How to Host an Eco-Friendly New Year's Eve Party
New Year's Eve is traditionally a festive holiday, a way to celebrate (or say good riddance to) the previous 365 days, and the time to ring in a new year. I enjoy a good party on December 31st, but I often question the amount of waste that can go along with it. Disposable plates, balloons, and lots of plastic (horns, confetti, and tablecloths, just to name a few). I started to wonder: what changes could be made? Is it possible to have a fun celebration but still be friendly to the Earth? Certainly! There are several ways to adapt a traditional party to a "green" party. Here are some tips for an eco-friendly New Year's Eve!
Ditch the paper, envelopes, and stamps, and switch to electronic invitations. Electronic invitations are quick and easy! In the past, I've used Punchbowl and Evite with great success. Both websites offer free invitations (as well as paid), and the ability to track RSVP's. You just send the invitation via email (simple enough!) An alternative to electronic invitations is to create a Facebook event. If most of my guests are on Facebook, I prefer this route. It's a super slick way to invite guests (no need for emails; just select names from your Facebook friends list), and type in the party details. Guests can also communicate with each other, and with you via the comment section. No writing hand cramps involved!
Yes, it's certainly easier to head to your local party store for fun decorations, but it's not nearly as eco-friendly. Many party decorations, supplies, and favors are made of plastic, or non-recyclable materials. Also, most are made with virgin materials, not post-consumer-recycled-content. According to Recycle Nation, virgin "materials are sourced directly from nature in their raw form." Instead of using brand new materials, try upcycling, recycling, or purchasing decorations second-hand. I enlisted my mother's help and we spent a couple fun hours being crafty. Here's what we created:
- Garland - At Christmas, I always save the pieces of sturdy wrapping paper from gifts that are opened. We used some of the shiny, silver paper to make a paper-chain garland. You could also reuse silver or gold tinsel and string it around the room.
- Medallions/Stars - Reuse shiny wrapping paper to make medallions. Check out the Elli Blog for a tutorial!
- Signs/Banners/Bunting - If you're feeling artistic, use an old cardboard box and some markers to make a DIY "Happy New Year!" sign. Or, print out a small banner on paper, which is recyclable. We ended up making bunting out of shiny wrapping paper (the old wrapping paper really came in handy!)
Thankfully, there are a lot of alternatives to disposable paper or plastic tableware. The most eco-friendly option would be to use regular dishes and wash them afterwards. If you are hosting a small gathering, this is feasible. Understandably, with a large gathering, this would not be as easy. Instead, look for compostable tableware. Your local party store may offer a compostable option, but if not, you can order online. Keep in mind that some brands are only compostable in an industrial compost facility. Some are also compostable at home (just be sure to check into that before you purchase). If you don't have an area to compost the plates, recycled tableware is another option. One brand that I found is Chinet Classic White; which is made from 100% pre-consumer recycled material, and is also compostable.
Note: Granted, shipping items isn't the most eco-friendly practice. If this is a concern, you could consider purchasing carbon offsets, which are a "form of trade that funds projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. (Source: How Stuff Works)
What about party supplies? Can these be altered to be a bit more eco-friendly? You bet! Here are a few ideas for green party supplies:
- Beads - beads are shiny and fun, but they are also a big problem for the Earth. According to the Story of Stuff, "every year, 20 million pounds of plastic beads are shipped to the U.S." A significant amount goes to Louisiana for Mardi Gras, and where do the majority end up? In the landfill, greatly contributing to plastic pollution. If you decide to have party beads, search around for some secondhand. When I visited my local consignment store, I saw three bags of beads for sale. Or check out Ebay!
- Horns/Shakers - What's a New Year's Eve celebration without a little noise at midnight? Instead of buying plastic horns, try making your own kazoo's using cardboard paper towel tubes and wax paper. Or, use the cardboard tubes to make shakers. Check out this fun shaker idea from Picklebums.
- Confetti - Instead of plastic confetti, try making your own. Save your old newspaper, scratch paper, or used wrapping paper and just shred or tear it up. Put it in a big bowl and hand it out shortly before midnight. Another option is to buy or make biodegradable confetti.
- Photo Booth Props - To capture memories of the evening, setup up a makeshift photo booth. For the props, use parts of Halloween costumes (a pair of silly glasses, a jester hat, a feather boa, beads, etc). Make a couple of DIY party hats, print out a few "Happy New Year!" signs for guests to hold in the pictures (then save the paper signs and hats for next year!)
What not to buy: Balloons - I searched, but just couldn't find an appropriate alternative for a balloon drop. According to Balloons Blow, "latex balloons are not biodegradable." As much fun as balloon drops are, it would be more eco-friendly to scrap the balloons, and stick with homemade horns and confetti.
We covered the basic party plans, but there's a few more things you can do! Encourage your guests to carpool, use some local beverages or snacks (if possible), purchase a secondhand outfit (or use one already in the closet), and borrow jewelry. Keep in mind, trying to go green can be overwhelming at first. It can be more time-consuming. If it isn't possible to make ALL the changes at once, even making a few, small changes is helpful! Just start small, take baby steps, and it'll gradually feel easier to incorporate more eco-friendly choices into your lifestyle. It's worth it for our health, and the health of our Earth!