The Cost of Celebrating
Coming together to celebrate is something we humans cherish deeply. When socializing became outlawed during the pandemic, it took an immense toll on people’s overall well-being. I am so incredibly grateful we no longer have to be under these rules. We are free again to celebrate birthdays, weddings, holidays, baby showers, and many other events that were postponed. Parties are a time for us to let go, have fun, and enjoy the moment.
However, when we are so focussed on our self-enjoyment we tend to forget about sustainability and the repercussions.
It is no surprise that the holidays involve overconsumption & waste. But are we aware as to what extent?
Here are some staggering stats:
- US and Canadian households generate 25% more trash during the winter holidays.
- Holiday lights consume enough energy to power 400,000 homes for a year
- 2.3 million pounds of wrapping paper end up in a landfill per year.
- 2.6 billion cards and 6 million rolls of tape are sold per year.
- We throw away 38,000 miles (61,000 km) of ribbon
- 30 million trees are used for gift wrap during the holidays
- Item returns account for five billion pounds of waste sent to landfills and 15 million tons of carbon emissions every year in the U.S.
- Over 70 billion pounds of food waste reaches U.S. landfills each year.
While Thanksgiving, Christmas, & New Years Eve contribute to a large proportion of these numbers, we cannot ignore the impact of other festivities such as birthdays, summer holidays, weddings, work parties, and more.
Ex. The Birthday Party.
….and that’s just one birthday party.
Thinking about all the waste we create when we are celebrating can be difficult to process. It makes me so frustrated we were never taught to give it much attention. I don’t know about you but I honestly cannot recall once in school where we studied the sustainability of anything…. or were challenged to think solutions on how to be more environmentally-friendly. School classrooms have A LOT of waste, but that’s for another day.
The Birthday Party is a great example of how we choose to forget our impact:
Say it’s your birthday and you invite 10, 20, 30 of your closest friends. You will likely run to get plastics cups, plastic cutlery, a single-use plastic tablecloth you can destroy, and of-course decorations. You purchase single-use latex & foil balloons filled with helium, birthday hats, 6 rolls of different coloured streamers, a birthday banner, paraffin-wax candles, and shiny confetti.
Your party has a theme and so you need props, which are likely all made of plastic. Maybe you purchase wigs, necklaces, Hawaiian leis, funny sunglasses (that break with one wear) and plastic party favours.
You open presents and throw aside very shiny & sparkly wrapping paper. You are gifted items made in China. Some of the gifts aren’t really for you and you know you won’t use or keep them. Once the party is over, everyone cleans up by tossing it all into a black garbage page. Wrapping paper, ribbon, styrofoam, plastic, significant amounts of food, broken birthday hats, string; all are piled together waiting for their ride to the landfill.
The party ends. Everything is back to being clean again. Out of sight, out of mind.
That is an enormous amount of trash. And that’s just one birthday party.
So are you saying we can’t have parties anymore?
Not at all! I think we first-hand know how important these get-togethers are to us in feeling connected & whole. But we have to take some accountability for this ignorance.
I love decorations. I think they bring such life and atmosphere to an event. This past birthday I really wanted to make sure I chose sustainable options, but as you can see I chose a wall banner made of shiny plastic that now I regret purchasing. I will re-use it though so at-least there is that 🙂
Because of this, I really wanted to dedicate this week’s blog to how we can celebrate in the most eco-conscious & educated way possible. SO I made a list 😃.
The “Avoid At All Costs” List & Sustainable Swaps
Latex Balloons 🎈
Well to start it off, I have some very sad news. Balloons, my most favourite of decorations, are probably the most damaging. Not only are balloons made of plastic, nylon, latex, and toxic chemicals , but they also require helium to make them aesthetically pleasing.
Helium is unrenewable resource and is currently used for medical devices, nuclear reactant coolant, airbags in cars, and aircraft travel. We don’t realize how precious Helium actually is and that we won’t have it forever. So why use it on balloons that only last one day?
We also need to consider that balloons can travel. Whether we accidentally let go of them into the atmosphere, or have them pop, balloons will eventually scatter everywhere. You may try to pick everything up, but there is a high-chance some will be left behind. This will find its way to our wildlife where the stretchiness of the balloon pieces will block animals digestive tracts.
Even the claimed “bio-degradable balloons” are really not all that biodegradable and still take a very long time to break down. Foil Balloons CAN be reused as you insert a straw to blow them up but really the trash they create eventually is still not worth it.
Christine’s Sustainable Swap:
- Switch from Balloons to Bubbles to still get the our float fix !!! I found some good refillable eco-friendly ones at The Bubble Tree Store
- Paper Fans are amazing to add life to decorating! I got some really cute ones from Paper & Parties
Rule of Thumb: If anything is shiny or sparkly, put it back on the shelf”
*one is better than the other….
When using wrapping paper, it is crucial to pay attention to the type of wrapping paper. It is also important to remember that not all wrapping paper goes automatically in to the garbage or the recycling. Try your best to do some research or better yet see if you can salvage it for the future.
A great rule of thumb is if anything is shiny or sparkly, don’t buy it. It cannot be recycled. Full stop. Now this does not mean we need to resort to brown paper to wrap our gifts (also I don’t actually mind the aesthetic). We have the option to get really creative here!
A really way is to wrap your gifts in cloth. You could even use an item that is part of the gift to wrap it, such as a scarf, table linens, a silk pillow case, or a gorgeous woven basket.
Check out this is a great article to get even more ideas.
Christine’s Sustainable Swap
- I love the use of cloth and linens to be more sustainable. When you receive a gift wrapped it one, you can save it, use it, or even pass it on to the next person you give a gift to. It’s like the Sisterhood of the Travelling Wrap! I think that would be so cool to see where it ends up or if it even comes back to you again! If you need some ideas, check out Lush who have beautiful knot wrap options.
Well this is pretty obvious and I think we are well on our way to reducing our single-plastic usage. However at larger gatherings, plastic is still often the go-to because it is easy to find in large quantities and you don’t have to worry if they go missing. Items such as cutlery, styrofoam plates, red solo cups, and napkins are basically done after one use.
Another single-use item is banners we love to buy for instagram. A lot of banners can be flimsy, as well as can only be used in very particular settings (I don’t think “same p*enis forever” can be featured at every party…. although you never know).
We can also consider items made in China to be single-use items. Presents, toys, and party favours that are cheaply made have a great chance of breaking just after a couple uses.
Christine’s Sustainable Swap
- Try a banner that can be customized, allowing you to use it for any occasion!
- Use floral confetti like this one or cut out your own confetti from scraps you have laying around.
- I love my Recycled Paper Garland which comes in a-lot of different colours and can act as sweet backdrop for photos 🙂
- Use your own dish ware or opt for compostable plates and cutlery if you worry about them going missing. Keep in mind that compostable items still may take a long time to decompose!
- Do presents your own way. If you really do not want gifts, ask for donations to a cause you are passionate about. Or even challenge your guests to think sustainably when gift-giving.
Large Amounts of Paper
Remember when I mentioned before how 30 million trees are used for gift wrap and 2.6 billion cards are purchased just over the winter holiday season? Let’s just sit on that for a second. Picture 30 MILLION TREES. 🤯 Trees are some of the most beautiful organisms on our earth. They have history, they are habitats, and they add such depth to every landscape.
If trees are being cut down at this immense rate, this is an unsustainable practice no matter how many trees we keep replanting. We also need to be aware of paper that is highly processed, has high water usage, and involves the use of toxic chemicals to get them to be bright colours.
The best option is to find products made of recycled paper. We should also be wary of how much paper we are using, no matter even if it is recycled.
Christine’s Sustainable Swap
- We live in a technology advanced society. Why not send an E-card? E-card are great because 1) you do not have to drive anywhere to pick it up (saves gas) and 2) you can make them highly-personalized as well as include fun little graphics or GIFs 🙂 Cards can also be expensive where as online e-card companies offer yearly memberships that would be a much better deal overall. Click here to see some E-card Options.
YOUR CHALLENGE: THROW A WASTE-FREE PARTY
Above are just a few good starting points to throwing a sustainable party. NOTE: if you already own decorations, regardless of what they are made of, use those first! Just take extra care in how they are used and disposed of.
Happy partying!!! You deserve this fun just as the earth deserves our love. I think this will be such a fun way to celebrate going forward and allows you to be more present in your decisions.
2 thoughts on “How To: Throw A Sustainable Party”