A Quick Guide to Throwing an Environmentally Friendly Party

Hi babes! Here’s how to throw your own eco-friendly party!:

  1. Only invite guests who know how to sew their own clothing, brownie points if they sourced the fabric themselves
  2. Plant the following in your indoor apartment greenhouse weeks before your event: onions, tomatoes, cilantro, avocados, and limes. make a spectacular guac when ripe
  3. Make sure to collect lots of leaves as your restroom will probably be in use the whole time


Obviously I’m joking, but hosting your own eco-friendly party doesn’t mean you have to set ridiculous standards for you or your guests. And, it’s definitely worth considering what you can do to be more sustainable when planning and pulling off an event.

Imagine it’s 10 pm on a Saturday night and the party you’ve invited everyone to is just starting to pick up. A slow start at first, it’s now a loud and chaotic scene, with still more people showing up at your apartment. While the event ends around 2 am, seeing all your friends enjoying themselves made it feel like your social lasted hours longer. It was short-lived, but you hope it will be immortalized in your friends’ minds as one of the most impressive college house parties they’ve ever attended. The memory of this fleeting, ecstatic Saturday night event is to live forever on! … in the landfills. That red solo cup you used for two hours will be in an ocean garbage patch for more than 400 years. It shouldn’t be this way – such a momentary, one-time event shouldn’t be detrimental for our planet. According to a 2015 EPA data set, plastic makes up the second largest percentage of waste going to landfills at about 19% (food comes in at first at about 22 percent). So, don’t have this on your conscience and add to your agenda an environmentally friendly theme!

This isn’t intensely hard work! Admittedly, it does take careful planning and, if you’re co-hosting, it also takes effective communication. The Sustainability Chair for Alpha Phi explains that it’s easiest to start with a group and get them to follow your agenda, instead of telling random guests to “Bring Your Own Cup” or BYOC. This was successfully seen at an eco-party the UCB Surfrider Foundation Club hosted in early March. For their #nosolo campaign, they charged $3 for entry if you brought a plant-based appetizer and BYOC, $5 if you only BYOC, and $7 if you only brought yourself. Their eco-party included creating a collaborative art piece; guests were told to bring plastic they had collected from the week and glue those pieces onto a poster to create a plastic wave.

UCB Surfrider’s #nosolo campaign aims to provide compostable cups to frats for Cal Day. Source: UCB Surfrider

BYOC worked for this organization’s social in part because its members already share eco-party goals. But, what hope is there for an event that includes random individuals who don’t all share your message on sustainability? What if you don’t want to charge for a low-key social at your place and, therefore, the cheaper entrance fee as an incentive for BYOC is not applicable?

A solution has been introduced from the Sustainability Committee of Alpha Phi and, in collaboration with Greening the Greeks, it could come to fruition for all large-scale fraternity-hosted parties at Cal. Alpha Phi’s Sustainability Committee focuses within their own house on sustainability efforts and more. Likewise, from energy conservation to waste reduction, UCB Greening the Greeks serves as a forum for all Cal Greek members to share their environmental passions. This latter organization’s main goals include reducing waste generated from frat parties. Alpha Phi can support this mission with their solution that, ideally, the party-thrower would be responsible for providing reusable cups. Within the Cal Greek community, this responsibility would be ideally delegated to the fraternity throwing the party, but it would also be reasonable if another fraternity or sorority or Greening the Greeks provided the resources, as they are all members of the Cal Greek community.

UCB Alpha Phi has organized a Sustainability Committee for their house. Source: UCB Alpha Phi

The Sustainability Chair describes how, for example, within her sorority this would become part of their pre-party ritual: gathering at the entrance of their house, walking over together, and making sure to bring with them the reusable, collapsible cups they plan to let guests use for the duration of the event. As soon as they arrive on the scene, they would hand them out to everyone and guests would be able to clip the cup onto their jeans. This would all be part of a quirky, new tradition that hosts and guests can look forward to.

Providing the cups would eliminate problems of guests forgetting or not wanting to participate in BYOC. At the end of the party, they can also be easily collected, washed, and stored for another event. This cup features many benefits that its single-use plastic counterpart lacks. For instance, it is easily attachable to your body, which allows you to not lose your cup during the party. However, if operating the latch is inconvenient, the collapsible feature makes it possible to easily slip into your pocket as well.

UCB Greening the Greeks is an organization that aims to promote sustainable living within Greek life. Source: https://www.facebook.com/UC-Berkeley-Greening-the-Greeks-353464512156286/

This new solution relies on a very important assumption: social pressure will successfully encourage party attendees to use these cups. If guests see enough party-goers using reusable cups and being environmentally responsible, then they might be inclined to participate, too. It’s a hopeful idea that is plausible, but as of right now, still needs to materialize. Until students become more knowledgeable about the amount of waste generated from parties and funding is secured for buying these collapsible, clip-on cups, this alternative probably won’t be available at the next fraternity party you attend.

Another social pressure that provides more assurance that these cups will be used is just making it the only option at a party. Whether this be at a fraternity or your own apartment, if you simply tell guests they aren’t allowed inside if they are bringing in plastic cups, you can have more control over whether this agenda succeeds. But, truthfully, you may not be the most cherished host if you choose to do this.

Collapsible cups could be a better alternative to BYOC. Source: https://shop.halifaxtrails.ca/product/silicone-collapsible-travel-cup/

Lastly, the ReUSE Store on campus is a non-profit thrift store that aims to provide reusable goods to students through free school supplies and selling clothes and other items at low prices. When the ReUSE Store Committee Chair was asked how the organization could be an asset to students for their next function, she said that while ReUSE doesn’t exactly participate in sustainable event planning, they could possibly host such a workshop and, of course, encourage students to look for materials from the store for their party needs. So, include in your event to-do list a visit to the store and, if you find yourself having generously bought and used decorations for a party that you probably won’t be hosting again soon, consider trading or donating these items to the ReUSE store.

ReUSE encourages students to donate unwanted items – decorations/accessories/miscellaneous items accepted. Source: https://www.facebook.com/ReUSEberkeley

So, there you have it. Some insights into the world of sustainable party planning. The following are some tips collected from myself and the organizations mentioned above – some tips might be obvious, some might not be – all I ask is that you consider how you can be more sustainable at your event next time. Finally, here’s your simple guide:

  1. Decorations: Use paper streamers instead of balloons because balloons are dead and they also make turtles dead.
  2. No need to print any flyers; emails, social media, and word-of-mouth should suffice.
  3. Opt for veggie and plant-based appetizers. One day that you or your guests don’t eat meat won’t kill you; it might actually have the opposite effect.
  4. Check out the local thrift stores for a costume — maybe you’ll find something at ReUSE!
  5. Provide bowls/cups/utensils for guests. You friend that doesn’t even want to go to your event even less wants to carry their cup all the way to your apartment.      
  6. Label your bins: recycle, compost, landfill, etc.
  7. Properly recycle into appropriate bins those empty tequila bottles.
  8. Compost that half-eaten cupcake and nacho cheese that was left out all night. There’s nothing you can do about that now but to properly dispose of that.
  9. You’re a college student so you likely won’t be giving out party favors, but if you must, make it something nifty, useful, ideally secondhand, and definitely reusable/recyclable/compostable.

Final note: maybe one day, in the hopefully near future, we can get to the point where we don’t have to encourage or advertise an environmentally friendly party because the lives we lead just naturally make us think “yeah, I’m hosting a party and, of course, it’s gonna be sustainable”.


You may also like...

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *