Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Going Green, week four- eliminating disposable cups, plates and silverware

I thought about writing about cloth menstrual pads this week (and advertising me :-)), but due to a busy schedule, and other things I'd rather spend my time writing, decided to go for something short and sweet.

Let’s talk about paper plates, plastic ware, and disposable cups. We’ve used these very minimally since getting married. However, it’s only been since last summer that we’ve set out to completely eliminate them. Prior to that, we used them for our big Christmas open house parties. I believe we might’ve also used them for traveling when we headed down to Florida. Since deciding to switch over completely, we’ve hosted two semi-large gatherings…we had both our families over (around 30 people), and our annual Christmas open house (60 or so people). Otherwise, we’ve hosted various small things, but those were all under 20 people. We also elected for regular ware during our 2-week hotel stay for Ben’s schooling, and various picnics.

And- it really wasn’t as hard as one might think. You just have to make a party out of clean up! Its surprising how fast it goes if you can get a couple of people going on it. For the open house, we washed a small stack of dishes midway through, since we were running out. Afterwards, we had someone stick around and help with the clean up, including dishes.

My in-laws use regular ware for their potlucks every Sunday, which includes somewhere between 20 and 40 people.

I really hate buying a large stack of something just to throw it away, so this decision sits really well with me financially. But we also love the fact that hosting a big party no longer means a huge bag of garbage!

If it’s a new idea to you, baby steps might help. Consider trying not using them for your next picnic, or next party, or whatever next thing you might typically use them for. See how it goes…try it again. Don’t pressure yourself, and work towards making small steps.

Or maybe you’re the type of person who needs to just get it out of the house and make it not an option. I know I’m that way….because most of the switches we’ve made really aren’t that hard, but for whatever reason, when the thing that seems most convenient is right there, it’s easy to go for it. If it’s not, I don’t think twice.

I also realize that it’s a much easier decision for us to make, being a small family of 3, than for a family of 12 or 15. Being able to start out now, as our family’s growing, is a huge advantage, because by the time we’re a large crowd, we’ll be so used to living this way it’ll be total habit. Camping with regular ware will just be how we do it. But if you’re a large family and considering camping without disposables for the first time, it could be really intimidating. Baby steps might help….do what you can, and don’t sweat what you can’t. Eventually, you can get there, just like a growing small family will eventually get to the large family place without garbage. It’s just going to be a process.

What do you do to eliminate waste?


  1. I used to use paper goods when I had a party, but since I stopped, I haven't had a party larger than my stock of dishes. We also take our own dishes and silverware to church and camping. We still use paper napkins/paper towels, but I only pull out the napkins on an as-needed basis.

    I do use paper cups when there are large numbers of people because I haven't figured out a way to personalize a glass yet. Paper cups can be written on. I do have enough glasses to go around for most of the parties I have at this point. Any thoughts on how to help people identify their glasses if they're identical?

  2. Cloth napkins are one of the easiest and best "green" decisions we've made!

    Yeah, that can be an issue, with the cups. I don't have a perfect solution, because what I ended up doing at our last big shin-dig was writing different stuff on all our plastic cups. And I'd like to get rid of plastic eventually... But anyway, I didn't really care if they had writing on them, so I wrote different stuff- names from Beatrix Potter, Fruits of the Spirit, literature stuff, etc., on the different cups, so people could note what they grabbed and remember it.

    I'm a major mug fanatic. Which works nice in big families and with crowds, because you can have a large collection of all different colors/types of mugs, making it easy to remember what's yours.