Birthday and holiday celebrations are a lot of fun, we all love a good party don't we! Unfortunately, parties are traditionally pretty wasteful - from disposable plates, cups to plastic balloons and other decorations. Going zero waste isn't impossible though, there are so many alternatives to single use-plastics that you can use to minimize your waste and still throw a fab holiday party. We chat to Laura Derry Southwood, Co-Founder of EcoDrive,
to pick her brains for more practical tips on how to reduce our plastic footprint when entertaining.
DISPOSABLE PARTY SUPPLIES
When you're hosting, what is your go-to for plates and cutlery? Paper party kits or investing in more crockery that be washed and reused?
Before I started EcoDrive, I would have always gone down the paper party kit route. There are so many choices, from your child’s favourite character to a rainbow of colour that can match any theme; it really was a big part of my party planning. Throwing a party, I want there to be a WOW factor and sadly all this party paraphernalia, along with the dreaded balloon, does bring the party to life but it’s just for a few moments.
Now that I have been educated; I have bought crockery that can be reused time and time again and even lent out to friends for their parties.
Our motto at EcoDrive is “Start Small Start Now”, so I now compromise! Instead of balloons I will get reusable paper decorations that can be passed on to a friend or used at another party.
Eco-friendly disposable paper plates seem to have a contradiction in terms, are they a good alternative or can they not be recycled because they’ve been used?
Sadly that’s correct; paper plates cannot be recycled as the food waste contaminates them and most are plastic-lined, so even if you did clean them they’re unrecyclable.
Which are your recommended shops to get party supplies?
For crockery, try and make do with what you have got already or alternatively borrow from friends. For kid’s parties I have a stash of reusable Ikea plates that not only get rolled out at playdates but parties as well. For adult parties, the mix and match look has a lovely vintage feel that can be styled to have the desired effect.
PARTY FAVORS (For the Little Ones)
Photo via Pinterest
What are some creative alternatives to plastic goodie bags that you might have used?
For my son’s recent party we gave out a Roald Dahl Joke book wrapped in a ribbon and the kids seemed to love it. They have all just found a love of reading and this was a book that none of them had in their collection. Book Depository or Bookwise are great options for books for all ages and it often works out cheaper to give a book than fill a plastic party bag full of little toys and sweets.
For my daughter, she had a dance party so bought the girls tutus for their dressing up box and the boys t-shirts and sunglasses that I know that they would both get good wear out of.
GIFTS FROM GUESTS
What are your thoughts on having gifting requests (e.g. plastic-free)?
I find this a hard one; as a child my mother didn’t put any stipulations on what people could gift me so I am not militant about this and I don’t want people to feel awkward about coming to my kids birthday party! But that said most people know what I am doing at EcoDrive so are thoughtful in their purchases. Money in a card is always gratefully received by my kids.
FOOD & CATERING
Which caterers would you recommend who don’t use lots of disposable metal trays?
Check out Invisible Kitchen. They have got great green credentials. In my day job I run a PR agency and have worked with this caterer on a number of occasions and they are mindful about their mess! The food tastes delicious and they can get really creative with how they present the food.
If it’s not catered, what tips do you have for minimising waste during food preparation?
For a kids, or adults for that matter, pizza is a winner. You can eat straight from the box and there isn’t any single use plastic in sight!
How can people reduce waste at parties? Do you have any tips that have worked for you (e.g. having signage so guests know where recyclables go?)
I think reducing rather than recycling is the way to go. Try and minimize the amount of single-use plastic as much as you can. Encourage guests to bring their own water bottles so there’s no need to provide box drinks, for example.
Thank you Laura for these helpful tips! We can all do our bit to help if we #StartSmallNow. Let us know in the comments below if you have any more ideas on throwing a plastic free party!
Founder and managing director of lifestyle PR agency, Prime. Laura has come to realize that the plastic problem goes far beyond our own living space. We need to tidy up our world and think about the lifecycle, which goes before and after consumption.
EcoDrive promotes the awareness and reduction of single use plastic in Hong Kong through education, connecting with corporates, and providing possible solutions. Head over to their website
for more ecodriven tips!