How to Find Zero-Waste and Eco-Friendly Party Supplies

by - Thursday, August 09, 2018



I love parties. I think there might be a conception that a truly green life is so simple and pared down that there isn't much room for celebration, but I think celebrating is an essential part of living. We have no control over the negative things that will happen in our lives- hearts will break, people will die, struggles will happen. We have to go through the challenges and emotions of those times, so the only way to maintain balance in our life is to spend just as much energy on the good times as the bad.

Our celebrations are powerful forces in our life, building our communities, showing our gratitude, and feeding our positivity.

That said, they can create a lot of waste.

If you check the "party supply" aisle of many stores, what you see is disposable items, meant to only be used once, wrapped in plastic that will outlive us all. Yes, that silly plastic film on your Frozen plates will outlive you, all the while polluting our Earth and waters. Doesn't quite seem worth it right?

When we are serving a big party, it makes sense to do the cheapest and easiest thing. We have so much on our plates already, who wants to sign up for tons of dishes on top of everything else?!?

Well, if we want to have a positive impact on the world, it might be our best option. Choosing reusable options can help stop a lot of waste for plates, napkins, cups, and more. If you have a party with 40 people, those three items add up to 120 more pieces of plastic into our eco-system. Definitely not something to celebrate!

If you splurge a little on compostable and recycled goods for even half of these items, your party will have a significantly more positive impact on the world. If you use what you own first, you can do even more good. 


If you want to do a little, just don't buy any plastic. No plastic plates, straws, or cups (or balloons! Check out other cheap and awesome options here). They are incredibly wasteful, dangerous to wildlife, and will outlive our grandchildren. Plastic is a problem, never a real solution. Plus, you are spending all this money, and plastic always looks trashy, because it is in fact trash. 

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. You will have more parties, so where you can't just be reusable, bulk is your next best bet.

Many of these links may be affiliate links, but I highly recommend looking secondhand and at locally-owned businesses first. 

Ok, party time! Let's look at supplies.


Plates


Americans throw out a trillion disposable plates A YEAR. Can you even imagine a trillion? If your party is small enough to use your regular plates, do that. Help shrink that number.

At the very least, we can make the ones we add compostable, so they will break down.

Whatever you need to do is what you need to do, but I think you can find something fun and eco-friendly all at once. Yes, you can get a plastic plate in exactly your colors (or with the paw patrol's puppy mugs on it), but how many plastic plates does that send 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.

No one has ever gone to a party and been wowed by the perfectly matching plates. Do white. You can use them later for other parties. If you have a theme, nail it with the food instead of the plates they sit on. People remember the food, because food.

The Zero Waste Option- Just use your regular plates! If the party isn't too big, you probably have enough. If you tend to host larger parties, I have read about buying sets of Corelle at Goodwill to use as "party plates" so that might be an option as well if your regular set runs short.

from Susty Party

Our Pick- I think if you are going for something grown up and flexible it doesn't get much better than the Susty Party square plates.  Susty sells circular and dessert plates as well, and I just think this company is a great resource for compostable party supplies no matter what your style.

leafware square plates for a wedding reception
Leafware from Amazon

If you like a more natural look, 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- Check bamboo options, like these plates from Bambu! Find an aesthetic that works for your 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

The Zero Waste Option- We bought a restaurant set of glass cups from Anchor Hocking (cheaper and unbreakable). We bring the second half out for parties, but with all those cups, beer bottles, and wine glasses, we have never not had enough cups. We throw a lot of parties, and these cups have never broken. If you have your parties at home, this works perfectly (and look, only 38 bucks. In a lifetime, that will save you tons of money).

For kids, we use our kids cups. When those get to small, we will just give them these ones. Seriously, so many parties, no breaks.

Our Pick- I tried to find disposable cups 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-ProductsStalkmarketWorld Centric, and Repurpose.

Make sure to to poke around and find the bulk option- 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 to add this little extra or step up your decor, paper straws are cute and compostable.

The Zero Waste Option- Just skip them. If you have kids coming and you want something for them, you could do reusable straws like glass or silicone.

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.

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 that might be fun). You can probably get all you would need for 10-20 dollars, and it is so much cuter than anything in the regular "party supply" aisle.

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.

The Zero Waste Option- Use your regular silverware. If you don't have enough, Thrift shops often have sections of used ones in big bags. So easy to find secondhand, probably for cheaper than anything disposable you could buy used.

Our Pick- Wooden Cutlery. They really do look beautiful, and I think they could work with any party. 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 won't poison the world! 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

from oh little rabbit
What evil genius convinced people that napkins are legitimate party decor? False! They are garbage! If you are planning something fancy, skip the cheesy monogram. If you are planning for a kid, skip the characters' faces. Take a second and think about it- why is your shmutz rag worth extra money? What is the last party napkin you can remember? Invest somewhere else and buy something simple and ethical.

The Zero Waste Options- Cloth napkins. We have them for our everyday, but we don't have enough for parties. You could get a large set like these or find a special set from an Etsy store like Creekside Kid, ohlittlerabbit, 112JamesStreet, and JAQStudio.

Our Pick- We use cloth napkins for our everyday use and simple recycled paper napkins for parties. We bought one giant pack and just bring a handfull out for every party. Every time something

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).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!

You can do this! This simple switch to how you approach events could keep hundreds or even thousands of pieces of waste out of landfills and purge your life of that much more plastic. All while you are having a good time with friends. That is powerful!

zero-waste and compostable party supplies


Want more ideas on how to live a green life and have green celebrations? I have TONS of them! Check them out here.

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