Girl eating watermelon

Block parties are so fun. I have nothing but happy associations with them. When I was growing up in a cul-de-sac in the northwest Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove, we had really memorable 4th of July block parties. And the block that I raised my daughters on in Evanston was another great place. I knew all of my neighbors but block parties were a nice way to gather some of the less social ones.

There is something old-fashioned about them. They don’t have to create a lot of waste. No one is traveling all that far, so do you really have to use disposable everything? Of course, the answer is no. If everyone brought enough reusable everything for their families and guests, there would be very little waste.

Bring a Bucket

If you are already one of our customers, instead of bringing a shared dish, offer to bring a shared compost bucket for the watermelon rinds and corn cobs and other food scraps. An extra bucket is just $5.50. You could order a 32-gallon tote if your block party is really well-attended. Just make sure to order it about a week in advance.

If you do choose to use disposables, use uncoated paper plates and no matter what, go the reusable route and use metal forks. I have my own mismatched set of these that I bring to parties. My latest idea is to lay them out and take a photo. That way I know how many I should end up with and which styles were mine. Fun fact: there’s actually a term for this kind of photography. It’s called knolling or flat-lay photography. There is something really pleasing about this type of photography where everything is at perfect right angles to each other. I first learned it had a name in this article by my friend Monica in Communication Arts magazine. I really love the photographs in this article on about the history of knolling.

Educate your neighbors

A block party provides a perfect opportunity to educate your neighbors on the different composting options. Maybe they’ve seen our orange bucket appear on your porch for swapout but don’t really know what it’s all about. If you are intrigued with the idea of sharing one of our Neighbor Totes with your friends, relatives and/or neighbors, this would be an excellent opportunity to do so. You could even send this link to our website that describes our Neighbor Totes program to everyone before the party so they’d know what you were talking about.

We’ve added waste station signs to our website that you can print out here.

Taste Before You Waste

One way to reduce waste is to make a sign that suggests taking a little and trying it instead of loading up your plate with something that might be too spicy or too bland for you. Usually it’s the kids who make this mistake but sometimes distracted adults take a little too much too. Resist the urge to provide disposable tasting spoons. It’s just more waste. If you do feel that you have to provide disposable plates, purchase the luncheon size because a smaller plate also means less waste.

Back in 2019, our then-employee Phoenix Heller wrote this blogpost: Make Your Summer Even Greener by Going Zero Waste! It has some great tips. If you want to do a deeper dive into the topic, check it out. 

Reclaim The Streets

I googled block party and learned that historically some have had a link to activism. Blocking off the street to vehicular traffic, as a way to reclaim public space from automobiles and consumerism. It’s really kind of fun to read Wikipedia’s entry for block party. I loved learning that in some instances DJs would tap into streetlights to provide power for their sound systems. I am not recommending that, I just find it admirably resourceful.

Paperless Post

I think of Paperless Post as the upscale Evite. They recently made us aware that they have a blogpost called Why sustainability matters in event planning that maybe you’d like to check out, as well. And just so you know, this blog, Greener Living Inspirations, is not in the affiliate link business. We’re just educating and letting you know about the resources we’ve come across.

But enough reading, get up from your computer and go enjoy the sunshine while you can!

Author Details
Zero Waste Consultant | Collective Resource, Inc.

Mary Beth strongly believes that, “It’s always better to be doing something rather than nothing.” If you’re thinking of composting at home, she can help you work out what your particular “something” can be.

She’s confident a solution can be tailored to fit anyone’s needs and ambitions. “Anyone who eats can be a CRI customer, whether you are an individual or a large organization. I want you to understand the advantages of composting, and I can show you how CRI can make it easy.” Mary Beth has successfully designed waste diversion strategies for individuals, schools, houses of worship and other communities. She’s received the governor’s Environmental Hero award for her work at her daughter’s school. Whether you’re starting with a backyard bin, a kitchen bucket, a worm farm, or large-scale commercial collection, Mary Beth can be your good-natured guide.