Throwing a party? Listen up. Too much waste is generated from parties, big or small, yet party products are billion-dollar industries. Kids’ fascination with party poppers, plastic whistles and paper hats lasts for minutes, leaving pollution to deal with for the next generation.
Irresponsible parties can be avoided with careful planning, consideration for the environment and a dash of eco-creativity. Just put on a green thinking hat!
Instead of serving food and drinks with polystyrene or paper cups and plates, use ceramics or glass. These can be purchased cheap at a second-hand shop or rented. Have someone help out with the washing up, or hire the services of a caterer that take all rented dirty dishes back and off your hands.
Invite a conservationist to present a lively talk or slide show. Or screen an educational documentary on wildlife preservation. For music, opt for local artistes’ records or World Music albums to keep heritage alive.
Art of Giving
As a host, tell guests your wish list. This prevents wastage of unwanted products and packaging. If it’s expensive, have your guests share the cost. If you don’t need a gift, consider asking for donation to a good cause. There are gifts that can also be bought that support local talent, use recycled or sustainable materials. See below for green shopping ideas.
Balloons are pretty but a health hazard. Made of latex, it gives off noxious fumes when burnt. When released, they eventually fall into nature reserves, rivers and seas causing entanglement and pollution. Turtles think deflated balloons are jellyfishes, swallow them, and choke to death.
Get biodegradable balloons instead, made from natural latex, and compost used ones. Avoid helium balloons, as helium – a naturally occurring gas - is in global shortage that’s better reserved for scientific purposes. Oft for décor made of recycled materials such as used wrappers, fabric, leaves or flowers. Displaying kids’ crafts is a sure winner.
Outdoor parties are cool as they rely on natural light, while indoor ones can use low-powered lighting like LED, saving precious energy. Projecting light onto a plain background screening patterns and images saves material cost like banners and props. For romance, soy-based candles do the trick. Unlike paraffin candles that are made from petroleum, they spew little carbon and soot in the air.
Place boxes with labels for sorting and recycling, and another for compostable waste. Empty wine bottles can be turned into candleholders - spirals of dripped wax on an ordinary bottle turns it into art. They can serve as water containers in the fridge.
Emailing invitations is quicker and uses fewer resources than mailing printed cards. For formal events and weddings, consider using FSC-certified recycled paper printed with vegetable ink, or thinner cards.
Instead of having regular BBQ that is heavy on charcoal and air-flown steak (both have high environmental impacts), switch to potluck parties with sustainably sourced vegetables and meat from local farms - if you must have meat. Vegetarian food can just be as wholesome and yummy.
Organic food, wine and beer are free of pesticides, chemical additives and antibiotics, making a healthier alternative. To prevent food wastage, do RSVPs, and even then plan for 70-80% of turnout. Have takeaway bags and recyclable containers handy to give away food that is left over.
The writer first contributed a version of this article to Discovery Channel Magazine.