"Right! My next celebration will be balloon free!" my friend declared as her sons birthday was concluding. She is a busy mum that works full-time, and is already on a journey to live more sustainably. But, as she divulged, with very little spare time, the task of making a celebration more sustainable can feel overwhelming.
Well, luckily my friend has just discovered the secret: you can make a difference starting by changing just one thing.
With a little thought and preparation, making your celebration more sustainable is not hard at all. To give you a hand I've put together this guide to make reducing waste even easier when planning your next celebration.
To get started, think about the different aspects of the party. I have broken these down into some main points with suggestions, but get as creative as you like while keeping in mind these principles:
- Refuse: say no to things you don't need. At a party, the only essential is friends or family!
- Reduce: only buy/use what you actually need, and if purchasing new, choose items with limited packaging. Could you find it somewhere else rather than buying new? Join your local second hand groups or share items amongst family and friends.
- Re-use: repurpose what you already have, choose items that can be reused many times before eventually being recycled. Perhaps you can collect your glass jars to be used in place of disposable cups?
- Rot or Recycle: choose items (and their packaging) that can be composted, or as a last resort, recycled.
Sending Out Invitations
Some lower-impact options are:
- Email invites
- Text message
- Recycled paper (homemade or purchased)
If there is something you need your guests to do to help make your event waste free (e.g. bringing picnic ware, no presents, etc.), be sure to politely include this in the invitation.
Use Regular Crockery
This can sound daunting but I was surprised to find it much easier to tidy-up compared to disposable as people are more respectful of crockery.
Ask Guests to Bring Their Own Crockery
Most people own picnicware, and nowadays many people even keep reusable cups, cutlery, and more in their handbags. Provide a washing-up station so they can clean them before going home.
Use Fresh Banana Leaves as Platters (for quick clean-up!)
If using this option, choose food options like dips and crackers so that the table surface underneath isn't damaged by knives. At the end, just throw them into the compost. If you don't have a banana tree, you could try asking on your local community group page. Another large edible (i.e. not poisonous) leaf would work too - just make sure they haven't been sprayed with chemicals and wash them before use.
Paper napkins might seem like a party staple, but they could easily be swapped out for a selection of cute vintage fabric ones found at an op-shop. Alternatively, you can use the tutorial put together for Airllywood by guest blogger Thelma Jade Design's to make your own. If you do use paper napkins, you could consider composting them after use.
First use-up your remaining single-use decorations (e.g. balloons, latest Disney-themed bunting, streamers), then pass them on or dispose of them appropriately and next time replace them with something reusable.
- Make reusable bunting, pom pom garlands, and ribbon streamers from fabric scraps. Hit your local op-shop and free Facebook groups to make your decorations with some pre-loved materials (BONUS TIP: choose synthetic fibres and you'll also be locking them & the microfibers that they shed out of the ocean & landfill).
- If you don't have the time or ability to make decorations, spend what you would on single use decorations and instead invest in one reusable decoration each time you throw a celebration. After a year or two you will have a great box of decorations ready to go.
- Decorate a chalkboard for something reusable and festive. I've had great success using watercolours on black boards but I recommend doing a spot test first so you don't ruin your chalkboard!
- Set up clearly labelled bins for compost and recycling. Don't have a general rubbish bin easily accessible, as this way people will need to ask for assistance before accidentally designating their waste to landfill. If possible, also include a list of what can be composted.
- Avoid those huge chunks of soggy paper towel by having some cloths and towels out ready to mop up spills.
- If a liner is required, line your bins with newspaper or a biodegradable liner. Please note that plastics labelled only as “degradable” often mean that the plastic will break down into microplastics.
- Compost. If you don't have your own ask a family member, friend or neighbour who has a compost bin in advance if they can take the waste with them on the celebration day. In some areas, there are also sites online where you can find locals who are happy to take your compost.
- If accepting presents you could request guests to wrap them in reused paper, bags, or fabrics to cut down on waste.
- Pass on unwanted items by posting them on your local free or buy-swap-sell groups.
Party Bags & Favours
Children's party bags are a big source of waste: plastic bags filled with individually plastic wrapped foods, often with little plastic toys thrown in. Obviously one option is to not give out party bags, but sometimes this can feel awkward if it is expected.
If you'd like to give party bags, be mindful of their contents:
- Use paper bags or other compostable/recyclable options
- Choose compostable contents, such as homemade playdough for young children!
- Choose items that will engage children with nature. Search terms such as nature play, kids zero waste crafts, or nature crafts to get some inspiration.
- Collect items from op-shops such as small toys.
- Choose sweets with the least plastic wrapping available.
Spread the Word
This is a small but important point as together we have the biggest impact. Holding a sustainable celebration is likely to have people intrigued, so take the opportunity to tell your friends and family why you are making these changes and encourage them to begin their own journey to a sustainable lifestyle too.
Whether you aim for a zero-waste party or simply focus on changing one element with each celebration, any step you make towards reducing the waste you produce is a win for the planet and all living creatures.
I hope these ideas will inspire you and give you a kick-start to making your next celebration lighter on the earth. We would love to see what sustainable changes you make to your next celebration (or maybe you have a few ideas you can share with us!). Post a picture on instagram and tag @themulberrytwo and @airllywood.
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