Earth Day Tip #7: Green Party

Many of you know that I love to throw parties. I’ll find any reason to have friends over (case in point: the “Yay-We’re-Not-on-Fire” party in San Diego during the 2003 fire) and about a year ago, I started thinking about all the garbage my parties were creating. All those paper plates, napkins, plastic utensils and cups…there had to be a better way. And there is! Lots of ways to limit the amount of waste you and your guests create, without spoiling the festivities or forcing a green agenda on anyone.

I should note that styrofoam is ALWAYS a NO at ANY party! Styrofoam is not recyclable or biodegradable and the global warming effects are 1000 times worse than carbon dioxides! All my friends are now aware of the evil that is styrofoam thanks to their experience of seeing my reaction to styrofoam.
Here are some ways that I was able to limit the amount of waste created at my informal parties:

  • Living in Manhattan where even cupboard space is scarce, I only had dinnerware for 4, forcing me to use disposable tableware at parties. Then I started asking my friends to bring their own plate, utensils and cup/glass to eliminate the need to use disposables. For the few that would forget their place setting, I would lend them mine since the others had brought their own. This made a HUGE difference in the amount of trash I ended up having to take out.
  • I’d label bins for trash and recyclables, thus encouraging my friends to recycle and also preventing the need to sort through the trash later.
  • During the summer months, we would picnic on my Manhattan roof (oh, how I miss that apartment), laying out a sheet on the ground. We didn’t need to worry about any spills (and there were always spills) as we’d just let the sheet soak it up since it was going to be washed anyway.
  • For indoor spills, we’d use kitchen towels which I’d then wash and reuse, again and again.
  • To make sure that none of the food went to waste, I made sure I ate it all after the guests left. Not (usually) in one sitting though. And I would also make sure to pack leftovers for my starving student friends. =)

For more formal gatherings, here are some ideas for making it a bit greener.

  • Send out electronic invitations for your soiree instead of paper ones. Evite is a great site where you can design and customize your event invitations. You can include personal photos as well. An added bonus: Evite keeps track of your invitees’ RSVP details.
  • Try not to serve your guests with disposable anything. That’s going to be the biggest thing you can do to cut the amount of trash you make. And as the Queer Eye for the Straight Guy boys always said: Throwing a party but serving on disposable plates is a social faux pas.
  • You can eliminate the need for tableware all together by serving finger foods only.
  • Use cloth napkins that you can wash after the party instead of one-time use napkins.

Luckily, there are some biodegradable disposable options out there now if you really need to use them. They can be found at Whole Foods (or similar stores) and environmentally conscious stores. As the green movement gains more popularity, I’m sure they will become even more widely available. I’ll talk more about this next week.

© Connie Hum 2009

2 Comments

  • Andi says:

    Awesome suggestions!!! I love that you are helping people be more green. I wish I had been able to attend one of your parties. :)

  • mi-an says:

    i like the idea of guests bring their own plates/utensils. thanks! i’d probably say, “if you want to eat, bring your own plates/utensils!!” haha

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