Thursday, May 30, 2019

"Greener" Parties

I've tried very hard in the last couple of years to reduce our single use products.  We use containers instead of plastic bags whenever possible, we use wash cloths instead of paper towels for most things, Archer is in cloth diapers, etc.  As I approached Archer's birthday party, I was looking for ways to minimize the amount of stuff leftover that would wind up in a landfill.  While we weren't perfect, here are some of the things I came up with to reduce waste.

Normally, I decorate for kids parties with balloons.  Instead, I decorated with paper pom poms and streamers.  The crepe paper itself is recyclable, plus I was able to use them for both the cake smash photo shoot and party decorations.
I also made this birthday banner out of card stock.  Since it is just primary colors, I can use it for other birthdays.  It is also recyclable when it gets too old.
I borrow a couple of six foot folding tables for the party.  Instead of disposable table cloths, I bought a couple of fitted twin bed sheets from Walmart. They were $5 each. I got navy, figuring it is neutral enough to go with lots of parties and dark enough to wash out well.
I realize that there are plenty of paper and bamboo party plates available.  I am always hesitant with products that claim to be biodegradable, because they generally are not in the anaerobic conditions of a landfill.  Instead, I purchased cheap BPA free plates from Walmart (yes, I've tried to eliminate plastic from our kitchen, but these will be washed by hand and only used a handful of times a year). While they cost more than paper plates, they still end up being less than a quarter each, so if they get tossed by accident, it won't break the bank. I'm figure that using them for parties and family gatherings over the years will make them pay for themselves compared to paper plates. We've already used them again since the party.

I put out this party tub for people to leave their plates in, as a reminder not to throw them away.
Silverware took a little thought.  I did not want to do disposable, but did not want any of my regular silverware set, that was my grandmother's, thrown away.  After brainstorming, my silverware solution is twofold.  I still have plastic silverware left over from old parties, so throwing that out seemed counterproductive.  I ended up putting that out and encouraging people to put it in the tub.  I figure I will wash them until they get broken.  Secondly, I found some mismatched silverware at a garage sale that I put out in cups.  My hope is to eventually collect a big set of designated party silverware from thrift shops. The nice thing about using real silverware, is it can go in the dishwasher!

Drink Containers:
At parties I used to buy bottles of water for adults and juice boxes for kids, in addition to soda and beer.  This time, I wanted to try to eliminate some of those containers.  I still purchased soda and beer, and provided a tub for recycling.
To replace the water bottles and juice boxes, I used these containers for water and lemonade (I already had them from past gatherings, so didn't have to purchase them special).  Once again, I had a little bit of trouble with the cups.  I had leftover disposable paper and plastic cups from old parties.  I decided to put both out, as well as some expo markers for people to mark their cups.  I figured people could throw away the paper cups and I could wash the plastic ones.  If the plastic ones got broken, at least I could recycle them. Once I run out of disposables, I think I could put out the stainless steel cups I have for the kids (and would like to get for my husband), as well as some reusable BPA free cups.  I have also heard of people having parties where everyone brings their own cups, although I'm not sure how I feel about that idea.
Party Favors:
Party favors at kids parties are tough.  A lot of times if you have a theme, there are all sorts of adorable themed favors available.  However, most of these are cheap plastic little toys that get used for about 30 seconds and then get thrown away.  I really try to avoid those types of toys in general (as you can tell by my toy lists).  On the other hand, there's no guarantee that what you do buy for party favors will be used.  It's kind of a gamble.  Anyway, for Archer's party I got these little knobby balls for the kids.  The held up well and my boys have loved all the leftovers.  Hopefully, the kids who took them home enjoy them as well! 
Wrapping Paper/Gift Cards:
So this one is tough because I can only control the wrapping paper and gift cards I use.  Wrapping paper/cards with any sort of plastic, glitter, foil or fabric cannot be recycled.  Neither can ribbon or bows.  Usually, I skip the gift card or have Xander make one out of cardstock.  I'm also trying to be a lot more conscious of buying paper and cards that are recyclable. I also save as many gift bags to reuse as possible.  If I'm giving a gift that is too oddly shaped to wrap, I try to give it in a reusable grocery sack.  That's all I can do for now.

Do you have any other ideas for avoiding single use party products?  I'd love to hear.

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