By Caroline Lavoie, Werribee River Association and Australian Conservation Foundation
In the last year, our family of four has been very conscious of its environmental footprint, with a particular awareness about landfill waste and single-use items that are now part of everyday life. When came the time to discuss our children’s birthday party, it was clear that we wanted to avoid the mountain of presents and the weeks of slowing processing the waste through our kerbside bins. Part of us also wanted to share our concern, knowledge and experience with our family and friends, and secretly, we were hoping to have an impact on their own behaviour.
It was not an easy decision to make as we felt as though we were dictating people’s choices and somewhat limiting their options. However, we decided to dive in and follow our hearts.
So we embarked on a mission to reduce the party’s waste to a strict minimum. We sent electronic invitations encouraging guests to bring second-hand presents and limit gift wrapping. We brought our own containers to the butcher shop and also opted for food items without packaging at the supermarket. But, by far the most educative and fun part of our little experiment was coordinating our bin system so guests would know how to dispose of their waste appropriately.
We had six clearly labelled bins: compost, chooks, general recycling, soft plastics (through REDcycle), dishes and cutlery for reuse and waste. The contents of those bins was weighed after our function, and the results were remarkable. Everyone was thoughtful in sorting their waste according to the labels and some even enjoyed learning about new ways to recycle.
Our 26 guests’ party generated a total of only 8.616 kilos of waste, 88% of which was diverted from landfill! It means that each guests generated 39 grams of landfill waste. An important fact to note is that most of our waste (4.872 kilos), was food and compostable waste, which indicates that we can have a big impact by using our green bins!
Our guests found old toys in their homes to offer as presents or shopped for pre-loved items at their local op shop. Some made their own cards or got creative with the gift wrapping. Our children had a wonderful, magical day and we went to bed that night thinking that we were doing our bit to preserve their future and our environment.