Have you ever volunteered to do clean up at a large scale event? We have, and we are often struck by the amount of barely used, like new items that are trashed after a single use. Think about themed banners, balloons, disposable tablecloths, leftover paper goods, and all of these items are typically tossed into the trash. As event planners, we are are often acutely aware of the amount of waste generated as the direct result of a one time “themed” event or party. In honor of earth day, we thought it appropriate to recognize and outline some basic event planning ways of going green and throwing a more eco-friendly party.
Plan ahead. Make plans for any large items specifically purchased for the event or other themed decor. Energy and effort often goes into creating large custom pieces, leaving the clean up crew to sort out how to dispose of it. Our answer: reuse it! Find a new home for the item. This can include customized items like a photo booth frame or props, other signage that can be re-painted and repurposed for another event.
Gift your themed decor. We find that the most waste from a party is often the themed decor. Instead of throwing your themed items directly in the trash, consider saving them to re-package and gift to another member of your community.
Eliminate balloons. We have found that it is becoming increasingly common for venues to restrict and even prohibit the use of balloons. Don’t stress, guests don’t miss them and there are alternative options to filling spaces that are more eco-friendly. Such as potted plants (that can be borrowed, rented and even planted or gifted at the event), or even alternative decor like hanging paper lanterns.
Consider rentals or reusable goods. Renting glass and tableware can help cut back on the overall material waste, but it often costs more, especially for smaller events. Instead, consider a one time purchase of a multi-use item that can be used in different way for different purposes. Another option is to borrow items. An item we consistently use, and thus have amassed our own assorted collection includes mason jars. Mason jars can be used to serve food and drink, hold decor, used as vases, used as votive holders.
Maximize your local resources available via social media networks. Check your area for local yard sale and swap websites such as Facebook Marketplace and the Buy Nothing Project. These can be invaluable resources for re-homing used decor, or helping to collect a specific item at a low cost (like flower vases or even folding chairs).
Communicate in advance. If going green or a “no gift” party is a shift or major change for your guests, consider communicating your wishes in advance. For a children’s birthday party this can be a single line of politely worded text added to the invitation. This helps to manage event expectations among guests and their hosts.
Work with a professional. Hiring a professional event or party planner can help you achieve your party or event goals, like going green and staying on budget. We can help connect you to local resources, and find ways to make your theme and vision come to life in a more eco-friendly way.
We realize that this not an all-inclusive list of ways to host an eco-friendly event. It is our experience that it is often helpful to think about how to make little changes in an effort to go green instead of overhauling a large scale event in one swoop.
We would love to hear your ideas and experiences hosting green, eco-friendly events in the greater Philadelphia area.