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Tips for hosting eco-friendly (small) gatherings

If you want to throw a party that's easy on the planet, there's a lot to consider.

By IOL Reporter | August 18, 2021 | Trends

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 an events company, 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% over the previous year, "melamine plates" went up 76% and "plantable or seeded invitations" rose 21%.

Mini Yoon owner of an event-planning company that specialises 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.

Remember that you don't have to spend a lot of, or any, money. Borrow from friends, Yoon says, and don't be afraid to ask guests to bring their own festive plate or cup. You can also post requests on neighbourhood groups and forums.

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.

When it comes to cups, your best bet may be to go reusable

Scrutinise labels

When evaluating disposable products that claim to be sustainable, Julia Spangler, a sustainability consultant, 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. Look for products that are certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute.

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. And research your local recycling and composting guidelines to avoid contaminating waste.

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. If balloons are a must, offer them for reuse in an online neighbourhood group.

Again, reusable is best: Instead of tossing decorations each year, pick up fabric or paper ones that can be used again, or make them yourself. There are numerous options online.

Flowers as favours

At the end of a party, flowers can be composted, but a more festive approach is to send them home with guests. The party experts also like decorating with dried flowers and potted plants or succulents, which can be planted or given away

Other favours: People generally don't need extra stuff, but well-made, practical items that guests can reuse or consume are a thoughtful touch. Options include small jars of locally made honey, sauce, jam or chocolate, as well as face masks or pretty soaps. Yoon still uses a tumbler she got three years ago at a friend's bridal shower.

Ditch small plastic toys for kids and pick something with more longevity, such as thin paperbacks from a local bookstore.

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.

This originally appeared on IOL.