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Having a garden party? Heres how to Green it up!

Planning an outdoor party for a crowd? Here′s how to do it in your garden with a green theme

Depending on the mood, gardens can be a retreat, workplace, larder or simply an outdoor dining room/kitchen. When it comes to entertaining outside (weather permitting!), there is no single way to create an attractive social space.From breakfast terraces to barbecue areas, there are lots of easy ways to makeover your garden with the environment in mind.

Invest in green garden accessories

Outdoor furniture in the garden is a quick and simple way to give guests a warm welcome. Whether on a sun terrace, extensive lawns or an overgrown ′jungle′, a couple of chairs and a table can create an instant outdoor dining sensation. If buying wood, ensure it is from sustainable forests, in the UK there is the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) logo as a standard. FSC certified forests are managed in a way that protects the environment and the lives of forest-dependent people and animals. It is also easy to marry modern tastes with eco-considerations. There are numerous recycled plastic benches on sale to add a little panache to the experience.

Sourcing second hand furniture would be an even greener alternative. And don′t forget to check out the local Freecycle network to pick up any useful freebies to enhance the garden.

Spark up the Grill!

The focal point of many gatherings in the garden is food. Even here, choices that may help reduce the functions carbon footprint - just a few changes in your cooking style can make a difference.

Probably the single biggest consideration is how the barbecue is powered. Whether natural gas, propane, charcoal, or electricity it is still consuming natural resources and releasing gases. But it can fire up and grill greener by choosing cleaner-burning propane or electric barbecue over charcoal, which gives off more health-harming carbon monoxide than other methods. If charcoal is used look for brands from invasive tree species or harvested from sustainably managed forests.

Outdoor lighting

As evening falls, gentle lighting will add a magical touch to a garden. Over recent years, solar garden lights have become increasingly popular - while these are great as accents and markers, they often give out a softer light.

Also consider the carbon footprint involved in manufacturing the lamps. If so, an interesting alternative to plastic and metal lights is soy wax candles. These are made from 100 per cent soybeans, which is a renewable and sustainable resource. Soy wax is non-toxic and the candles are completely natural and biodegradable.

The outdoor kitchen

If furnishing a patio with planters, why not use them to grow kitchen herbs? Grown from seed or plant, they reduce the need for shop-bought herbs and avoid pesticides (see Grow your own section). Easy and useful ones to start with are basil, mint, thyme. Also try growing chamomile, from which the flowers can be used to make a relaxing herbal tea!

Containers, tubs and planters

Instead of buying new, why not recycle old items as planters, or have fun charity shopping for quirky containers? Remember that tubs and planters dry out quickly and they will probably need daily watering in summer. For full eco-points, collect rain in a water butt, or use water from the washing up or bathtub.

A place to play

Make that perennial favorite, the patio, a great place for entertaining outdoors, but obviously this is a much bigger task. It’s a worthwhile investment though - a patio is one of the most satisfying improvements that can be made to a garden.

It is often the first change we make when planning major improvements to gardens. No matter how large or small the plot, a patio or sun terrace will often make the most impact for the least effort. From a simple wooden or slab deck to more elaborate designs, a patio gives definition and function to a garden, and will usually reduce the amount of time spent making it look good.

Cement

Along with the other design decisions made, choosing the materials and how they are built can make a garden more ecologically friendly. For example, paving with new concrete slabs made with standard Portland cement has a high carbon footprint. According to the Centre for Alternative Technology (UK), the cement industry alone is responsible for 10 per cent of all global carbon dioxide emissions.

If using concrete, why not try second-hand or look for slabs made from a mix of recycled aggregates, or those which swap the traditional Portland cement for landfill salvage such as pulverised fuel ash.

Natural stone

Prefer natural stone?? - when sourcing this, it is normally found that a lot of cheaper natural stone has been quarried overseas. Besides the emissions produced by importing long distance, there have also been concerns raised over the working conditions of quarry workers in some developing world countries. To ensure there is no support of unethical business practices, look for a supplier which has signed up with the Ethical Trade Initiative or another accreditation body.

Alternatively, choose locally quarried stone. This reduces the carbon footprint in terms of transportation, choosing a material that blends well with local scenery. From London clay bricks to Portland limestone to Spansih Terracotta Pammets, every area has its own native stone that looks good and performs well.

The way a patio is built, will also have an ecological effect. Lay slabs on sand instead of concrete to allow rainfall to infiltrate through the gaps in the paving and reduce runoff, which contributes to flash flooding. It also makes the slabs easier to lift and reuse when a re-design is in order. Don’t worry about the patio not being secure using this method - many pavements in the busy streets of Amsterdam are laid in this way.

The solar energy collection

If a bigger investment is made, investigate installing a solar collection system as part of the patio. This is a system that will transfer and store heat energy from the deck. It can be used to heat a swimming pool or, for a really luxurious touch, use it to help heat a Finnish style hot tub.