Greener Holiday Party Tips

When entertaining for the holidays – or any occasion – consider using your regular dishes or reusable dishes bought to last through years of parties. We host large gatherings of friends a few times throughout the year, and always use our everyday plates and silverware. The aunt who hosts our huge family Christmas Eve meal has a special set of snowman-themed dishes that she breaks out each December 24th. Nary a paper plate is wasted, and it’s a very good (and green) feeling.

For cups, we do use plastic Solo party-ware, but our friends write their names on the cups with a Sharpie, and we wash them after each gathering and put them away to use next time. Another alternative is to buy a bunch of those sturdy white plastic printed cups that party stores sell to be given out as favors at kids’ parties, and write recurring guests’ names across the tops. When I was growing up, my aunts passed around a huge set of sturdy Mardi Gras souvenir cups that a cousin sent from New Orleans, each with a family member’s name written neatly across the top in marker.

My Christmas Eve aunt sets out the glasses that match her snowman dishes, and some glass-marking devices she made by using small jewelry jump rings to attach various Christmas-themed charms to fat elastic ponytail holders. You can’t write your name on her glasses with a Sharpie, but as long as you can remember that you’re drinking out of the one with the green stocking charm on it, you’re good to go.

Now, I won’t deny that washing up after a party using real dishes is a pain. We hosted two gatherings of around 15 people this month, one on the 13th and one on the 27th. Since our automatic dishwasher is broken and my human one (a.k.a. my husband) suffered a legitimately severe but suspiciously timed cut finger the weekend before Christmas, I found myself doing a LOT of dishes by hand.

I’m not saying there weren’t other, more enjoyable things I could’ve done with the time, but overall it was not a serious hassle. When I think of all the disposable party-ware we kept out of the landfill, my pruney fingers seem like a pretty fair tradeoff.

A few additional tips:

  • Encourage your guests to carpool to the party
  • Turn the thermostat down a few degrees. If you’re doing any cooking or baking before the party, that will get the house warm and inviting, and once the place is full of people, it’ll stay cozy!
  • Make sure you have recycling bins ready and labeled for use to keep soda cans and beer and wine bottles out of the garbage. If you aren’t sure your guests know to recycle, make a quick announcement before dinner.
  • If the party is a present-exchanging affair, talk to everyone ahead of time about bringing small homemade or low-impact gifts. This year one friend made custom coasters for everyone, another brought a HUGE tub of homemade fudge and encouraged us all to take leftovers with us, and a third brought recycled coffee cans full of potting soil and seed packets. Two girls brought reusable shopping bags for everyone, and my husband and I always give each guest a homemade Christmas tree ornament. The gifts tend to be more memorable and meaningful since we’ve spent time planning and making or arranging them, and they’re pleasantly Christmas green.

Have any of your own green party tips? Feel free to chime in!

Happy New Year!

An original 5 Minutes for Going Green post. On any other day you can find VelociBadgerGirl at Pardon the Egg Salad, where you will laugh, might possibly cry, and will definitely be amazed at her reading list.

4 Responses to Greener Holiday Party Tips
  1. Christy
    January 1, 2009 | 10:13 pm

    I agree, there are other solutions to keeping disposable paper products out of our landfills, and using your own plates is well worth the trouble. I also have invested in a party pak sold by Kids Konserve for little kids (no more broken dishes!), birthday’s, picnics, and outdoor gatherings. Also, the party pak has been a huge hit for classroom parties. No more signing up for bringing paper products. I bring the party pak in and bring it home, put it in the dishwasher, and ready to go for the next gathering! The party pak includs 25 each: 7″plates, 16oz. tumblers, and forkds, knives & spoons. All items fit into a very eco-cool cotton drawstring bag. The site is For the party paks, email at [email protected]. Hope this is helpful. A party pak that keeps on partying. Happy New Year!

  2. Robbie @ Going Green Mama
    January 4, 2009 | 2:14 pm

    Instead of the sodas (which mean a lot of cans or plastic) you can always make a punch that the kids can enjoy.

    As we never lean on plastic or paper for use for meals at home, we just keep generic, solid-colored, non-themed partyware that can be used for a baptism, a birthday or other reason for a party. That way, you’re not stuck with random pieces that wouldn’t work together, or with “outdated” themes that your children have outgrown.

    We also use electronic invites whenever possible (email or e-vites.) This cuts back on the paper clutter and saves us money. For my son’s birthday, we’d actually had received a few leftover generic birthday invites and thank yous from someone – so they didn’t have to throw them out, and we didn’t have to buy for such a small group.

  3. Diana
    January 5, 2009 | 9:33 pm

    You know I have to tell you. I saw the part about the cut and washing dishes, and thought, yeah they always get out of it. Then I got brand new very sharp knives for Christmas and I told my husband he’ll have to do the pots and pans for me because I gauged my finger with the really sharp knives. Hmmm, not such a good work avoiding excuse after all – very messy and not fun.

  4. Oxycontin online.
    July 6, 2009 | 10:07 pm

    Information on oxycontin….

    Oxycontin. Oxycontin purdue legal news….