Level up your Green this St. Patrick’s Day

Background photograph of clovers. Foreground text reads "Level Up your GREEN this St. Patrick's Day"


In the US, we LOVE our traditions, especially when it comes to holidays.  When it comes to holidays, Americans have a way of absorbing cultural and religious holidays from others, too. St. Patrick’s Day is no exception. In fact, in many areas “everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” and the towns are taken over by festive parades and celebrations.  But often these traditions– many of which have little to do with the actual origin of the holiday– harm the environment through a culture of excess and waste.  Before you exit this window, let me assure you that I am not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the holiday or that we should sacrifice all of the traditions we love.  Instead, I’d like to talk about how we can level up on the festive green of the day by putting an eco-conscious spin on the day.  


Two hands holding up leprechaun pot shaped mugs and clinking them together.

“I am not saying we shouldn’t celebrate the holiday or that we should sacrifice all of the traditions we love.  Instead, I’d like to talk about how we can level up on the festive green of the day by putting an eco-conscious spin on the day.”


Re-thinking Your Eco-Friendly Attire

In the US, St. Patrick’s Day has us donning festive green in the form of fast fashion and cheap, easily-broken plastic accessories.  The simplest way to green-ify this tradition is to choose long-lasting, sustainable pieces to use every year and/or shop second hand.  If you plan your attire a little further in advance, you are likely to find that there is no shortage of green articles of clothing in the thrift stores. 

And I know I promised that I wasn’t going to push you to give up your traditions, but you may want to consider it when you learn that St. Patrick’s Day was originally celebrated through the use of the color blue.  It would be over 1000 years before the day would be celebrated with the color green (Davidson, National Geographic Kids).  This shift is connected to Ireland’s adoption of the shamrock as a national symbol and the change in their flag to include green instead of blue to distinguish themselves from England.  Further, we see today’s interpretation of fairy leprechauns dressed in green, but originally these mythical creatures were depicted in red!  So wear some pre-loved green, if you wish; but perhaps you can put less stock in the color now that you know it isn’t the only color associated with the holiday!


Planning a More Sustainable Entrée

The traditional dish consumed on St. Patrick’s Day in America is corned beef and cabbage.  Adding extra cabbage and potatoes and keeping the corned beef to a minimum allows you to maintain the traditional fare while putting an eco-conscious twist to it.

But similarly to the traditional color of the holiday, the traditional meal may not be as authentic as we originally thought.  In Ireland, corned beef would have been too expensive (Debczak, 2020). They typically chose the more economical option and served their cabbage and potatoes with salt pork.  The change to corned beef came from Irish immigrants in New York City who found salt pork to be more expensive in the US.  They discovered that the salty corned beef sold by Jewish butchers was a cheaper option and made a great substitution for the salt pork.  So perhaps instead of eating corned beef this year, you’ll consider adding a little bit of salt pork to flavor your cabbage and potatoes.  Pork has a lower carbon footprint than beef and a little bit of salt pork goes a long way to flavoring the dish.


Choosing Green St. Patrick’s Day Party Foods

If you will be hosting a party and are looking to serve something in addition or substitution of the traditional cabbage dish above, here are some simple suggestions for planning a more eco-friendly menu: 

  • Go meatless, if you can. Or at least try serving smaller portions of meat as a side dish to compliment the other options.
  • Use seasonal and local vegetables when/where you are able. This can be challenging in March in many areas of the US, though.
  • Consider forgoing the festive, green, single-use cupcake liners.  Use reusable liners or serve a dish that doesn’t require liners at all.
  • If you are serving chocolate or cooking with it, make it fair-trade chocolate. 


Check Your Drinking Game

While Americans have made St. Patrick’s Day a pretty big drinking holiday, the reality is that it is a religious holiday and used to be a day of sobriety in Ireland.  

But if you’re going all-American on this one, at least take some time to adopt some eco-conscious drinking practices, like those you can find in this article by the EcoFriendlyBeerDrinker.


Swap Out the Cheap Plastic Décor

Skip the cheap plastic décor that breaks after one season and ends up in the landfill. Instead, select a few quality décor pieces from local businesses that will appreciate the sale. You can also focus on natural décor, like green plants.  Your food choices can also be a form of decoration for your festivities! Or if you are crafty, upcycle some items that would otherwise end up in the trash bin.  Here are a few ideas to get you thinking: 

Hand holding a mug of beer with froth flowing down the side

These five simple suggestions for a green St. Patrick’s Day can help you reduce your environmental impact without losing out on fun and tradition.  Remember, you don’t have to change everything at once, either. The best method is to choose ONE area where you can work to be more eco-conscious this year and do the best you can.  If you are successful, add another area next year.  Take things slow.  Leveling up your green St. Patrick’s Day shouldn’t mean burning out! 


Cheers, my friend!

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