Wedding Wednesday- Disposable Necessities Done Right

by - Wednesday, August 17, 2016

wedding paper straws and wooden stirrers

Now I know all you unmarried wonderful people are almost tired of browsing ethical engagement rings. Must be time to fantasize about your future eco-friendly compostable wedding plates- right?

My brother and his longtime, lovely girlfriend are getting married this year, and I couldn't be more psyched about it. I have been trying to be helpful (ok, I have been giving wayyyy too much unsolicited advice to two perfectly competent adults). One of the things my soon to be sister-in-law did ask for advice on was plates for the reception that were one time use but eco-friendly.

This is a challenge lots of us face for our weddings (or really any big party we throw)- when you host a party that big, it isn't surprising that some of the wares will be disposable. Maybe you are renting tables, chairs, plates, and silverware, but I bet you have had the cocktail napkin conversation (GAH!!! Do not get monogrammed napkins. Everyone already knows what wedding they are at- what a waste of money). Or maybe you are going to buy straws and cups for the bar.

This topic is boring (no, really!), so it doesn't get much attention on most wedding sites, but your approach to what you throw away might be the singlemost environmentally-conscious decisions you make. How much of this blessed day would you like to go to a landfill?

Disposable is certainly easy to come by (and cheap), but think about your priorities before you go that way across the board. Please, if you can rent any of these supplies from your caterer (or the venue or a local party rentals place), do it. Renting means reuse, which is exponentially less harmful for the environment than any one time use goods.

That being said, sometimes the cost difference is ridiculous, and other times (with things like straws and cocktail napkins), a rentable option may not exist. Maybe you are doing a big potluck picnic or another party where disposable makes the most sense. We used paper straws and plastic cups (would do that differently now), and I think most couples do end up with a mix. If you splurge a little on compostable and recycled goods for even half of these items, your wedding will have a significantly more positive impact on the world you will be married in.

If this isn't for you, but you want to do a little, don't buy any plastic. No plastic plates, straws, or cups. They are incredibly wasteful, dangerous to wildlife, and will outlive our grandchildren. Plastic is a problem, never a real solution.

So if you are doing the world's most boring wedding shopping, let me join you. Here are some things worth looking into:

Plates


Americans throw out a trillion disposable plates A YEAR. Can you even imagine a trillion? At the very least, we can make the ones we add compostable.

Some people use all disposable plates, and others only go that route for dessert or appetizer plates. Whatever you need to do is what you need to do, but I think you can find something classier and eco-friendly all at once. Yes, you can get a plastic plate in exactly your colors, but 100+ plastic plates straight to a landfill? Kind of a bummer, and you might be able to find something just as cost-effective while being much more eco-friendly. Plus, I think the perfectly matched thing only works for particular styles, and you have to be very meticulous to make it work. It's a wedding. White always makes sense.

As a side note, LOOK AROUND and see where you can buy what you want in bulk. If you buy your plates 25 at a time, you will be wasting money. Track those bigger sets down on websites like Eco Party or Webstaurant Store.
susty party square plates for a wedding reception
Susty Party from Amazon

Our Pick- I think if you are going for an elegant look, it doesn't get much better than the Susty Party square plates. They are sturdy, look so sharp for a table, and cost about as much as any "premium" plastic plates they sell for weddings (around 50 cents a plate). They have a dessert plate as well, and I just think this is an absolute winner if you are having a more elegant or classic wedding.

leafware square plates for a wedding reception
Leafware from Amazon

If you are doing something more rustic, I love these Leafware plates (compostable, not recyclable) and made out of palm leaves. They are very sturdy and look gorgeous and modern. Plus, they will decompose, so they create no waste. Win! If they don't quite fit your style, check Thynk and CiboWares as well.

Other Options- Susty also sells a more rustic and papery option that still look great and these ones are made in America as well. For any of our regular life parties, this is probably what we would buy. They scream picnic to me, not necessarily wedding (though some colors look more polished than others), but if you are having a more picnicky shindig, this is an awesome option.

Bamboo options, like these plates from Bambu, exist as well! Find an aesthetic that works for yoru style. If you want something even more low key, try these plates from Earth's Natural- still completely biodegradable and only 18 cents a plate!


Cups

susty party clear compostable cups for wedding reception
Susty Party from Amazon

We definitely used plastic cups at our wedding bar (there may still be some floating around 4 years later). If I could go back, I would put our drinks in something more eco-friendly. Because, why not? If one more good thing (beyond the dancing) came out of our alcohol, who can complain?

Our Pick- I tried to find ones that don't advertise themselves too much, not because there is anything wrong with being environmentally-psyched, but it doesn't always look that pretty. Susty Party sells both clear compostable cups and even more environmentally-friendly paper cups, so they may be the big winner in this category.

Other Options- There are tons of other options, and some like Zilchables are even made in the USA. They all have branding on them, which is a pain in the butt, but if you are less fussy than me and don't care, you can find a great deal and a huge eco-friendly win- Eco-Products, Stalkmarket, World Centric, and Repurpose.

Make sure to to poke around and find the bulk option that best fits the number you were thinking- great way to save some money!



Straws

tranquilo paper straw in a glass of juice with an orange
Tranquilo from Amazon
Who doesn't love a straw in their cocktail? If you want a little something extra at your bar, paper straws are biodegradable and eco-friendly. Plus, they are trendy enough that you can absolutely find something eco friendly AND in your colors!

Our Pick- Tranquilo straws are made from paper, in the US, and money goes to Ocean Clean Up projects. Their stated goal as a company is to eliminate the "needless consumption of disposable plastic products." As you can probably guess, this company is one of my absolute favorites. If you are buying straws for anything, buy these ones. The options on Amazon are limited, but you can find more on Tranquilo's website.

Other Options- Any paper straws are a thousand times better (and classier) than any plastic straw. You do more good if you find ones that haven't traveled far (so maybe not Kikkerland- at least try their subset Green Party Straws that biodegrade). I really love Aardvark straws because they have lots of colors, biodegrade, and are made in the USA. You also do more good if you find ones using recycled paper. Crave sells all recycled ones, so it might be a great option.

Still can't find the perfect straw? Hello, Etsy. "Paper Straws" and the USA filter gets you 16,000+ options. Some of my favorites- Puppy Cat Crafts (every color or pattern you could possibly want), Cherished Blessings (super affordable if you can find your color), The Papered Table (great options all around) and The Party Gnome (crazy patterns, but I like the birch if you are doing a rustic wedding). You can probably get all you would need for 10-20 dollars, and it is so much cuter than those damn cocktail napkins.

Silverware


birchware disposable forks for a wedding reception
Brichware from Amazon

Ugh, plastic silverware is the worst, right? What a waste to use a piece of plastic once and then send it off to the landfill. You still have better options than horrible plastic- even recycled plastic isn't great if you are just going to toss them. We will never go back to this- it just doesn't make sense. The wooden and biodegradable stuff looks and feels better too, and the price difference isn't too significant when you buy in bulk.

Our Pick- Wooden Cutlery. They really do look beautiful, and I think they could work with so many wedding styles. I couldn't find a specifically "Made in America" brand, so let's do the best we can. My favorite might be these Birchware wood cutlery- they have clean modernist ones and more elegant choices, so I think it could be great for so many weddings. I also think buying the pieces separately makes sense since you need way more forks than spoons for most menus.

You have more options, some of which cost less, so look around and find the wood (and biodegradable) options that work for you- HUJI Disposable (super cost-effective), Perfect Stix (also well-priced and great reviews), Creative Juice Cafe, and Pretty Sweet Party.

Other Options- Bioplastic. You can get plastic made from plants that still biodegrades I don't think it is nearly as attractive, but you can save money and it still biodegrades! Repurpose has a line of biodegradable silverware and you can get everything you possibly need (maybe for your whole marriage). I love that they are out to replace all those disposables that hurt your wedding's carbon footprint. Transitions 2 Earth has some to look out as well- they are made in China and biodegrade over 5 to 20 years. So mixed bag, but still an improvement on plastic.

Napkins


Now I know I have been pretty secretive about how I feel about decorative napkins at weddings. You probably aren't sure where I stand. Oh you are? Alright, well let's just leave it there then.

If you aren't going to use them as major decor, I say go basic. If your wedding aesthetic works with that recycled kraft color, go that route. If not, white and recycled is still way more eco-friendly.

Our Pick- My loyalty remains with Seventh Generation for eco-friendly paper goods, and you can get 100% recycled lunch napkins (in white or kraft) at low prices. They don't sell cocktail napkins, so for that, I would recommend Hoffmaster kraft napkins which are 100% recycled and made in the US.
susty party napkins with stylish arches
Susty Party from Amazon
Other Options- Susty Party sells some cocktail napkins with great-looking designs (you can find them here too). I can't remember one napkin from any wedding I attended, but maybe you love a good napkin. Start with this company then. If you want something plain white, Tree Free cocktail napkins are made of bagasse (sugar cane) instead of tree products. They also donate proceeds to the Arbor Day foundation!

Need more eco-friendly wedding inspiration? It isn't all about one thing- you can take so many routes to make your wedding that much more ethical and kind to the environment. Check the Eco-wedding tag for more ideas.

Need mroe general shopping inspiration? Nice! Check out the Giant List of Shopping Lists.

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