With the overwhelming number of ideas provided by friends, Pinterest, TV shows, and the general competitive or bragging spirit, it’s getting easier and easier to succumb to the pressures. Pressures of pettier party favors, more elaborate kids’ birthdays, and pictures of extreme event frills continue to encourage us to go bigger, better, badder than the last one. And it works, as evidenced by the billions of dollars spent in the events industry each year.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the meeting and event industry represents the second most wasteful industry in the US. In the past year, much has begun to change to make strides toward lessening those harmful effects. Even government agencies have been tasked with tightening up their event related spend and wastefulness. (Read more here.) But those changes should be felt industry-wide (yes, that even includes home parties and gatherings).
Don’t get me wrong, costume parties, birthdays, graduation celebrations, weddings, showers and the like can be loads of fun to envision and plan, but they’ve got greater messaging power and significance than their mere ‘fun factor’. Think about the expectations kids learn from having $10,000 birthday parties from birth. That sounds excessive to you? Not to everyone. It’s happening. And those kids will grow up with the understanding that a small (or even quite large but still cheaper) birthday event is sub par, just further aggravating the cyclical nature of event spend (and waste).
So how do we keep the ‘cute’ while resisting the wasteful methods?
In my opinion, the best and easiest way to start making a difference with your events is to bring it back to the core reason for the social gathering in the first place. Most social events are built on the idea of celebrating, congratulating, surprising, or showing appreciation for a person (or people) in our lives. Those people are what make the frills, the cutesy themes, the gifts, the money spent, and the compliments received for throwing the ‘best party of the year’ worth it. It’s when the creativity goes wild (and veers away from the core) that the costs and details can get more out of hand.
As someone in the events world, and in recognition of Earth Day 2012, consider this a friendly reminder to keep your events personal (guest/s of honor being your focus). When keeping a loved one in mind (rather than guests’ expectations or reactions), it’s much easier to stay focused on what’s important (and what’s not).
Small ways to start making the more personal and less wasteful difference:
- Limit paper usage. (evite vs. paper invitations) Pro: often cheaper too! If paper usage is a must, save it for when you send your thank you cards. Hand written thank you cards are absolutely top notch and will much a much more powerful and thoughtful, personal gesture than a printed invite.
- Question your supply/decor purchases (especially disposable, one-time signage or decor). Ask yourself: Is it necessary? Can it be reused? Will anyone even notice? Pro: Helps with focusing on what’s important to the people not just the theme of choice. And again, may save you moolah.
- Rather than purchasing single-serving plastic, disposable cups, dishes, flatware, napkins, water bottles, condiments, etc. Instead, try your best to stick with reusable, refillable items. Pro: creates a much more relaxed, family-style atmosphere, keeping focus on the people rather than the stuff. If disposables are a must, at least be sure they’re recyclable and absolutely avoid styrofoam (not Earth friendly, nor recycle friendly).
- Provide a (well-marked) recycling receptacle near every waste receptacle. Pro: it also shows your guests your greener interests, continuing to share and promote the idea that less waste is good.
- And, of course, keep it seasonal and local. Local vendors, locally grown food, local events. Pro: it cuts costs on travel/transportation for your food, decor, and/or guests.
There are plenty of ways to start doing your part. If you have additional ways you’ve used, shout ‘em out (or leave a reply). We’d love to help share more!