Live Green and Earn Points


Q & A: Disposable Plates

By Diane MacEachern |
Exercise more eco-friendly practices by utilizing green disposable (or better yet, reusable!) plates. Here's a guide to just a few shopping sources.
UPDATED: 07/15/11 | Originally Published: 11/18/09

Question: I host a ton of people, and we always use plastic plates. They're cheap, in seasonal colors, and readily available. Is there a green alternative that fits those qualifications?

There are plenty of green alternatives to throw-away party supplies, and here's an added bonus: The alternatives will save you money, too.

But first, I have to ask, why use throwaways at all? By shopping sales and browsing discount stores, you can accumulate plenty of re-usable plates, silverware, glasses, mugs, tablecloths, and napkins at an affordable price. Over the years, you'll save hundreds of dollars and dramatically reduce the amount of trash you throw away. Buy white china and clear glasses that you can use for any holiday or occasion; accessorize with seasonal table cloths and napkins.

If you buy “compostable” throwaways, check with your municipal solid waste service to ensure that you can throw them in with other recyclables or the yard waste.

If you don't have much storage room, you can buy re-usables made from recycled plastic in a variety of festive colors. Preserve tableware is dishwasher safe, and can be stacked compactly to save room in a drawer, cupboard or closet storage bag (which is where I keep mine).

If you insist on throwaways, choose products that are made from recycled materials and can also be recycled. Here are some good options:

EarthShell plates and bowls are manufactured in the U.S. from natural, renewable ingredients like potato starch. The products are strong and sturdy, microwave safe, and cut and soak resistant.

Veneerware-bamboo products by bambu are made of 100% organically grown bamboo and are FDA approved food-safe. They're not bleached or dyed, and are biodegrade 4-6 months after disposal. Despite their chic appearance, Veneerware products are intended for single use only and are not recommended for the microwave.

Lets Go Green Eco Friendly Products carries a line of Compostable Sugarcane Bowls and Plates that are produced from sugarcane pulp that otherwise would be discarded or burned. Certified compostable by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), plates and bowls will compost in 45-60 days. Microwave and freezer safe, as well as grease and cut resistant, these products are strong enough for any hearty meal. Lets Go Green also carries place settings available in packages of 10, 25, 50 or 100. Utensils and cups are corn-based and 100% compostable.

There are nearly endless options for greener disposable plates, cups, flatware, napkins — anything you can put on a table. Before you head to the grocery store, try doing a quick search for brands that make biodegradable, non-bleached, recyclable, recycled, or compostable items, or items made from materials other than paper (think bamboo, corn, rice, and recycled plastic). Make a list, and then hit up the paper aisle with your new go-to green-disposable in mind.

Share your tips for eco-conscious entertaining by commenting below!

Diane MacEachern is the author of Big Green Purse: Use Your Spending Power to Create a Cleaner, Greener World, and a popular blog, Big Green Purse.

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  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    We just use regular dishess.
  • 6 years ago
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  • 6 years ago
    I use real plates and utensiles on the boat and on the beach. I have a hamper full of clean ones and a hamper to put the dirty dishes in for the trip home. I hate leaving garbage in garbage cans on the beach. And they don't blow away in the wind while your eating.

  • 6 years ago
    save time and energy to use paper plates
  • 6 years ago
    I recycle window envelopes to my daughters school, if they need to send notes and such home, they use the window envelopes. I also use them to sort grocery coupons. Each grocery store has one and each type of product has one. (paper products, cleaning supplies, etc.)
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