Thursday, 16 August 2018

How to Throw a Waste-Free Party

Summer is full of weekend get togethers and backyard barbeques. All these parties can create a lot of excess waste and garbage. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are many ways to reduce or eliminate waste at your next summer party. Here are some tips.

Use reusable plates, cutlery and napkins 
    • While disposable dinnerware may be tempting to use for convenience, it creates a lot of extra garbage. Most of these items are plastic, Styrofoam, or coated with a water-resistant finish so they are not recyclable. If you must use disposable items try to find ones that are labelled as Certified Compostable
    • An easy alternative to disposable plates, cups, and cutlery is to use your own dishes and flatware. What’s that? You don’t have enough? Ask your guests to bring some. Having an assortment of dishes creates an eclectic fun atmosphere for the party. Aren’t these colours and patterns fun?
Image Source: DandelionMama

Image Source: Pinterest

    • Along the same idea of using reusable dinnerware, the same applies to drinkware. Skip cans and bottles for beverages and serve drinks from pitchers or jugs. This will prevent having to recycle empty bottles and cans. It will also allow guests to have as much or as little water/juice as they want; they aren’t stuck with finishing the entire bottle or can or having to dump out the leftovers. Remember to use reusable cups and glasses too! 
    • Worried about washing all those dishes? Most of the individual plates, glasses, and cutlery can go in the dishwasher. That just leaves the serving dishes, which will have to be washed by hand. This is not such a terrible thing! Recruit a couple of your guests to stay later and help. This is a great opportunity to reflect on the party and have one-on-one conversations with guests that you may not have had a chance to chat with earlier. 
Ask guests to RSVP and confirm numbers
    • Knowing how many people to expect is important in determining how much food and beverage is needed and reduces the amount of leftovers after the party. Whether you send out a formal invite or a casual instant message, try to get an accurate number of the guests you are expecting. 
    • For quantity planning, check out the spruce for tips on planning quantities of food needed.
Have guests bring reusable containers for leftovers, or try a potluck, instead
    • This will reduce the amount of food that is wasted. Guests can take home a little bit of everything and have lunch or dinner for the next day. If you choose potluck style, then guests can take home their individual leftovers and you aren’t stuck with all of the remaining food.
Image Source: food network

Skip paper invitations
    • There are lots of great websites where you can create custom invitations for your party and send them via email or text message. These sites allow you track RSVPs, set up potluck instructions, plus loads of other additional features. Punchbowl is one that I like. It’s very user friendly and offers a variety of fun templates for any theme.

Serve seasonal, minimally-packaged bulk food
    • Purchase seasonal local produce and prepare and cut it yourself. This will reduce a lot of plastic waste from pre-packaged fruit and vegetable trays.
Make the Most of Local Vegetables and Fruit
Image Source: Food Banks Canada
    • Purchase deli meat, olives, nuts, and other snacks in bulk. This will not only save you money but will minimize having to toss empty bags and packaging.

Do you have any other ideas for hosting a waste-free party? Comment below with your thoughts and ideas.

Vanessa (Staff)

Thursday, 9 August 2018

Making Paper: A Kid-Friendly Crafting Activity

After a mad session of decluttering and office organization, what can you do with piles of shredded paper? Sure, you can recycle it, but as with anything, repurposing it can extend its useful life while creating something new (to you) and fresh.

An added bonus to making paper with a toddler is the messiness of it all. Kids get free range to go elbow-deep in a tub of gooey paper pulp, feeling the messy texture between their little fingers. It's a perfect afternoon activity.

  • Shredded paper
  • Water
  • Wood frame
  • Screen material
  • Duct tape
  • Blender
  • Felt or similar material
  • Glitter, leaves, or any type of embellishment you'd like to add

A big ol' bag of shredded office paper. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Start with a powerful blender or food processor and a few handfuls of shredded paper. Add any amount of water (you'll squeeze all the excess water out so you don't need to measure) and blend away!

Pulp A.K.A. goop. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Meanwhile, you'll need to create or repurpose a wood frame. I used an old painting canvas. I ripped the used canvas portion off (remember--you can use the painted or virgin canvas without the frame so don't toss it!) and duct taped some screen material to the frame. If you have a strong stapler or staple gun, you can use that. Try to source a very fine mesh screen or your paper will be chunky. Screening is usually sold in larger quantities than you need, so look for old material you can reuse for this.

Photo: Ellen Hanna
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Depending on where you're doing this activity, you may need a bucket to catch the water that squeezes through the pulp. We were going to let the water drop into the grass but decided instead to press the pulp over our empty sensory bins.

Photo: Ellen Hanna
 Next, spoon, pour, or grab handfuls of goopy pulp and place on the screen of your frame. We tried a paintbrush to spread the pulp but found our little fingers were just as effective. Spread the pulp all the way to the edges of the screen. The thicker your layer of pulp is, the longer it will take to dry and you'll end up with a very thick, rigid  paper. If you want to embellish your paper with glitter, leaves or flower petals, or any other addition, now is the time.

Photo: Ellen Hanna 
A very thick layer of pulp. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Photo: Ellen Hanna
Once your pulp is in place, use a sheet of felt to squeeze the water out while smoothing out the surface. We first tried the leftover piece of canvas but the pulp stuck too much and was pulled up from the screen each time. If you don't have felt on hand you could try another type of fabric, like a towel or old piece of flannel.

Don't rush this step; the fun doesn't end with that squishy pulp! We tried rolling the pulp with a toy rolling pin and the wheels of a tiny truck (neither worked very well but were super fun to do).

A piece of felt can be reused over and over until it's soaking wet. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Ineffective but fun rolling pin. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Also ineffective toy truck wheels. Photo: Ellen Hanna

Once you've removed as much water as possible, gently peel the wet paper away from the screen using your felt as a transfer medium. Then gently peel the paper away from the felt. Since the wet paper can be difficult to relocate, consider a good place for your paper to dry where it won't get ripped or stepped on. Ours was very thick so it took days to dry out.

Pulp waiting to become a sheet of paper. Photo: Ellen Hanna
Once your paper has dried out, it's ready to be used. Ours was a nice chunky and stiff piece with lovely accents of colour--perfect for cards. We used one piece as a Thank You card for a friend and another as a Happy Birthday tag on a present. Next time, I'll add some seeds to the paper so that when we give the paper to friends with a gift, they can then plant it to grow some wildflowers.

Ellen (Volunteer)