by Dana Brown of Simply Sweets
Any host knows that post-party cleanup usually necessitates an excess of garbage bags and several trips to the trash bin. With decorations, wrapping paper, party games, and disposable tableware, is it even possible to throw a party without piling up the waste? The answer is an unequivocal ‘Yes!’, and it’s probably easier than you think. Here are some tips and suggestions to reduce your environmental impact and make your next event an eco-friendly one.
Invitations & Thank You’s
For informal celebrations, consider sending an electronic invitation through a site like Evite.com. You can choose from hundreds of templates to match your theme, or design your own. When etiquette demands a paper invitation, look for recycled products or even compostable invites that will bloom when planted.
Forget disposable décor: re-purpose and re-use! Make your cake or party favors the table centerpiece instead of purchasing those paper and plastic products that will just be tossed after the party. For kids, decorate with toys that match your theme; you can repurpose items from your child’s collection or display a new toy that is part of their gift.Check your local craft store or toy store for themed hats instead of purchasing the flimsy, disposable kind. Kids will enjoy playing dress-up with their new accessory long after the party is over. For baby showers, purchase nursery decorations and use them for your party décor. Hang some cute onesies from a clothesline, giving them to the mom-to-be as a gift after the shower. Soy candles or locally grown flowers and greenery make any party pretty for grown-ups; choose items that are seasonal and string up some twinkly lights for a festive evening feel. For any event, substitute reusable Chinese lanterns or party pom-poms for balloons, which are often not biodegradable.
For kids, skip the individually wrapped snacks and juice boxes. Fruit kebabs and non-processed sweets are better for the environment and provide a more natural ‘sugar high’. Purchase natural, organic, and locally grown food whenever possible for guests of any age. Check out sustainable eating sites for recipes that are good and good for you.
Pass on disposable plates and cups, and go for reusable instead. Purchase a ‘party set’ in a color that you can use year after year. Also do this for tablecloths and napkins. White is timeless and easily adapted to any style event, while green, yellow, pink, or blue will work well for showers and kids parties. Party rental shops are also a fabulous resource for items ranging from basic cutlery and glassware to decorative linens and centerpieces. Theme parties can also provide inspiration for eco-friendly innovation. For a tea party, shop your local thrift shop for an assortment of teacups and saucers so that each guest has a unique piece, then send guests home with their new cup and saucer as a party favor (I got this idea from a friend’s birthday party and I still have my special cup). For a bridal shower or bachelorette party, purchase wine or martini glasses from a restaurant supply shop and have guests decorate them with craft paint – it will serve as their craft project, drinking glass, and take home gift! Use craft paper in place of a tablecloth for a kids’ party (or even a grown-up’s!), and place crayons on the table for the ‘artists’. Recycle when the party is over, or frame a section as a memento.
Party Favors & Prizes
Goodie bags filled with small plastic toys usually don’t work very well and are strewn about the house or tossed in the trash right after the party. Instead, give guests a gift that will be remembered long after the big day; edible treats, books, T-shirts, and art supplies all make great prizes or party favors.
For baby showers, award gift certificates to a nail salon or coffee shop as prizes for the infamous baby shower games. Skip the party favors for grown-ups altogether and instead make a donation to a local charity in your guests’ names. Hosting an earth-conscious event doesn’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Like any other party, all it takes is a little creativity and planning. Let your guests know about what you are trying to accomplish and involve them in eco-centric party activities. Soon they will see that reducing waste can actually add to the fun.
Contributor Dana Brown is the owner of Simply Sweets, a custom cake studio in Scottsdale, AZ. “As a mom and former scientist, the health of our environment is very important to me. After hosting my son’s birthday party I was disgusted with the amount of trash that was generated and decided to find alternatives to reduce waste and still have an outstanding party.”