go with paper napkins, choose an unbleached variety that can be safely composted.

2. Skip the disposable plates and silverware. Instead, set up a table with platters of hand held foods like kebabs, watermelon slices, chips and veggie sticks. If you're the Martha Stewart type, you could serve guacamole in little bowls made from the avocado skins.

If you're using paper or plastic plates, flatware and cups, put out recycling receptacles so your guests can take care of their part of the clean-up before the party even ends.

3. Compost your kitchen scraps! Get guests to help out with this by designating a bowl or bin for them to discard their uneaten food. (No meat!)

4. Use sustainable candles, such as beeswax, to create tranquil lighting as dusk approaches. You can even turn these into insect repelling candles for daytime use by adding a few drops of citronella oil to each one.

5. Planning to offer water activities for the kids? Opt for well made water guns rather than water balloons. They are pollution free and can be reused for many summers to come, and you can often find them very cheap at thrift stores. Hope these tips help you make it through your summer barbecue with a smile on your face! Enjoy your summer!

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