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Spoooooky Disposable Tableware!

Greening celebrations & Halloween is a hot topic this year. One aspect of party planning that many hosts struggle to green is when using disposable tableware, specifically at children’s parties and Halloween. But we’ve made advances in biodegradable and compostable disposable tableware options and it’s never been easier to keep the fun and excitement and  the environmental impact low at these celebrations. Don’t believe me?  Check out the awesome pictures of bagasse plates stamped with beet juice at the bottom of this post.

Halloween parties don’t have to be a wasteful affair – make a goal to host a little or no-waste party. We’ve already talked about Halloween decorating so lets talk tableware. I agree that some of the printed/licensed napkins, plates and cups are adorable for Halloween, but it’s important to green this aspect of party planning. With the proper Eco-friendly tabletop accents**, this is the easiest area to green and guests will love the effect of earth friendly disposable tableware!  Using your own dishware is the best way to booster your green with party planning, but this isn’t always a practical option. We host an annual Halloween party and I know with over 20 kids running through my house, there’s no way I’m giving them my everyday dishes.  Here are some Eco-friendly options for disposable tableware & some spooky facts you’ll want to learn about traditional cups and plates..

Hot Cups:

Bring out the hot chocolate or apple cider, but make sure you’re using hot cups lined with PLA.  Traditional paper hot cups are lined with petroleum-based resin. Ever wondered why you get that nasty after taste after you’ve purchased a coffee or hot drink from a cafeteria or store? This is plastic melting and being absorbed into your body.  Compostable hot cups are a great addition to your next party because the interior resin of the cups is lined with PLA (poly lactic acid) which is derived from renewable resources such as sugarcane and starches (corn).

We all know styrofoam cups (styrofoam anything for that matter) are terrible for the environment. But if we truly understood their destruction many of us, including myself, would stand up and make more noise when we see it being used.  I ran across this description of styrofoam used by the Wonkette talking about the U.S. Capitol bringing styrofoam back into their cafeteria after banning it for 4 years. Sometimes it’s great to have a description that doesn’t sugar coat to stick into our minds if a business or event service needs a reminder about how bad styrofoam is. Quote from Wonkette:

“Foamed polystyrene” is a miraculous invention that manages to be completely awful through every step of its near-eternal “life cycle” — it is manufactured with petroleum that must be imported from Middle East dictatorships, toxic “styrene oligomers” migrate into the food it holds, it’s highly flammable and produces black poisonous smoke, and most of the 25 billion polystyrene cups tossed every year will take more than half a millennium to degrade.

Sometimes it takes shocking statistics to really reinforce that these products should never been used because of the environmental consequences. Let’s also not forget that polystyrene is a strong plastic that is ‘foamed’ into Styrofoam. I sometimes forget that Styrofoam is plastic because of the different texture but it’s polystyrene created from erethylene and benzine that is inject or blow molded. Do you want to pour hot liquid into this soup of plastic materials?

Plates:

Traditional Halloween disposable party plates hmmmmm pick your evil a) licensed paper plates made from virgin trees and inked with toxic dye 2) Styrofoam plates that are devastating to the environment 3) plastic plates that take forever to biodegrade and often end up polluting our forests and water.  Now think about using compostable plates. Not only are they biodegradable, but also compostable as they are made from excess plant materials that otherwise would have gone to waste! The first option for plates is perfect for Halloween, not because they are scary, but fit into the theme of Fall beautifully because palm leaf plates are manufactured from fallen leaves. It is very cool to tell a child that a leaf fell from a tree, was picked up for a villager, cleaned with die, and shaped into a plate. Little children and all party guests will understand this story and love learning how palm plates are made without any disruption to the tree and because they are made without dyes, wax, finishes of any kind ~ they are compostable and a very earth friendly option with party tableware. An other option with biodegradable and compostable plates are those made from bagasse which is a fibrous pulp that is left over after processing sugar cane. A cool story as well because this material would have otherwise been turned into waste and again, no trees are used in the manufacturing of these plates. So although they are stamped ‘tree free’ along the edge, guests may assume they are a paper plate because of the color and texture. Make sure to inform party guests about the bagasse plates so they don’t assume they are made from paper. One way to catch guests attention is to personalize these party plates. I use beet juice to dye the homemade play dough I made my children.  This way I get a brightly colored play dough using vegetable dye rather than brightly colored play dough from using synthetic food coloring. Well why not stamp your bagasse plates with a rubber stamp and beet juice?  You are using a natural dye to make these plates look different that will create some buzz and questions. It’s also super fun for the kids! My niece and I tried this tonight and the results were fantastic. She also loved learning how an organic substance like beet juice should be used to stamp with because you wouldn’t want any other material like traditional ink a guest’s plate that will contain food. The texture of the bagasse plates is great for absorbing the beet juice and also makes for very strong plates.

** Tabletop accents. We’ve decided on a mixture of ways to dress-up our Halloween tabletop for this year’s party. We are painting little pumpkins and gourds from our local patch and making them into ghosts and black cats. We’ve also sprinkled some pine cones and crazy shaped gourds from the patch. Felt appliques that act as reusable confetti are also a great way to punch up a table.

This post is part of the 2011 Greening your Halloween Blog Tour brought to us by Green Planet Parties, Green Halloween, Green Gift Guide, Surf Sweets and A Little Bit of Momsense.

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Halloween…How Will You Green?

 

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Halloween….How Will You Green?

Halloween, pumpkins, leaves – this season represents the best time of year in my house. My children are excited and look forwards to the October visits to local farms, pumpkin patches, or nature walks, and my favorite parenting memories usually contain a swirl of Autumn colors in memory backdrops. Because my family loves the Halloween season so much I’ve had to be creative with greening this month so not to dampen the excitement and energy. We bought a lot of Halloween plastic crap (that would be beloved crap to my children) when the boys were small. It’s not something I would invest in today, being more green-minded, but along the way, I’ve managed to incorporate some concepts with reusing and being creative this time of year and wanted to share. Early. Greening Halloween takes a bit of time which is why this article is being published while we’re still in September. Greening your life takes a lot of impulse control and leaving decorating, costume shopping, etc. until the last minute will have you making rushed decisions without having the luxury of thinking about sustainability with this holiday.

Halloween decor:

Yes, the scariest decorations are not going to be made from felt or organics. If you need to add outdoor Holiday decor – purchase a decoration that will last and can be reused for many years. Many people are looking to downsize their Halloween collections – always check Craig’s List first to purchase decorations that are not made from Eco-friendly materials.

Have a wooden outdoor structure locally made! My favorite decoration sits on our front lawn and is a huge wooden pumpkin (approx. 7 feet high x 6 feet wide) that was made by a local carpenter for my family. Where did I find Randy? I visited our local pumpkin patch the first weekend it was open…they always have the best wooden Fall themed structures and I asked for the contact number of who made it. Voila – I got to work with Randy years ago and it produced a wonderful decoration!  It also doubled as a party game when my kids were younger because the pumpkin eyes, nose, and smile had holes big enough that we’d bring it inside for a bean bag toss game.  The best thing about this decoration is how I can simply compost it when it starts falling apart. See below picture for an example of wooden decorations found at a pumpkin patch – this would look great in front of a house!

Greening decorations is a big part of making Halloween more sustainable. It’s important to know that the wall decals sold at dollar stores for Halloween for indoor decorating are made from PVC. Yes, these will off-gas when first applied to the wall so we keep these out of kids rooms, etc. when we reuse them each year. I have noticed more options available for wall appliques in stores this year made from non-toxic materials – paper, etc. For decorating a nook in your home or classroom, these garlands from my company Green Planet Parties are sweet and the burlap banners have been very popular to string outside across windows or porches.

Costumes:

We have a fair number of costumes from years of hosting Halloween parties. This year, thanks to the great tips from Green Halloween, I started a Facebook Group and invited friends to join a costume swap. Creating a Facebook Group only took a few minutes and I asked people if they had costumes they want to sell, trade, or lend out to post on the wall. People are enthusiastic and it’s perfect for people like me that are too attached to let go costumes my kids have worn – I can feel good about lending them out so they get used and save a parent purchasing another single use item.

Party crafts:

Halloween crafting doesn’t have to be a wasteful activity. Reusing canning jars around the house makes fun specimen jars (you can get really creative with these). Another way to reduce waste is if you’re purchasing pumpkins early in the month, don’t carve them and keep them off the ground. Painting pumpkins is lots of fun for younger children and the pumpkins will last all month. We have a tradition of making ghost pumpkins from our first visit to the patch each year. My kids LOVE this activity and now that I’ve found earth friendly acrylic paint, I’ll be trying my first every black cat pumpkin this year. . . stay tuned.

Candy:

If you are looking to avoid traditional Halloween candy without artificial ingredients – check out Surf Sweet treats. They are delicious so your kids won’t roll their eyes with these organic goodies. Other great facts about this brand are:

~made with organic sweeteners, including organic fruit juice

~ excellent source of Vitamin C

~ candy made without corn syrup and GMOs

~ produced and packaged in a facility free of the 10 most common allergens

~ socially responsible and my favorite manufactures the candy in Canada and the US!  Yes!

 

Starting early is the key to greening any celebration. Plan your Halloween activities, costumes, decorating early and think about adding locally manufactured and sustainable products if you need new holiday gear this October. Or try making a costume or decoration new again from borrowing from a friend. Please post ideas you have for making this ‘tough to green’ holiday a little more earth friendly.

This post is part of the 2011 Greening your Halloween Blog Tour brought to us by Green Planet Parties, Green Halloween, Green Gift Guide, Surf Sweets and A Little Bit of Momsense.

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Safe, Fun, & Easy Pumpkin Crafts For Kids

Are you like me and couldn’t wait to buy/pick pumpkins in late September?  My family was at the opening weekend for our local pumpkin patch and just couldn’t walk away empty handed, even though it was still September.  I knew the pumpkins will last because of a great non-carvable pumpkin craft I found years ago.   We’ve been painting our pumpkins into little ghosts for a few years…and it’s the biggest hit with my kids.  Also, because the pumpkins aren’t being cut, they can last the many weeks leading up to Halloween.  The below image is the picture from a magazine I saw while waiting in a Doctor’s office and knew instantly that my boys would love it!  Aren’t the pumpkins just the cutest?  Read on for easy instructions to re-create this craft.

 

Take light blue paint (we are still using up wall paint purchased 4 years ago to decorate a room) and cover the pumpkin.  Make sure the pumpkin is clean and dry before applying the paint.  You might want to do 2 coats, but it’s not necessary.  When pumpkin is dry, take a permanent marker and color eyes.  Keep pumpkin off the ground because they will rot early.  Mount them proudly for everyone to see.

Another craft that has become a tradition at our house is the lollipop graveyard.  It is a great activity if you want to bring a treat for a school Halloween party or do a count-down to Halloween.  It also doesn’t involve carving but still involves lots of fun for kids.  I actually think the ‘ghosts’ stay in place better if the pumpkin remains whole (no scooping out pumpkin seeds).  I don’t have a picture of the finished craft, but it’s easy to imagine.

Lollipop Graveyard

First you create 20 odd lollipop ghosts (change number to amount of children in your class if bringing for a school Halloween party).  To do this, cut paper towels or tissue in a 6 or 8 inch square.  Cut white yarn or ribbon approx. 4 inches long. Place the lollipop in the center of the tissue paper and wrap the tissue around the lollipop.  Tie the yarn or ribbon around the base of lollipop and draw 2 eyes and mouth on the tissue paper with a thick marker.  Repeat for as many ghosts as you want in the graveyard. 

Pick a medium sized pumpkin, take a nail and poke holes into your pumpkin for the same number of lollipop ghosts you have.  Stick the lollipops into the holes and complete with a little sign saying “Family name or school graveyard”,  You’ve made a great decoration or given wonderful presentation for bringing a treat to a party or Halloween celebration.  If you are looking for amazing tasting lollipops that are 100% organic and safe to bring to a classroom that might have children with allergies, try YummyEarth organic fruit lollipops. They would be the perfect compliment to this fun craft! Here is an example of the lollipop ghosts:

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