According to Paige Appel, Co-owner of Bash, Please, an event production company in Los Angeles.
The best way to minimize disposable waste at a party is to skip it altogether. You can rent glasses and ceramic plates for as little as 50 cents each. And instead of buying paper napkins, opt for cloth ones. Buy cute fabric (cut the pieces to size with pinking shears), pick up tea towels at Ikea, or scour flea markets for vintage handkerchiefs -- they come in great patterns and florals and can be used repeatedly.
If you must use disposables, consider Bambu or Leafware; both companies make compostable utensils and plates from sustainably harvested materials. And if you hire an event planner or a caterer, ask about their environmental policies. They should be putting out recycling bins (you can decorate them with fun signage) and composting containers, and making sure that everything is recycled or thrown away in as responsible a way as possible.
Small plants make fun, environmentally friendly party favors. Or buy a case of mason jars for about $10 and stuff each with mint, lemon, a pack of sugar, and a recipe for lemonade. You could also fill the jars with a homemade rosemaryor basil-flavored simple syrup and add a recipe for a cocktail and/or a nonalcoholic drink. If you're throwing a girlie party, give guests organic lip glosses and nail polish. I love the ones from Josie Maran and SpaRitual.
There are so many creative and green ways to light a party space these days. Soy candles with cotton wicks are clean and sustainable and instantly warm up small rooms. For large spaces, strings of LED lights bring a festive glow while using a fraction of the energy that conventional bulbs do.
Whether you're preparing the food or hiring a caterer, try for local and organic ingredients. When sending out invitations, why not ask guests to bring Tupperware so they can take home uneaten cupcakes or other leftovers. Also, many soup kitchens and shelters will take trays of unused food.
© 2013 Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia. All rights reserved.