Summer is almost here, and with it, party season! We love nothing more than gathering together our friends and family for a celebration this time of year, whether it’s for a birthday, holiday, or just because. But as we’ve been keeping a closer eye on the impact of our everyday choices, we realized that parties can also be a real strain on the environment! Between the piles of crumpled gift wrap, plastic disposable dish ware, and soon-forgotten single-use party favors, just one small party can easily generate a mountain of waste!
So, what’s a party-loving family to do? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to host a party without creating such a strain on the environment (and in some cases, our wallets too). Here are some of our favorite tips and tricks for throwing a more sustainable, eco-friendly party, without sacrificing the fun or the flair!
1. Begin with Paperless Invitations. This may obvious at this point, but in case you missed the boat, one of the simplest ways to save paper, money, and time when throwing a party is to use paperless invitations. Whether you keep it super-simple and create a Facebook Event, or class it up with one of Paperless Post’s designer invitations, this is one of the simplest ways to start reducing your party’s footprint.
2. Opt for Reusable Table Settings. If you can handle the (temporary!) inconvenience of doing dishes at the end of your party, consider skipping the disposables at your next gathering and opting for the real stuff instead. If you don’t have enough tablecloths, cloth napkins, plates, cups, serving trays, and utensils in your personal collection, ask friends and relatives to borrow theirs or make a quick trip to your local thrift store to stock up on spares. And don’t worry - they don’t have to match! The vintage-eclectic look is totally in, anyway.
3. Or, Go For Compostable or Recyclable. If you just can’t bear the idea of doing dishes after your shindig (we get it), or you’re throwing a party at a park or at the beach, disposables are still totally an option. When chosen thoughtfully, you can still opt for convenience while reducing your footprint. Check out brands like Susty Party and Birchware for pretty-yet-conscious supplies, or keep it simple with uncoated paper plates (they may not be exciting, but they're completely compostable)! And of course, this is the perfect time to spring for those pretty paper straws that have taken the party world by storm. If plastic cutlery is your thing, be sure to use a sturdy, recyclable type that can also be washed and reused once or twice before recycling.
4. Decorate Responsibly. There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the impact of balloons on the environment - and that same can extend to single-use party decorations of all sorts. When choosing party decorations, there are plenty of creative ways to repurpose items or decorations you already have. For example, holiday string lights can add some sparkle any time of the year, a pretty bow tied around a healthy potted plant can become a festive centerpiece, or scraps of old fabric or leftover colorful paper can become a charming (and reusable) bunting. If DIY decorations aren’t quite your thing, there are plenty of resources for eco-friendly decorations, too - like Green Party Goods, which even carries biodegradable balloons!
5. Get Cooking. Instead of springing for fancy catering, consider donning your apron and getting crafty in the kitchen! Not only will you save money, you’ll also reduce your risk of being saddled with lots of extra packaging and waste, and you’ll be fully in control to choose high-quality, organic, Clean AF goods to serve to your guests. If cooking a big meal isn’t your idea of fun, get your friends and family involved by divvying up the work or going for a potluck-style meal. Same goes for the cake, too - nothing beats a delicious, homemade birthday cake (especially one baked by that friend who’s been busy practicing for their baking reality show audition - you know you've got one).
6. Gift Thoughtfully. When throwing a party for an adult, it’s easy to implement a no-gift rule - with kids, it’s a different story. By giving your guests friendly hints and guidelines about what kinds of gifts to bring, you can help curtail some of the environmental impact. For example, rather than setting expectations for lots of small gifts at a birthday, choose a large item with your child that they can save up for, like a day trip to an amusement park or a big donation to their favorite charity - then, ask guests to donate to a monetary fund for their big gift. Or, consider asking for hand-me-downs as gifts, especially for young kids - they won’t mind either way if a toy or book is second-hand. If guests really want to buy gifts, let them know you’re going green for this party, and ask that they forego the wrapping paper or use recycled gift bags. Most people will be excited to participate and might even see it as a fun challenge!
7. Think Favorably. Finally, if party favors are a must for your party, avoid single-use plastic toys that will be quickly forgotten and disposed of. Instead, choose something functional or eco-friendly, like locally handmade soaps, small potted succulents, or herb grow kits. Or, for a popular activity-meets-party-favor at a kids’ party, try a toy or book swap - kids bring one of their old toys or books, and trade it for another party guest’s toy or book. Everyone walks away feeling like they got a new gift - it’s a win-win! We did this at Tala’s birthday party last year, and it was a huge success.
We want to know - what are your favorite ways to throw a more environmentally-friendly party? Have you tried any of these ideas? Let us know in the comments below!