Give the planet a season’s gift resist the temptation to go disposable.
If we survive the Mayan apocalypse, no doubt there will be some partying going on - especially by the guy in line next to me at the dollar store who was stocking up on batteries and candles.
Whether you're celebrating Christmas, Kwanzaa, Festivus, the Night of the Radishes (look it up - it's a Spanish thing), recovering from Hanukkah or prepping for 2013, this time of year is party central. It's also the high holidays of garbage.
By the way, I had good reason to be at the dollar store next to that guy. I was stocking up on cheap glassware. I know my ability to shatter wine glasses is far from zero-waste, but I can't change my klutziness.
However, I refuse to hand out throwaway plastic at a party. I don't care how biodegradable the plastic says it is, it won't biodegrade in landfill and it's not accepted in the green bin. So before any event, I always try to top up my reusable, washable glassware. And, no, not the BPA-heavy polycarbonate plastic kind.
Don't want to spend a fortune on glasses? Ikea sells six-packs of wine or champagne glasses for $6.99 or less. But if you can't stomach a visit to the manic blue-and-yellow warehouse just for cups, your local dollar store is your best bet. Just don't get the kind with painted metal on the rim. Could have lead.
Drink tags are absolutely essential to minimize the number of glasses your guests cycle through. Otherwise, when they put their drinks down, chaos, confusion and saliva-swapping anarchy set in. DIY wineglass charms made of vintage buttons, beads or Scrabble tiles are easy enough to make (or buy) for stemmed glasses, but what about rocks glasses, etc?
My solution does involve a tiny bit of waste. Get a small sheet of small stickers and put them on your guests' glasses. Letter stickers work well, too. Not upcycled, but super-effective at cutting back on dishwater waste.
Got a playful crowd? Get guests to draw their own initials on their glasses with fingerpaint. Could get messy, though.
Suffice it to say you need a total ban on straws.
Need more dishes than you own? Paper plates may be compostable, but if you're going zero waste, they won't do. This is where rental services come in handy. They're surprisingly affordable, considering they pick them up dirty.
I know you're eyeing disposable napkins with envy. I'm lucky to have a stash of enough of my grandmother's old cloth napkins to feed the entire Raptors team. When those run out, I say wipe your hands on your pants.
If that won't fly with your crowd, make some quick no-sew napkins using remnant fabric and pinking shears (scissors with a sawtooth edge that keeps fabric from fraying).
If you don't want to use toothpicks, well, avoid making finger foods that require them. Just spread your finger foods on a platter rather than in a bowl so they can be grabbed without everyone's fondling the whole thing.
I don't have to tell you about all the toxins leaching from plastic holiday decor made with PVC. Reports have found they're laced with lead. But even the PVC-free stuff ends up in landfill at the end of the day. That means no balloons, tinsel or plastic kazoos. (Cue Debbie Downer music.)
Time to get creative with cedar boughs and pine cones snipped from your or your neighbour's yard! Reusable streamers can be made from all sorts of fun stuff like scratched but still sparkly CDs, recycled felt cut into circles or an old deck of cards.
And be honest: if you're not going to freeze your leftovers and eat 'em later, don't forget to send guests home with some. Just do so in reusable food containers you don't mind never seeing again, or better still, in Mason jars. You won't miss them if the apocalyptos are right.