How to host a plastic-free potluck summer party
Do it like Mea and Jerry of Draper Farms did it this past Saturday night.
1) Invite 100 of your closest friends to your organic farm in beautiful Marin County, CA. (Or 20 friends to your house in the burbs. Or 2 people to your studio apartment in the city. The size of the crowd and the location is no object here.)
2) Arrange long tables outside (or small tables inside) with cloth tablecloths. You can pick them up at a thrift store or Freecycle if you don’t want to use your nice ones outside.
3) Ask your guests to bring a plastic-free dish to share. (Mea and Jerry did not actually request plastic-free in their invitation, but surprisingly, there was very little plastic waste at the end of the night. It must be a testament to the types of friends they have. Others of us might not be so lucky.)
Michael and I brought a pasta salad (spiral tri-colored pasta, olive oil, lemon juice, jalapeno-stuffed olives, cherry tomatoes, roasted orange & yellow peppers, raw English peas, feta cheese, a few herbs & spices) and a banana/walnut bread. The only new plastic waste generated was the wrap from the feta cheese. But at this point, I just can’t conceive of pasta without cheese. We transported the salad in a metal bowl with a pot lid over the top. No disposable covering necessary.
4) Create a buffet line inside your barn (or dining room or kitchen or patio or outside under a tree or wherever) with cloth napkins, metal cutlery, and real plates, all of which you can pick up at the same thrift store or Freecycle for cheap or nothing.
5) Provide plastic-free beverages. Mea and Jerry offered wine, homemade lemonade, water, and hot brewed herbal tea. Just be sure you stick to beverages that are sold in glass containers (sparkling water, wine, beer, some juices and sodas) or better yet no containers at all (like water filtered from your own tap, homemade juice or lemonade, tea, coffee.) And use real glasses or other non-plastic cups.
6) Use a wagon to collect the dirty plates and cutlery so they can be easily wheeled back into the house. (Skip the wagon if your party is already inside the house. Just stack them up near the dish washer.) Include a container for food scraps to be composted and another container for cutlery. Make signs indicating where the guests should put each type of item and how they should scrape their plates.
7) Invite folks to bring musical instruments and have a puppet master present a shadow puppet show after dark. Okay, that part has nothing to do with making your party plastic-free, but it was fun and I just wanted to mention it.
Mea (who has been abundantly supportive of Fake Plastic Fish) told me that after the party, she had almost no waste at all. I wish I had brought my camera so I could show you photos of their beautiful organic garden and the awesome spread. But alas, you’ll have to use your imaginations.
Great suggestions, especially bring water from home in glass jars. What my problem is relates to the dirty dishes. Our event is at a facility without a kitchen and my boyfriend refuses to bring the dirty dishes home to wash them. Any ideas?
Beth. As always a wonderful job. Here is how i had a Zero waste Birthday party for my son.
Great tips! Thank you for the link.
The work you’re doing is “nothing short” of tremendous in my opinion.
There are so many practical considerations to overcome in terms of packaging “commercial products”, Newman’s Own, etc. that taking a simple approch can be impractical. However bringing the ISSUES to the forfront will help bring about these necessary changes.
You know, I went to Goodwill and bought a set of reusable plates and silverware to take on a camping trip with friends. I packed them but I never pulled them out when we ate together. I was too embarrassed of my Environmentalism. My friends already tease me and say I make them feel guilty. But all that paper/plastic waste is just sickening. How in the world did it ever get this bad?