Planning ahead for zero waste success: Abby’s grad party edition

One thing I’ve discovered this year — again and again and again (apparently I’m a slow learner) — is that, in order to be zero/minimal waste, you have to REALLY plan ahead.

It’s occurred to me that this would be a really good time to start my annual round of spring cleaning / decluttering, as Abby graduates from high school in a month and a half (insert hysterical sobbing here) and we’ll need a nice clean house anyway when we host her grad party. It’s also occurred to me that I need to start planning what we’ll serve and how we’ll serve it in order to make it as zero waste as possible. (Hey, relatives, I’ll probably be asking to borrow plates, cups and cloth napkins.)

Source. With luck, our grad party will look something like this. 😉

I’m envisioning various appetizers outside on the deck, and lawn chairs set up for people to gather and chat. Abby has asked for yard games — she went to several grad parties last year and reported the most successful ones had “stuff to do.” I imagine we can scrounge that up from various friends, too; everyone has to have at least one game in their garage, right?

Then: A couple of tubs set side by side for dirty dishes (thanks for the idea, literally every coffee shop in town!) and a smaller bin for cloth napkins.

The plan gets slightly more complicated if Eric decides he’d rather barbecue or the weather is bad (this is Oregon. October is generally better than June), but I think it would still work.

What I have not figured out yet is drinks. I don’t want to have a cooler of plastic bottles holding various liquids … but what other choices are there? Pitchers of lemonade and water? I guess technically colas are in tin cans (and we now get a 10-cents deposit, up from 5-cents), but I don’t necessarily want to support companies that A) are dependent on corn and soy and 2) gave craploads of money to defeat a recent ballot measure that should have passed and because it didn’t, Oregon is now out of money for even the most basic services.

Ahem. Not that I’m bitter. My not buying pop isn’t going to make any difference to those companies and their bottom lines, I know that, but I will make me feel better. 😉 And it’s possible I’ll get overruled anyway by Abs. This is her party, after all.

(Now, bottles of craft beer? I’m cool with that.)

Ideas? Thoughts and feelings? Totally gonna take advantage of the hive mind here while I still can.

In other college-related news, Abby has a list of various items she’d like to get for her dorm room, ranging from a drying rack to shower caddy, and is more than willing to get those things used. I tell you what, that makes my heart so happy. When I was her age — heck, even when I was Johanna’s — I had a total block when it came to getting things used. I literally wouldn’t touch them. Now, of course, who cares, and I’m not sure if that’s the attitude that rubbed off on the girls, or if they’re just generally made of tougher stuff than I am.

So far, all we’ve been able to find is a used power strip — $2.99, that thing is solid — but I figure by starting this early, surely we’ll have more time for success. If she has to get some things new, so be it; it’s just that it would be nice to not have to. Especially considering that secondhand shops are overflowing with so much stuff they have to dump some of it just to keep up.

Other recent secondhand finds: A 2-cup Pyrex dish with (plastic) lid and a scarf/leggings hanger. Both were $2.99 (I guess that was the price of the day) and I’m totally jacked. Abby keeps eyeing the hanger, though, so it would not surprise me if I don’t get to keep it after all. The things we do for our children … 😉 That glass dish is mine, though. It’s the perfect size for my lunchbox.

Next up: I have a treat for you! Tracy is writing a post for Wednesday, and then I’ll be back on Friday.

P.S. Happy birthday to my favorite mother-in-law, who’s touring Ireland and won’t even see this!

16 Responses to Planning ahead for zero waste success: Abby’s grad party edition

    • This! Do any local breweries make rootbeer?

      Do any of your friends have those big glass drink dispensers you could borrow? Or maybe you could rent one from a party rental place?

      • I agree on the drink dispenser…. you could do water flavored with fruit frozen into the ice cubes, lemonade, and iced tea. You can even make your own root beer with the extract… so yummy!
        Also, if Abby is happy with used, if someone asks for gift suggestions….. suggest a gift card to a used store you frequent.
        Congrats! And enjoy.

    • Oh, you guys, this is awesome! I’ll have to check on the root beer thing — maybe there’s a brewery that does? — and also on the drink containers, but those are great ideas. Thank you!

  1. A brewery near me makes craft soda and allows (encourages!) patrons to bring in growlers to fill up with soda. I’ll bet if you asked around, anyone that has beverages on tap or some kind of dispenser like that would let you fill up a growler.

    I also think getting a big drink dispenser for lemonade and water is easy enough. Ask around from friends who host events often or a nearby church might have equipment you could borrow or rent for a nominal fee? Churches might also be a great resource for borrowing a large number of reusable plastic cups to use for the party that you could just wash and return.

    • Oh, I hadn’t thought of that … I bet I could borrow both chairs and settings from church. I did just remember that Abby has a box of my Grandma M’s old Corningware dishes, set aside for college. I can break into those, too. There’s a lot and they don’t break. I have a double set of silverware from my other grandma, a wedding gift — so that part is taken care of, at least!

  2. For Abby’s dorm room, head to the closest college/university on move out days this spring. If Oregon is anything like my mid-Atlantic home, you can find lots of good stuff near the dumpsters. As for the party, I second the drink dispensers (borrowed from friends or rented from a party supply place). You can create some fun flavors of water or iced tea using frozen fruit.

  3. I came to suggest drink dispensers and refillable glass bottles (I’ve seen people pre-make specialty drinks in mason jars and put those in coolers like soda cans too, if you want to make something but don’t want pitchers), so I’m waaaay late for that.

    I will add a corresponding set of suggestions, though, regarding glasses if you do drink dispensers:
    1. We’ve had really good luck at volunteer events at my work just asking people to bring their own cup or water bottle. It’s an easy ask and a good way to introduce your zero waste goals for the party (which most younger folks are usually down for) if you’d like to make them public.
    2. Alternatively, if that’s too embarrassing for Abby, what about making decorated reusable cups as party favors? You could almost certainly thrift or buy cheaply some sort of reusable cups, jars, water bottles, or travel mugs that would work and painting or personalizing them could be a fun project for Abby without *too* much waste. Plus, who knows, maybe someone will take it home and feel inspired to start using it regularly.

    • I have quite a few mason jars in various sizes … that might work well for glasses. People could write their name on the side of the glass with a marker.

      That’s an interesting thought about people bringing their own reusable mugs. I’m going to have to think about that one …

      • It’s not really my aesthetic, but the jar-as-glass look is super in right now. You’ll look all pinterest worthy ;). We were actually at a wedding a while back that did that exact thing. It worked beautifully from a guest perspective – cute, easy, and much more appealing to find the glass with my name on it that to constantly be peering at little plastic glasses questioning which one was yours.

        • Now that I think of it, I’ve been to two weddings that did that. The other couple took their pint glass collection, bought a cheap etching kit to etch their names/wedding date on the glasses, and then gave them away as favors. We actually still have ours. Super cute.

  4. There’s a restaurant down here that infuses water with vanilla beans. Yummy and “fancy” for a party. What does Abby like to drink? If she has a soda habit, I’d look into the root beer, or other craft soda. Much of my family is trying to break the soda habit — but for a long time I kept buying it because “that’s what people drink at parties.”
    I’ve had great luck with real glasses at parties — make sure you have a grease pen or sharpie available to mark glasses BEFORE people put drinks in them. (If you wait until after the sharpie doesn’t stick well. The sharpie marks come off easily afterwards with alcohol.)

    • I’ve never heard of vanilla beans in water! I’m intrigued!

      To be honest, both my girls just like water. We’re super boring. I like the idea of craft sodas — that would be kind of fun and special for a party. (I had to break a soda habit myself several years ago. It was horrible!)

      I’m seriously thinking about using my pint jars for glasses — I would have more than enough even if people forgot which one was theirs. Like the Sharpie idea.

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