Top 10 Plastic Free Party Swaps
DRINKWARE - PLASTIC FREE CUPS & DISPENSERS
Try serving up that iced tea in a reusable cup, or have your guests #BYOBottle. Offering reusables is a great way to eliminate single-use (SU) plastic cups, as is having a drink dispenser. Providing a drink dispenser allows for two things: it eliminates SU drinks (water bottles, etc.), and guests control quantity, which helps decrease food waste.
PLASTIC FREE STRAWS AND DRINK TAGS
Swapping out the single-use plastic straw and drink tag is another way to go plastic-free. Paper straws are becoming readily available and after the party can easily be thrown into the compost bin. Whereas, eco-drink tags are harder to find, but with a bit of planning you can try this easy option using string, paper & clothespin. This four-in-one mason jar is a practical way to offer guests a drinking glass, compostable cutlery, straw, and drink tag. The reusable napkin is a bonus.
TABLEWARE - COMPOSTABLE PLATES & CUTLERY
How many parties have you been to with plastic plates and cutlery? Probably too many. Sadly, most of these items can't be recycled; however, if you can't offer reusables, then why not swap out the plastics for palm. While there are other eco-friendly tableware options out there, I know that palm plates and wooden cutlery are compostable. But remember, a compostables plate has to go into a composter in order for it to break down properly.
PLASTIC FREE DECORATIONS - BUNTING
Many trendy plastic decorations are readily available at any big box store, but most won't be reused and can't be recycled. So why not skip those all together and opt for something earth-friendly like a simple DIY paper bunting using hemp string. Bunting can be made using various materials like fabric, but if you're not a sewer, then try paper. While it might not be as sturdy, paper bunting can be reused until it gets too tattered. And this is the nice part about this bunting; it's compostable!
Foliage and flowers are another great decoration that can be reused or composted after the party. If you raid your back garden or have access to wild spaces, you can use flowers & clippings as decorations that are plastic-free. Store-bought flowers are wrapped in SU plastic. You can skip this packaging altogether by using what you have in your own backyard.
PLASTIC FREE TABLECLOTHS & MENU SIGNS
Plastic tablecloths are another single-use item that can easily be swapped out. Fabric cloths are the most earth-friendly choice, but other materials can be used as well. Why not use a vintage blanket from grandma's closet or try using Kraft paper. Both add a layer of interest to your table, and what's fun about Kraft paper is that you can label your food dishes on the paper and eliminate the need for plastic menu signs. At the end of the party the vintage cloth can be reused and the paper can be recycled. A win-win!
Image above:Kraft paper + Food label
Image above:Vintage table covering
PLASTIC FREE SNACK CUPS
Who doesn't love grab-and-go snack cups? They're cute and deliciously appealing, but too often, those snacks are in a single-use plastic. However, here is a super easy swap out that won't break the bank. Why not repurpose old glass dessert containers (shown here are the creme brûlée cups from Costco) into snack cups? These make great replacements for all types of snacks. If you don't have any on hand, check out your local thrift store. I've seen many of these cups available for purchase.
PLASTIC FREE PARTY FINAL TIPS
The challenge with single-use party wares is that marketing terms can be confusing. Some items are easily recyclable, and others can be composted. Some are actual trash. An easy tip is to know before you throw and get to know your community's recycling facility. A "biodegradable or compostable" plastic fork will only break down in a facility designed to process these items. They don't break down in the landfill. Here's one more grid I use when choosing party materials: Can I reuse it, repurpose it, recycle it or compost it? If the wares in question don't fit into this grid, I refuse it. Being aware of the final resting place will help guide your decision-making and help reduce excess party waste. Good luck with your eco-party planning.
About the author
Leigh-Anne Larsen is a freelance event planner and Eco-party planning blogger, Leigh-Anne Larsen, helps earth conscious party planners make informed decisions on how to reduce single-use plastics and party waste. To learn more about her, visit her at larsenevents.org.
All images are courtesy of Larsenevents.org.