With July Fourth on the horizon most Americans are likely to participate in some kind of get together or another this holiday weekend, either as a host or an attendee. This brings up the burning question of how to party with the smallest carbon footprint. If not for everything you’re doing (perhaps the party is 45 miles from your home) but at least the most that you can.
Disposable party ware is ubiquitous these days, with the cultural norm being to buy and use toss away plates, napkins, tablecloths and cups rather than tackle a big clean up job on the other side of the event.
Why do we do this?
Are we Americans really so busy that we feel we deserve to just relax after we’ve relaxed with friends at a gathering? Sure, a certain weight falls on the host, and there can be stress in party planning and execution. But if there’s too much stress, then you should not only examine why you’re throwing a party in the first place. You should also look for ways to de-stress the events you are throwing. That may be a topic for another column, but I’m hoping some of these handy tips can help make for a better party for you.
First, if you can’t imagine anything other than disposable items for your party, or logistics dictate that it has to be that way, why not go the eco-distance and choose rapid renewable resources like wheatstraw or bamboo ware to make your footprint just a little lighter? These biodegradable, non-bleached, and often unprinted disposables have a look and feel that is naturally more elegant than paper or cardboard varieties. And it’s the perfect opener for a casual conversation on conservation.
The party box
But my favorite choice is to begin building a “party box” that you can keep in the attic or basement with dinnerware exclusively tagged for outdoor and casual parties. Now, just because they’re outdoor and casual parties doesn’t mean they have to be reusable plastics, or beat up. You can go that route, but to me the real fun is assembling choices from thrift stores and yard sales that you may not want on your everyday table, but are fine or even perfect for holidays and events. Moreover, adults can usually handle breakable plates, cups and glasses with few accidents, so there’s no reason to shy away from them on that score.
Mismatched table lines, plates, cups, bowls and serving ware can still be grouped in color families, or by design elements so that your overall look is put together and charming, but where you’re not dependent on the whole matchy-matchy look. This doesn’t have to mean floral and flouncy. Any vintage style can be absorbed here as long as the mismatching works.
But just as widely available among the vintage shops and ladies auxillary haunts are matched sets for occasions. Red, white and blue for July fourth for example.
The beauty here is finding goods on the cheap, most of which are reused, which allows you to reduce purchasing and expenses over time, helps de-stress when party time comes and there’s that much less shopping to do.
What about those clean-up chores?
If you’re almost sold but think, “But I still have to clean up afterward,” then do something truly wonderful for your local economy and hire someone just for the cleanup. Buying disposable ware for a party of even 10 people can add up fast. More than that and it’s a big piece of your party budget. Take the budget you would have dedicated to landfill-ready tossaways and either pay a pro probably that full amount, or hire a neighborhood kid for $20 bucks. Be clear about expectations:
- Any linens put into the wash first. After cycle hang to dry or load into the dryer. After cycle fold dryer linens.
- All trash picked up and taken out to the garbage can.
- Dishes washed, dried, and put away or loaded into the dishwasher with the overflow washed and on racks.
- Recyclable bottles, cans, plastic and cardboard sorted and put in its storage area.
- Light furnishings restored to their places.
- Vaccuum, sweep or bissel indoor areas.
- Wipe surfaces.
While this may seem like a lot of work it probably amounts to about two hours work for a modest to medium sized party. Either DIY or many teenagers would be glad for the work and as always, the landfill will be that much better for having that much less waste piled on top.
Happy Independence Day!
–Lindsay Curren, Lindsay’s List