Sorry for the delay in posting. I was busy planning my son's 9th birthday and celebrating Father's Day. So this week's post will naturally be about, you guessed it, parties. Throwing an eco-friendly party isn't as hard as you think, but it does take planning.
First of all you need to provide food and drinks for your guests.
Yes, it's much easier to buy a pre-made cake, but if you have the time try making your own. I'm guilty of running out of time for this weekend's party, and although the grocery store-bought cake was delicious, I felt guilty for all of the packaging it came in. I recycled it, of course, but in order to not create more waste I should have made it myself. It's really not that hard to make. Icing may be a little more challenging but I hope to get better with more practice. Cupcakes aren't the most environmental option since you must line them with paper liners, so try the cake if you can.
Then there are the beverages.
What's more eco-friendly: aluminum cans or plastic bottles? Cans, since the plastic bottles require so much more energy to make (and oil), however, cans are made from aluminum which is a limited natural resource. The best solution is to get 2 liters of your assorted drinks. Even though it's made from plastic, it's less of it (bulk packaging).
What to serve these drinks and cake in/on?
The most cost effective and eco-friendly way is to buy reusable plates, cups & utensils. Places like Bed, Bath & Beyond sell party kits of glass plates, glasses & utensils in sets of 12. I bought mine 10 years ago and it's eliminated having to buy paper plates, cups, and plastic utensils. This is all dishwasher friendly so no clean up time really. And for the kiddos, go somewhere like Ikea to buy their plastic plates, cups & utensils. These are one-time purchases that will last for years and years.
If you'd rather use disposables, try products made out of corn, potatoes or sugar cane that will biodegrade over time. They don't use plastic (less oil), and won't take up space in the landfill. They are just as effective as your paper/plastic options and don't cost much more. They're available in most grocery stores and CVS has a whole line that is just as cheap or cheaper than your usual disposables.
And don't forget your recycled paper napkins!
Get a cloth tablecloth that you can use year after year. Use paper streamers, which you'll recycle when you're finished, of course. I've reused the same cloth "Happy Birthday" banner since my son & daughter were born, which I purchased from Pottery Barn kids. Balloons are NOT eco-friendly since once they pop they are harmful to wildlife, and they are made of latex (oil). Try an alternative like Chinese paper lanterns, or string lights instead. If you buy centerpieces or any themed party pieces that can be reused, put these items on freecycle, or give to a friend to reuse so it doesn't end up in the landfill.
This is the most difficult to incorporate because if you go to any party store, most of what they have as favors are little pieces of plastic crap that will only clutter your guests home or end up in the trash. Finding something that the guests will reuse takes a little creativity but it can be done. My son's party was a Karate Kid theme, so the favors were put in paper Chinese takeout boxes filled with tattoos, stickers, silly bands, & movie candy. In past years I've put things like crayons, water guns, sunglasses inside plastic buckets or cloth bags. I've also done crafts such as magic wands for my daughter that they could use later for dress-up. You could have kids make barrettes (as a friend of mine did), or give homemade playdough. Get creative!
A few more tips:
Use paperless online invitations which include reminders for those late RSVPers.
Don't forget to set up a "recycled bin" for anything to be recycled. Contact your local sanitation dept. for special containers if you're having a large party. In loudoun county the website is: http://www.loudoun.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=3217+
The internet has plenty of options, so search for eco-friendly ideas to help you plan your next party. Check out greenpartygoods.com for eco-party products for your next shindig.
Hope this gives you some green ideas to make your par-tay earth friendly and fun!