How to Host Christmas Parties WITHOUT Plastic Cups & Straws?
At the start of this year, I set a challenge for myself. I decided I will become a person who’s not only concerned about protecting the earth’s environment, but I will do my best to solve environmental problems and preserve our natural resources.
I admit it’s been a challenging journey, with plastic often being my main opponent. After all, we live in a plastic-filled world. Since it was made in 1907, plastic has been so widely used that it’s hard to imagine a life without plastic nowadays.
But, it has become such a problem that it’s impossible to scroll social media or turn on the TV without seeing devastating news about strangled turtles or entangled dolphins.
With the holiday season upon us, tackling the plastic problem extended to gifts and celebrations. I’ve chosen solar decor, eco-friendly gifts, and now I’m on a mission to host a Christmas party without any plastic cups and straws.
Here are all of my tips and tricks on plastic alternatives for your holiday celebrations.
Why Should You Avoid Single-Use Plastic?
Single-use plastic are products made from fossil fuel-based chemicals that are meant to be used only once and then disposed of. Essentially, these products last forever but are thrown away in minutes. Single-use plastic is most commonly found in service ware, such as bottles, plastic cups, straws, wrappers, bags, and more.
Around 300 million tons of plastic are produced yearly worldwide, and it’s estimated that half of this is for single use. The amount of time and resources that go into producing and exporting single-use plastic make the use of these products not worth it.
Effect of Single-Use Plastic on Marine Life
It’s estimated that by 2050 our oceans will have more plastic than fish. Between 4.8 to 12.7 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the oceans yearly.
Countless animals, such as seabirds, turtles, and marine mammals, die because of plastic. Many of these animals are found with plastic in their stomachs. Plastic can block their digestive tract or even piece their organs which causes death.
When animals have a stomach full of plastic, they don’t have the need to eat, and they die of starvation. Also, many sea animals mistake plastic for food.
It’s estimated that about 700 species are affected in some way by plastic, which also includes endangered species.
Health Dangers That Single-Use Plastic Causes
91% of all plastic isn’t recycled, but it ends up in landfills, or even worse, in the environment.
Single-use plastic is traditionally especially hard to recycle. Items such as straws and cutlery fall into crevices of recycling machines, and many recycling centers won’t even accept them.
When they are sent to the landfill or left in the environment, plastic doesn’t break down, but it breaks up due to sun and heat. It becomes microplastic which isn’t longer than 5 millimeters, and it’s extremely hard to detect.
These microplastic end up everywhere — in our water, land, and our bodies.
Wildlife eats microplastics, which accumulates in their bodies and causes intestinal blockages or punctured organs.
Microplastic is also harmful to the health of humans. Plastic contains chemicals that can lead to hormonal imbalances, infertility, and cancer.
Effect of Single-Use Plastic on the Environment
Single-use plastic isn’t detrimental only to the people and the wildlife, but it also negatively affects the climate during production and degradation.
The production of plastic contributes to greenhouse gas emissions during each point in its life cycle. Plastic source materials are oil and gas, and drilling for them leads to methane leaking, deforestation, and clearing of wetlands.
It’s estimated that if plastic production continues without any restrictions, greenhouse emissions will reach 1.34 gigatons by 2030.
This is equal to adding 300 new coal power plants.
When single-use plastic breaks down in the environment, it produces methane and ethylene.
Greenhouse gas emissions account for 3.8% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
Single-Use Plastic Legal Bans
More and more states and countries are enforcing single-use plastic bans. This includes bans on straws, plastic bags, stirrers, and takeout containers.
California was the first state to ban single-use plastic bags in retail stores, and this reduced usage of plastic bags by 85%.
Since then, seven other states have enforced the ban as well.
This is happening around the globe as well.
India is planning to ban single-use plastic completely by 2022.
Bans prevent millions of tons of plastic from going into the waste stream and considering plastic lasts forever, every single ton counts. Plastic bans also reduce plastic production, which directly influences climate change for the better.
Beyond these, there are cultural effects. Large companies (which are among the biggest single-use plastic advocates) are forced to rethink their plastic use and come up with eco-friendly ideas. This directly influences customers' mindset and leads to a collective awareness of how harmful plastic use is.
Why Is It A Host’s Responsibility to Avoid Plastic Cups and Straws?
Think about the last party you went to. There were probably tons of plastic decorations, cutlery, plastic cups, balloons, and more. All of these can be replaced with eco-friendly options.
As the host, you set the tone for the whole party, and it’s up to you to make your guests feel comfortable. You’re the only one who can throw a party with single-use plastic alternatives. Apart from attending, the invitees don’t have many options. You can make your party more inclusive by asking the guests for any sustainable ideas you could include.
This can be a great way to educate your guests or make guests who have a zero-waste lifestyle more comfortable.
Also, plastic-free parties are the new trend. Your guests will be impressed, and your party will stand out among all the other Christmas celebrations.
If you’re smart when planning your plastic-free party (check out my product recommendations below), you may even end up saving money and lowering your environmental footprint.
Finally, my favorite part about plastic-free parties is that they are quicker to clean up.
Plus, you’ll be making sure your grandchildren aren’t living with plastic waste in 100 years.
What Plastic Disposables Can You Avoid?
A party of 30 people on average uses around 100 single-use plastic items.
And, this is just for one party!
Imagine how many Christmas parties will be thrown in your city only, not to mention worldwide.
To lessen the impact on the environment, you can switch a lot of single-use plastic items with alternatives to plastic.
These are the most common plastic items you can switch with sustainable ones:
Paper plates are colorful and can even serve as an added party decor. Not to mention, they make tidying a breeze. But, they often aren’t made only of paper but mixed materials, which include a plastic coating.
When combined with food leftovers, they often can’t be recycled but are sent to the landfill, where they spend between 5 and 20 years decomposing.
That’s just too long for one party.
Consider how you’ll get your food as well. Pre-prepared food often comes with a lot of packaging waste. If you don’t want to cook the food yourself, see if any caterers offer a more sustainable solution, or ask that each of your invitees bring a dish.
How to Avoid Plastic Cups and Straws (Plastic Alternatives)
There are many plastic alternatives you can use. Here’s a breakdown of all of them.
If you’re having a smaller gathering, silverware could be the answer. I know it may seem daunting, but it can pay off.
When you give guests single-use cutlery and plastic cups, they are seen as disposable and abundant, so people don’t pay much attention to them. There’s always more plastic cutlery available, so they get tossed away quickly, and a new one is used.
But if you take out silverware, your guests will be much more attentive because they are accustomed to the idea that there’s only one.
Another common impediment to using silverware is that it’s difficult to clean up. But, you can ask your guests to help. You’ll be surprised how many of them are willing to help after busting out fine silverware. Or, put it in the washing machine. Modern washing machines waste fewer resources than if you wash items by hand.
Glass is made of silica (a major constituent of sand), and unlike plastic which needs fossil fuels, there’s more than enough silica on our planet.
Glass is endlessly recyclable.
For example, a glass cup can be made into a glass cup again and again and again. This isn’t the case with plastic, which can’t be recycled in most cases.
While it’s true that manufacturing a glass cup will leave a bigger ecological footprint compared to a plastic cup, reusing it as little as three times will lower the impact to the level of a plastic cup. Considering that glass items can be used for years, the manufacturing impact is worth it.
Glass is also a healthier and cleaner option. It doesn’t have a porous surface, doesn’t absorb smells and food flavors, and can be used with cold and hot food and drinks. Also, it doesn’t leach toxic chemicals.
To be extra environmentally conscious, choose versatile glass items that can be used for parties in years to come, such as mason jars, which can be dressed up for any celebration.
Also, as a lot of food comes in glass jars, you can upcycle it into food storage and give it new life.
Unlike plastic, stainless steel won’t leach toxic chemicals into drinks and food. You can use stainless steel cups (these are a great plastic alternative if you and your guests are in the mood for beer pong). You can also use stainless steel mixing bowls, salad bowls, straws, bottles, and more.
It’s more durable than glass, recyclable, and easy to clean.
Plus, stainless steel bottles will keep drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 18.
Pro tip: Choose stainless steel items that are food grade and labeled 18/8 or 18/10, as these are higher quality.
Bamboo is a natural resource resembling wood, but it’s more sustainable. It grows extremely fast, recovers quickly, and can be used in large amounts without worrying about deforestation and its impact on the environment.
Bamboo isn’t a tree but a plant, and it doesn’t die when individual canes are cut.
Instead, the bamboo plant will continue to grow, and it can be harvested every 3 to 5 years.
It’s also resilient, and minimal pesticides are needed, which is healthier for you and better for the environment.
It’s compostable and biodegradable, so it’s commonly used for plastic cup alternatives, straws, and cutlery. It’s also an excellent plastic alternative if you don’t have enough silverware or if children are attending your Christmas party.
Wood is another good plastic alternative. It’s a natural material, and it can biodegrade. Wood doesn’t contain any toxic materials and has antibacterial properties.
When planning a party, use wood for cutting board, spoon, and other kitchen utensils.
One downside wood has is that it isn’t sustainable, so it may be better to choose bamboo instead.
Hemp or cannabis sativa is a prolific and versatile plant. Because it grows so prolifically, it’s a sustainable alternative to plastic cups.
Similarly to bamboo, it’s a plant and not a tree, and it can be harvested all year long. The harvest won’t impede its growth. It doesn’t need any pesticides or fertilizers, so it’s an organic and non-toxic plastic alternative.
It’s used to create bioplastics, which are lightweight and biodegradable. It’s an excellent replacement for oil-based plastics.
Ceramic has been around for millennia. It can last for a long time, and it’s extremely reusable.
It’s also versatile and safe to use.
Apart from ceramic cups, you can get vases, salad bowls, dishes, and other kitchen and tableware utensils.
As a plus, a lot of ceramic items are nicely colored, so it’s a great addition to party decor.
Note: Make sure the paint is non-toxic and doesn’t have lead or cadmium.
5 Best Sustainable Plastic Cup Alternatives That You Can Buy
1. Repurpose Compostable Plant-Based Clear Cold Cup
The package includes 50 cups, which should be enough for your Christmas gathering. The cups are lightweight and durable. They are BPA-free and plant-based, which means they are made from renewable and compostable materials. They are BPI certified, which makes them 100% compostable.
The manufacturer is the fastest-growing tableware brand nationwide, and they are committed to protecting the environment. Since they were created, they’ve kept 3,531,805 lbs of waste out of landfills.
Each cup uses less energy to produce compared to a single-use plastic one, and it’s made to be strong and leak-resistant.
2. Green Solutions Compostable/Biodegradable/Disposable Cups
The cups are green, and they can hold up to 12 ounces. They are compostable in both industrial facilities and backyard composting. However, they’ll take longer to compost in a home composter.
The package includes 100 compostable cups, which will be enough for more than one Christmas party. They can hold both hot and cold liquids.
3. Ball Aluminum 100% Recyclable Cold-Drink Cup
The caps are sturdy, especially compared to paper cups, so you don’t have to worry about your grip or the beverage size. They hold 20 ounces. You’ll get 30 aluminum caps in the pack that’s made right in the USA.
Globally, aluminum cans have a recycling rate of 69%. So, after you use your cup, you can reuse it or recycle it to get a new cup or can in 60 days.
The only thing you’ll have to be careful with is the drink temperature. Aluminum is a heat-transfer medium, so if you’re holding a cold or a hot drink, you’ll definitely feel it.
4. DeeCoo Eco-friendly Unbreakable Reusable Drinking Cup
The cups hold 12 ounces, and you’ll get a set of 15 cups in one package. They come in five colors: green, beige, pink, purple, and blue, which will make it more convenient for guests not to mix up their drinks.
They are extremely easy to clean. Just pop them in the dishwasher, or give them a quick wipe with a sponge. You can also use them in a microwave and store them in the fridge and freezer.
5. JUCOXO Wheat Straw Reusable Cup
The cups come in gray color and hold 12 ounces. The package comes with 5 cups included, and you can choose between three cup sizes.
They are stackable, which saves space. You can use them for any kind of drink you prefer. Wash the cups in the dishwasher, and use them in the microwave, fridge, and freezer.
These are also kid-friendly, as they are lightweight and have a smooth edge. Apart from a holiday party, you can use them anywhere. Take them with you to work, gym, camping, and any other event.
5 Best Sustainable Plastic Straw Alternatives That You Can Buy
1. Wymoon Biodegradable Bamboo Fiber Straws
You’ll get 200 straws in the package, which is more than enough for one party. They are also very durable. You can leave them in your drink for 24 hours, and they won’t turn soggy.
The straws are suitable for hot and cold beverages, and won’t dissolve nor affect the flavor, no matter if you use them in a hot or cold drink.
The manufacturer thought of everything. Even the packaging they come in is biodegradable and recyclable. Because they are made of bamboo ,they are a grade above rice and wheat straws, as those don’t biodegrade so easily.
2. ECO/EGO Premium Handcrafted Organic 8" Bamboo Drinking Straws
The straws are manufactured by a USA-owned company and are shipped from a USA location, which reduces travel emissions. The manufacturer donates 10% of profits to turtle rescue. So, by investing in these straws, you’ll be saving baby turtles.
You’ll get 12 durable bamboo drinking straws. These can be reused, and they won’t warp or crack. They also won’t damage your teeth as metal straws can.
3. phade Eco-Friendly Compostable Giant Straws
Phade straws are made in the USA with PHA. PHA is a sustainable biopolymer that comes from canola oil. These straws are the first of their kind in the USA.
You can choose between several packs: 250, 300, 1,200, or 2,000 straws, which are more than enough for your everyday and party needs. Each one is individually wrapped for optimum safety.
The straws feel natural, and they bend just like plastic straws do. They are also a better option compared to paper straws because they don’t turn soggy.
4. Naturalik 300/1000-Pack Sturdy Biodegradable Paper Straws
The straws are dye and toxin-free, biodegradable and compostable. The paper comes from forests that comply with environmental and social standards.
These can be used for daily drinks, including thicker beverages such as a milkshake or a smoothie, including hot and cold drinks.
You can send them to be industrially composted or compost them yourself when you’re done with them. They won’t turn into waste, but soil.
5. Shaumn 100pcs Sugarcane Straws
They are plastic and metal-free, so they are safe for the environment and you.You’ll get 100 straws in the package. They are natural brown color and have a caramel fragrance, which elevates your drinking experience.
The straws can be used in both hot and cold drinks. If they turn soft in hot water, give them a minute, and they’ll be sturdy again.
They won’t get soggy or disintegrate.
Pave the Way For a Plastic-Free Future
Christmas is the most wonderful but also most wasteful time of the year. To celebrate guilt-free this year, give a gift to our planet as well.
Host a Christmas party without plastic, or at least without plastic cups and straws. It will require some planning, but you’ll have a hit Christmas party. Your guests will be wowed, and our planet will thank you.
You’d be surprised at how many plastic alternatives there are. You can find everything from solar decorations to eco-friendly gifts for a more sustainable holiday season.
Marina is passionate about sustainability and works to help ensure our planet stays as our home for a long time. She takes part in environmental conservation by recycling and not buying single-use plastic. When not writing, she can be found with her nose stuck in a book or trying out new baking recipes.