Friday, December 14, 2012

Green Holiday Parties

It's officially party season and with parties, comes lots of extra trash. Just think about all the extra stuff people usually use for a party from the paper (or plastic) plates and plastic cups to all the napkins and other paper goods. Wouldn't it be great if you could recycle some of that stuff instead of just throwing it in the trash can? Here's a few ideas I had and have implemented at my own parties.
Before I list the ideas though, I have to mention that I'm assuming recycling is offered in your town whether through pick-up service or drop off.

1. Let's start with the invitations - instead of sending out paper invitations, use an invite website like Evite. Before we go on, here's my real thoughts on this - every time I throw a party, I always try to put all my invites online but there's always the 1 or 2 people who don't have e-mail (yes, those people do exist somewhere believe it or not). What I usually do is call those 1 or 2 people and let them know about the party details. If you do decide to use traditional postal mail invites, look for ones printed on recycled paper and most importantly, make sure that they can be recycled after they're used.

2. Plates & Cups - OK, I'll start out by saying that using washable glass or plastic plates and cups might be best environmentally, but there's always the argument of all the energy and resources it takes to clean the stuff after it's been used. I'll also admit I'm guilty of using disposable plates and cups for parties, its so much easier in so many ways. Just like everything else, there are also multiple arguments to which is better to buy - plastic vs paper. My thought is that plastic might be better because it can easily be recycled - dump the food in the trash or the drink down the drain and put the plastic into the recycling bin.
While we're on the subject, I'll throw this little fact out there: Did you know that you shouldn't recycle paper or cardboard that has food on it? The basic reason is that because of the way paper recycling is processed which involves mixing the paper with water to create a slurry, the oil from the food can ruin an entire batch of recycling. Check out The Pizza Box Mystery article for details.

3. Make recycling easy for your guests. Grab your recycling bin or an extra trash can and designate it as the place to put all the bottles, cans, plastic goods, etc so that people aren't tempted to throw everything in the trash.

4. Turn the heat down before guests arrive. With all those people in your house, it will warm up (fast!) and if you have the heat on, you'll probably be opening the windows to try and cool it down, which we all know in the end doesn't make much sense!

5. My last tip is related to present wrapping. Regular wrapping paper usually cannot be recycled due to the dying process used to make the paper as well as the fact that a lot of wrapping paper contains glitter or other additives that cannot be recycled. Try some alternatives like the good old fashioned comics section of the newspaper (this is my personal favorite for kids stuff because a big part of the excitement for kids is ripping open presents, right?), for the adults - how about some reusable cloth shopping bags - the wrapping can also be a useful part of the gift!

Question: These are just a few things you can do to green up your parties. I know there are plenty of other things you can do in addition to the ones listed here. What do you like to do to make your parties more earth friendly?

Last Words: While it may seem that you're not making a big difference making these changes for your small holiday party, multiply the waste saved by hundreds of thousands of small parties and that's a lot of stuff not going to the incinerator or landfill.

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