We all love celebrations and everything they come with. A slice of cake, a smile and perhaps a little bit of dancing too. Often they also include things like leftover wrapping paper and gifts that we sometimes don’t use. This short piece is a guide to celebrating with just as much fun, a little less waste and even giving back! To celebrate sustainably definitely doesn’t mean any less fun!
Host a ‘Sustainabration’
Who doesn’t love a celebration? They give us a chance to share happiness, food, and drinks. And for some of us, a chance for our inner event planner to come out. Colour themes, brightly coloured balloons and embellished drinks go hand in hand with any celebration, but how sustainable are they?
Let’s look at balloons. They look pretty and everyone loves a balloon shot for the ‘gram at their party. But these are hardly sustainable. Balloons are single-use and many float away and end up landing in the ocean or in the middle of a nature reserve. And they attract animals who might mistake it for food. It’s time to rethink how we celebrate. And it seems as though people are.
We’re finding that more people are looking for environmentally friendly options for their functions,” says Colleen Lategan, Banqueting Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “This can be from the utensils they want to use, to having as little plastic as possible and, of course, asking for meat-free options because of the impact that meat has on the environment.”
Get Creative When You Celebrate
Being creative with ‘sustainabrations’ or sustainable celebrations includes making sure to use what’s around you. Recycling newspapers and magazines by repurposing pages for table decor is a great start. Use websites like Pinterest for ideas on how to make newspaper flowers or table decorations. Newspaper also makes for great vintage-style wrapping paper for gifts. For reusable wrapping paper that can be used more than once, use spare pieces of material or woven cloth. Retailers like Mr Price now sell reusable wrapping paper made of fabric.
For plates and cups, consider using glass instead of plastic or styrofoam. Items that are single-use, or that we throw away after each use like styrofoam cups, are heavier on our budgets as we have to repeatedly buy them. They also have more of an impact on the environment as they either take many years to break down in landfills or they don’t break down at all.
Follow Sustainable Food Rules
While it’s great that a range of produce is available all year round, chefs and agriculturalists say that the best time to get all the nutrition from produce is when an item is in season.
This notion is echoed by Chef Norman Heath of Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront who notes: “There are numerous reasons for using produce in season. Generally, in-season produce tastes better as it has ripened in the conditions it is used to and has done so naturally, without any artificial interference. A second reason is that the produce is fresher and likely sourced from local farmers. Buying produce in-season therefore aids in supporting our national agricultural market. Non-imported foods also leave a much smaller carbon footprint in comparison to imported foods.”
Additionally, wooden spoons and wooden knives, forks and spoons are less harmful to our environment than plastic cutlery. Use paper straws instead of plastic, but remember to take your paper straw out of your drink in-between sips or it will go soggy if left in there for too long, and that’s not something to celebrate!
Simply put, gifting back is sustainable and conscious gifting. As the saying goes, “if you’ve received one pair of socks for your birthday, you’ve received them all.” Instead of asking friends and family for yet another pair of socks, consider asking them to donate the money or time they would have used on purchasing a gift.
Ideas include being part of a flower planting volunteering session with you, asking for gifts of dog or cat food and donating those to local shelters, or asking for non-perishable food items that can be passed on to a food bank or shelter. Platforms like Facebook allow people to select charitable organisations to ask friends to donate to and allow them to pay directly to those charities on the platform.
For tight budgets, consider donating leftover desserts and drinks from a celebration to your closest kids’ home or shelter to share with someone in need.
If you have flowers at your celebration, don’t trash them! Share the joy with a local senior centre or hospital. You can also use the flowers at the celebration for confetti or if you’re celebrating at a venue, donate the flowers to them to do so.
For decor for large events, consider using what you already have at home – mirrors, indoor plants, and leftover sheets of paper can all be used to decorate. Rope friends in and ask them to bring a certain colour or shape home decor item to add to your celebration’s decor. They can, of course, take it back home afterwards.
And lastly, celebrate and have fun! Remember that our combined efforts to do the smallest things towards helping the earth and our fellow humans make the biggest difference.