By Juliette Fradin —
Easier than it sounds, cheaper than you think
Summertime is often a busy season filled with sunshine and the company of good friends. Your favorite warm weather moments might include picnics, outdoor concerts, farmers markets, backyard parties or warm nights on the porch with a glass of wine.
Unfortunately, summer is also synonymous with overflowing trash cans and more disposables than the earth can take in. Society often favors the quick toss rather than environmentally conscious consumerism. In 2016, the State of Maryland recycled only 13.7 percent of plastic and 45.5 percent of paper waste. It is time to lower our carbon footprint.
If you are planning to throw a party this summer, consider these trash-free options. It is easier than it sounds and cheaper than you think. Who enjoys eating off a styrofoam plate with a plastic fork, anyway?
- Use fabric tablecloths. They are stylish and beautiful. See what you can find at your favorite thrift store. Bed sheets work great too!
- Substitute cloth napkins for paper ones. They are way prettier and last longer. Buy them secondhand, sew them yourself or repurpose old fabric.
- Start using reusable plates and cutlery. You can try inexpensive enamel or ceramic plates. Ask guests to bring their own reusables, or ask your church if they rent plates and cutlery. No one will miss the plastic forks, I promise!
- Ditch straws. Period.
- Make your own drinks and serve them in a glass pitcher. No need to buy lemonade or tea in plastic bottles. Buy cola in cans. Go to your local brewery for a keg of beer.
The zero waste party box
If you happen to have a group of eco-conscious friends and neighbors, you can also make a communal party box that your friends and neighbors can share. It’s perfect for birthday parties, outdoor movie nights, picnics and block parties. Additionally, a collective party box is a great money saver and helps to keep the trash out of the waste system.
How does it work? Start with a few basics and let others add to the box.
Use a large bin that is easy to move in and out of your house or car and fill it with unbreakable items for a memorable, eco-friendly party:
- Silverware: Mismatched thrifted cutlery or unused silverware sets that are sitting in closets work perfectly. Mark them with nail polish so they don’t get mixed up with your own.
- Plates: Check what you already have at home, ask your neighbors, or buy used ones from yard sales or thrift stores. Be on the lookout for enameled tin or bamboo plates.
- Cups: Consider using stackable ones to save space in your party box.
- Extra items that make a difference: Cloth napkins, a tablecloth, serving utensils, dish towels, cutlery storage (like a dishwasher organizer), a trash bag in case you are unable to find a waste disposal and recycling bin, and even a little notebook to record your party box’s social life.
And why not bring a container for compostable waste? Just throw food scraps in your compost pile when you get back home, et voila!
Plastic Free July Challenge
If you want to go further this summer, join the Plastic Free July challenge, a worldwide annual event that started in 2011 in Australia (www.plasticfreejuly.org). Choose to refuse single-use plastic for a month. You can opt to remove ALL single-use plastic items from your life or just the big four: grocery bags, plastic straws, to-go coffee cups and plastic water bottles.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” — Anne-Marie Bonneau, the zero waste chef.
Ready to give it a try? Cheers to a slow and plastic-free summer! Send me your questions at firstname.lastname@example.org