Renovation & Design

Throw a party that's easy on the Earth


Reusable dishes like the melamine Outdoor RV Dish Set from RetroPlanet offer a fun and eco-friendly way to serve your guests.

If you want to throw a party that’s easy on the planet, there’s a lot to consider. Your goals should include keeping your waste down and ensuring the goods you use are sustainably made, meaning their production avoids the depletion of natural resources. Luckily, there’s a lot to choose from.

"Twelve years ago, we didn’t have bamboo plate options," says Sarabeth Quattlebaum, owner of Sarabeth Events in Texas, noting that eco-friendly clothing and decor started a trend. "Now that zero waste is becoming more important to people, it’s one of those you wear it, then live in it, then party in it kind of thing."

Etsy has seen more interest in eco-conscious supplies. Dayna Isom Johnson, the online marketplace’s trend expert, notes that searches for wooden utensils increased 92 per cent over the previous year, melamine plates went up 76 per cent and plantable or seeded invitations rose 21 per cent.

Party City, the sector’s largest retailer, devotes a section of its website to eco-friendly tableware. As does Meri Meri, a trendsetting brand known for its whimsical colours and handmade aesthetic. "Our design ethos is to buy it well and buy it once," says chief executive Kelly Lees.

Mini Yoon, owner of Loveworks LA, an event-planning company that specializes in eco-friendly weddings, gives this advice: "Be mindful of the products you’re using, and use what you have, borrow what you don’t and buy used what you must."

We spoke to experts to get their tips on parsing through all the options.

Reusable is best:

Say goodbye to single-use plastic. Your Earth-friendliest choices for serving food and drinks are reusable ones you buy or acquire. For a homey look, Isom Johnson advises seeking out vintage plates, cups and display items, such as cake stands, in various colours and materials; reusable melamine plates are popular on Etsy, she says.

Sustainable is the next best:

If you’ve decided you don’t want to do any dishes and can afford to pay more, avoid disposable foam and plastic tableware, which usually can’t be recycled. Go for paper products, which can be made from post-consumer recycled materials, because you might be able to recycle or compost them after use. Costlier but sturdier alternatives to paper include rustic-looking sugar cane (the least expensive of these options), bamboo or palm leaf.

Scrutinize labels:

When evaluating disposable products that claim to be sustainable, Julia Spangler, a sustainability consultant and owner of Ecosystem Events, advises paying close attention to product labels, because many biodegradable items won’t break down in a backyard compost bin and need to be processed at a special facility. Having eco on a label doesn’t guarantee that the product is good for the environment.

Make a disposal plan:

The experts suggest making a plan to dispose of your dishes and utensils, whether that’s by collecting everything to be recycled or composted, posting signs to help guests decide what belongs in recycling, trash and compost bins or arranging a pickup or drop-off with a composting company.

Decorations and favours:

Say bye to balloons: Considering their use of helium and latex, as well as the havoc they’re capable of causing when released, balloons generally aren’t endorsed by the experts we interviewed. Balloons made from biodegradable latex are available, but VanKeuren Campbell says it’s unclear how quickly they break down. Instead of balloons, Thom likes to use tissue paper balls and pompoms, which can be arranged into arches.

With so much to think about when planning an eco-friendly event, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The key to success is to do your best, and don’t panic if every item at your party isn’t the greenest version. Do what you can, Yoon says, and make Earth-conscious choices that make sense for you.

— The Washington Post


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