I love entertaining and the more the merrier! Whether it’s during the holiday season or for a summer outdoor party, large events can mean a lot of waste in the form of disposable party ware, decorations, and more. It doesn’t have to be that way. As you plan your blow-out party, try some eco friendly party supplies to make your event a green one!
Why the Need for Eco Friendly Party Supplies?
If you take a look at disposable table- and service-ware, much of it is made of disposable plastic. Plastic is made from nonrenewable fossil fuels, such as petroleum and natural gas, and it isn’t biodegradable. These items are used once before being tossed in the garbage, and most can’t be recycled.
Party decorations can add to the waste-generating mix, with cheaply-made plastic items, like balloons and flimsy party favors that end up polluting the environment.
Paper products aren’t much better. Paper cups and plates are often coated with polyethylene, a plastic lining to make them waterproof. Most of these items can’t be recycled.
I was confronted with a stark visual of all of this unnecessary waste when attending a recent conference. It was, ironically, a sustainability event, and I’d been invited to speak on one of the panels. As I entered the hall for lunch, I was greeted by an assortment of disposable plastic service-ware, including plastic cups, stirrers, platters, and toothpicks.
The mismatch between the conference’s message and this display of single-use plastic was alarming, particularly with the ready availability of useful green event planning guides for corporate events. With a little effort, anyone – or any organization – can make their event an eco friendly one. It just takes a bit of planning!
Avoid Disposable Products
The best eco friendly party supplies are non-disposable ones. To avoid disposable products, try these alternatives:
- Rent or borrow. Need extra plates or glasses? Ask your friends to pitch in, or rent some. Most rental companies will conveniently clean the items after they’re used.
- Reuse, reuse. If you have the room, purchase reusable items for all your party needs – plates, glasses, table cloths, napkins, straws, even decorations.
- Natural Decorations. Think natural when decorating. Instead of cut flowers, try potted plantings. For my holiday table, I use pine cones that my boys decorated when they were young. They look as good as new, ten years later.
What to Look for When Purchasing Party Products
Sometimes you need to use disposable party ware and that’s when eco friendly party supplies will keep your event greener than if you used single-use plastic items. A few guidelines, below, for purchasing party products.
Plastic packaging makes up 40% of all plastic usage and is the single largest use of plastic. So when purchasing party products and food, look for items and brands that minimize packaging, particularly plastic packaging. And don’t forget your reusable bags when you head out the door.
Support your local businesses by shopping local. You’ll also reduce the carbon footprint of your purchases through reduced vehicle travel time.
Biodegradable or Compostable Products
Avoid plastic. To be specific, avoid single-use plastic products that can’t be recycled. That includes cutlery, cups, plates, balloons, and other plastic party favors. Instead, look for items that are truly biodegradable or compostable, and are made from recycled materials.
Eco Friendly Party Supplies: My Picks
Plates and Bowls
- Basic paper. Chinet brand’s line of compostable tableware, made out of recycled material includes all-purpose dessert and appetizer plates. They’ll decompose in a home compost environment.
- Uncoated paper. Tabnovo plates are biodegradable and compostable. They’re also durable enough to microwave and are leak-resistant.
- Certified compostable. World Centric brand products are made from discarded sugar cane and wheat fiber. They are certified compostable in a commercial compost facility (but can’t be recycled).
- Elegant. For special occasions, Veneerware disposable bamboo plates are an attractive and eco friendly alternative to plastic. They’re also sturdy enough to hold heavy, sauce-laden foods.
- Wine plate. Bamboo Studio has created a handy plate to hold your wine while enjoying your food. It’s made of bamboo and can be hand washed for extended use.
- Bowls. Wasara doesn’t disappoint with their line of beautiful, designer compostable products. I love their designer bowls, which are certified compostable and sturdy enough to hold hot and cold foods.
- Melamine. Melamine tableware isn’t disposable (and yes, it’s plastic), so the convenience factor is less, but you have the comfort of knowing that these items won’t break or shatter. Invest in a set of plates and bowls and you’ll reuse them for many years. Look for brands that state “BPA free” and can withstand high heat. Crate and Barrel has a good line of products and styles. You can also find a variety of styles from Tag brand.
- Trays. PackNWood offers a variety of different-sized biodegradable trays. They come in cases of 10 trays.
- Serving bowls. PackNWood offers both large and small disposable serving bowls.
Certified compostable cups do exist, but there’s been some controversy over the substances that make up these products. Using these products for that annual holiday party is probably safe, but until further studies provide conclusive results, use sparingly.
Note: These types of products only degrade in a commercial compost environment and cannot be recycled!
- Paper cups. World Centric is a reputable, BPI Certified brand. Its coffee cups are PLA-lined to prevent leakage and retain heat. Microwavable and freezer-safe.
- Bamboo tumblers are an elegant option. Wasara’s tumblers are certified compostable, even in home composting systems.
- Clear cups. Stalkmarket’s clear cups meet ASTM D6400 or D6868 standards. Great for cold beverages.
- Wood/Bamboo. PackNWood’s utensils are made from 100% natural and biodegradable bamboo. They’re attractive and sturdy. Sold in convenient bulk sizes of 50 or 250 pieces.
- Compostable. Before you purchase compostable cutlery, make sure you have access to a facility that can properly compost them. This type of product can only be composted in a commercial compost facility and won’t degrade in a backyard compost environment. They also can’t be recycled. Stalkmarket brand of cutlery meets ASTM D6400 or D6868 standards and is heat resistant.
Again, as much as possible, stick with reusable options to decorate your party.
- Potted flowers or plants for your table centerpiece.
- Solar LED lanterns for outdoor entertaining. I like Allsop brand handblown glass lanterns, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
- Reusable bunting, homemade or store-bought.
- Bubbles, pinwheels, streamers, or other eco friendly alternatives to balloons, which can be a serious threat to the environment and wildlife.
- Colored lights and lighting, to set the mood for an evening party. Try solar string lights, instead of the plug-in variety.
- Seed bombs, homemade or store-bought, for party favors.
Odds and Ends
- Napkins. Cloth is best, but for that large gathering, opt for paper. I like Susty brand napkins. They’re made from 100% recycled, 20% post-consumer content, and biodegradable. Bambu has its own line of beautiful (but pricey) bamboo deluxe napkins.
- Tablecloths. Opt for cloth, or even pretty vintage linens, that you can throw in the wash after use
- Straws. With all the options out there for plastic-free straws, you can avoid plastic straws for your event. (Or, consider no straws!) Aardvark is the trusted source for paper straws, though most of their products are sold in bulk. I also like Susty’s heavy-duty paper straws decorated with gray stars.
After the Party
Your party was a success (particularly because you used eco friendly party supplies)! Now it’s time to clean up. Do you have leftovers? Trash? Stuff you don’t want to keep? Remember your R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle (and “Rot”).
- Donate or sell any items that you don’t want but could be enjoyed by others: decorations and leftover party favors are some examples.
- Reuse any items that you can for future events.
- Recycle items that are recyclable. My recycling resources guide will help you determine what you can and can’t recycle.
- Save or freeze leftovers. I bet you have a lot of leftovers. Instead of throwing them away, or stuffing them in the fridge, only to rot, whittle that waste by properly storing and “reusing” your leftovers. My post on food waste will get you started.
- Compost or food recycle. If you can, compost unwanted food. Before you get started, read my post on how to recognize the difference between biodegradable and compostable products so you know what you can and can’t compost.