November 16, 2007

a composted party


As the holiday season approaches, you may be contemplating hosting a party at your house, and maybe you're even contemplating how to minimize the waste from such a party. We recently had a big party in our backyard, and experimented with composting the garbage. Some things we did right, and some things not as well, so I wanted to share some learnings with any of you party people out there who might be cooking up a fabulous low-waste event of your own in the next few weeks.

We don't have enough dishes and silverware for 60 people, so instead we ordered compostable plates, cups, napkins and flatware from Green Line Paper (there's probably a local supplier near you). On the day of the party, we set up the trash area with one garbage can, one recycling bin, and for the compost, we used a smaller trash can lined with a brown paper bag.

One thing we didn't do as well was to make clear signage to direct the composting, since it wasn't exactly intuitive for most folks. If I were to do this again, I'd make a big sign that says:
1. Scrape the food from your plate into the garbage.
2. Tear your plates and cups into 4 pieces and throw them in the compost bin.
3. Throw your forks and spoons into the compost bin.
4. Thanks for feeding the worms!

We didn't actually have worms in our compost bin before, but a friend was nice enough to give us some from her kitchen worm bin to help speed up decomposition for such a large amount of stuff. If you had a well-running outdoor vermicomposting area, you could forego the plate-scraping and give the worms all the food waste (except for bones, if you had any). Even if you just have a kitchen worm bin, the torn up plates and cups make a great bedding medium for worms.

The party was great! And afterwards, we only threw one bag of garbage into the trash - and it wasn't quite full - so I'm considering the effort a success. Party on, worms.


Tracy said...

party on indeed! love love this post f.pea. thanks!! xo

Jodi said...

I'm so glad that you posted this. I have been wondering about putting paper in my compost bins. Now, I can do it and not fret.

Also, regarding worms ... We didn't put any in, but they did manage to find the bin on their own! (We have an open-bottom design that is ground level.)

Thank you!

jessica said...

wow, didn't know paper could go into compost.

Alma Stoller said...

Great idea!
Thanks for the tips.


f. pea said...

paper can go into the compost if it has no colored ink, isn't bleached and if you tear it up. regular office paper, junk mail, etc aren't appropriate for composting.

Forever Young said...

what a splendid idea. recycling is getting more and more important and where i live in london, people are quite good at it. but so many are still ignorant and downright lazy!

Anonymous said...

Plastic forks and spoons can be composted???

shash said...

this post inspired me to get compostable cups for a party at my house tomorrow! thanks. (i had leftover noncompostable plates and napkins, but next time i'll get those too.) excellent reminder.

ForgotMyBloggerPassword! said...

anonymous- there are compostable utensils now (usually made of corn products I believe) and plates, cups, etc made of compostable paper, corn, or sugar products. I also order these for my office and bring home food and plate scraps from work for my compost whenever I can. For large parties or meetings at work, I have composted the food before (and placed signage for compost, recyclables, etc.-tip: just signs arent always enough if your crowd isn't used to thinking this way. A quick tutorial explanation beforehand goes a long way!). Last time I even arranged beforehand through Craigslist for a local pig farmer to come by afterward to pick up our food scraps. It worked perfectly! He'll get our food scraps after every large meeting- talk about reuse!