How to Get your Party on (Conscientiously)

Lisa Goin

Social gatherings are inherent to the human race. As social creatures, we get together for a multitude of reasons, whether to ensure the well-being of the tribe or for the pleasantry of company. Uses for social congregations range from celebrating the life of the deceased, to encouraging a successful harvest. It has evolved and adapted to the moods and trends of every era of human existence. The history of “the party” includes the Last Supper, Bar Mitzvahs, weddings, balls, the French salon, speakeasies and night clubs. However, with the scientific advancements made during the last century, evidence of serious climate change and a growing consciousness of limited global resources have contributed to a new lifestyle trend: going green.

 

The biggest downside of throwing a party of any sort will always be the clean-up. The amount of waste created during a party is enough to make Republic Services shake their heads. This doesn’t mean that the next party you plan will be your last (you know, the funeral for your social life). All you have to do is get creative.

 

Dishing it out

 

The main waste creators at any get together tend to be dishware and flatware. Most hosts and hostesses opt out of using china or ceramic plates, and choose paper, plastic or Styrofoam plates and cups. Not only does this fill the local landfill, but both plastic and Styrofoam have long half-lives, meaning it takes a really long time to break down. You know how there is a rumor that only cockroaches could survive a nuclear holocaust? Add those two to your list too. There is not enough time to list out the evils of this satanic trinity of party materials.

 

The eco-conscious host and hostess have two options.

 

One is to suck it up and use ceramic plates and glasses. Try to get help from friends or family when it comes time to do dish duty. You can even make a game of it. Whoever checks their phone at dinner first has to help with dishes. You can extend this to your napkins as well. Instead of using paper napkins, cloth napkins can be purchased at any linen store or even the local thrift store. A post-party toss in the wash makes them good as new.

 

Option two is to invest in compostable dinner wear, which can be found at places like GreenPartyGoods.com. These plates are made of sugarcane, and even if you do not have access to a compost bin, these plates will not spend a century sitting in perfect condition at the local fill.

 

Dead flowers and other decorations

 

Creating the right party atmosphere isn’t limited to your tableware. No matter the degree of formality, centerpieces and other decor set the mood for all get-togethers. However, dead flowers, balloons and confetti also create more waste.

 

Instead of buying flowers for a centerpiece, consider using succulents. Pretty, delicate and sturdy, these plants can outlive your party and also set a rustic and cozy mood. You can pick a blossom off of a Sempervivum ‘Carmen’ and let it float in a glass bowl. Even removed from the plant, it will survive and will grow roots. You can plant it, watch it grow, and do the same thing all over again for your next party- at home recycling!

 

 

Instead of buying new candle holders, go to your local thrift store or rifle through your cabinets and take out some old mason jars. They can be used as vases, a home for a tea light, or even a unique way to show off photos. You can tape lace doilies or tie ribbons around jars to dress them up according to the occasion. Even emptied glass bottles look great. This has become very popular with weddings lately. Who knew that plain old glassware could look so elegant?

 

Banners and flags can be made using brown paper bags from the grocery store. Link garlands can be made using pages from old magazines or newspapers. Replace balloons with paper lanterns. Wrapping gifts with these same materials also makes for a fun look. Just don’t forget to recycle these when you’re done. Save them for future parties, pass them on to the next mother or bride-to-be, or put them in your recycling bin which brings us to our next tip…

 

If you build it, they will come

 

Well, you don’t have to build it, but you most certainly want to designate it. One of the most important things a host or hostess can do is to make recycling receptacles available to their guests. If there are none available, they will simply toss all of their waste in the same trash can. However, if given the option, many of your guests will comply for two reasons: it appears important to their host who was gracious enough to invite them, and simply “why not?”

 

“Formality” doesn’t need to mean “excess”

 

So what about the events that are too formal and important to be done at home? Due to the growing green revolution, eco-friendly venues are popping up and becoming more popular. The Springs Preserve offers an array of beautiful meeting areas with a wide range of room capacities. Not only does the Springs Preserve offer a pleasing environment, but the facility has a LEED Platinum certification. The buildings are powered with the help of solar panels, and use recycled materials such as carpet composed of recycled plastic bottles and corn husks. The water used on the property is filtered and used as irrigation for plants. All buildings were constructed with the hot Mojave desert in mind, using overhangs to shade areas and strategically placed windows to encourage natural light use. Their caterer also uses locally-grown produce and sustainable materials. They offer a variety of different menus, from breakfasts, to dinners or tea parties.

 

 

Throwing a party is not easy. It can be expensive, and it involves lots of planning, lots of preparation and eventually lots of cleaning. However, the benefits of being around the people we love, or even simply expanding your networking, negate all the cons. All of the effort does not need to be made more difficult by the desire to do it all with sustainability in mind. Always remember that in the long history of humanity, we did not always have plastic, paper, florists or oil and it seemed to suit us just fine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

 

Crunchy Domestic Goddess. (2008, July 23). How to throw an eco-friendly party (with a giveaway). Retrieved from http://crunchydomesticgoddess.com/2008/07/23/how-to-throw- an-eco-friendly-\party-with-a-giveaway/

 

Green Party Goods. (2012). Create your perfect place settings here. Retrieved from

http://www.greenpartygoods.com/

 

Home and Garden Television. (2012). Succulent centerpieces. Retrieved from http://www.hgtv.com/landscaping/succulent-centerpieces/index.html

 

My DIY Wedding Day. (2010, June 14). New use for mason jars. Retrieved from

http://www.mydiyweddingday.com/2010/06/new-use-for-mason-jars.html

 

Springs Preserve. (2012). Catering. Retrieved from http://www.springspreserve.org/book/catering.html

 

Springs Preserve. (2012). LEED certification. Retrieved from http://www.springspreserve.org/about/sustainability_leed.html

 

This Old House. (2008). Succulent plant types. Retrieved from http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20215085,00.html

 

 

 

 

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