Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A No-Trash Party

We've had a couple of reasons to throw parties this year; our older son's adoption party was one of my favorite of these.  We had 40 people over for an afternoon lunch of lasagna, bread, fruit-kebobs, and cake.  We celebrated with kids and grown-ups; with people from our church and from our neighborhood and from our jobs.

At the end of the party, we had less than one kitchen bag of trash.  Okay, so the party wasn't entirely no trash, but it was close.  The trash was mostly from the food preparation, not from the eating.

We do this by having a stash of re-usable items.  I wrote yesterday about our cloth napkins; the picture on that post shows the basket we keep them in.  Here is a picture of some of our cups, plates, and flat-ware.
Mugs have several advantages.  For one thing, they seem to appear and multiply in our house like bunnies. They have handles, which make them easy for party-goers to carry, and they all look different (at least, our motley collection does), which helps people remember which mug is theirs.  But somehow, sort-of miraculously, most mugs are exactly the same height!  This helps a lot with storage: we store them on tea-towel-covered trays, so we can bring out a whole tray at once.  And the same-heighted-ness allows us to stack the trays, with the few odd-sized mugs on the top tray.
We put our party plates in a popcorn tin.  Say that three times fast!
Our small plates, purchased long ago at thrift stores, are roughly 6-8 inches in diameter.  They're not a matched set either, obviously.  We keep them in a metal canister that we got with a bunch of popcorn in it; the tin is decorative enough that we leave it in the dining room all the time.  But there's part of me that would like to take a large 5-gallon bucket (the kind that laundry detergent or paint comes in), decorate it, and use that.  The carrying handle would be awfully convenient.
The part of the flat-ware basket that our guests never see.  Shh!
Several years ago we got a large set of flatware that we don't much like for everyday use (they seem to have been made for very small people).  They're fine for parties, though.  We augment this with thrift-store purchased flatware (again, it doesn't all match.  Shoot.)  I couldn't find a nice container for the flatware, so I finally cut the handle off of a rectangular basket.  I made dividers out of cardboard and covered the inside of the basket, cardboard-and-all, with more tea towels.

The last step in hosting the low-trash party is to make signs (on pre-cyled paper, of course).  We direct people to the compost bin, recycling bin, a laundry basket, and buckets where they can places their dirty silverware, mugs, and plates.

As always, there's some clean-up at the end of the party, mostly with the dishwasher, but a little with the washing machine.  The garbage haulers might be surprised at how many, um . . . , beverages the grown-ups have consumed this week, but they won't strain their backs lifting our garbage cans!

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