Fall is my favorite season of the year and as much as I look forward to the many parties around town and the delicious variety of foods that represent the cultural diversity of Los Angeles, I’m also very apprehensive.
As much as I enjoy the holiday festivities, I’m torn between two feelings. On the one hand, I love to gather around the table with friends and family to savor foods of the season, creating lasting memories that I carry with me. On the other hand, I cringe as I think of the styrofoam and plastic that is used once and then thrown away, leaving a nasty footprint that shadows the season.
Our solution is to plan ahead, to be prepared and to travel with our own re-usable utensils, drinking cups and even plates, so we personally won’t add to the waste that these holiday gatherings bring with them.
We have different traveling solutions that fit all occasions and styles, including cute little chopstick sets that fit in my purse, bamboo utensils in a pouch that fit in a briefcase, and a picnic style pack that is perfect for pot-luck events and includes plates, cups, glasses, napkins.
Inevitably, someone wants to share and many others ask where we found such fun and sustainable utensils.
To me it’s not only about the waste. To me, getting food served on single-use plates and utensils gives a bit of a negative tone to the party. I don’t believe in a second that any host is ever aware or ever intends to give out a negative vibe. I do believe that most of the waste is created because our society is unaware of other solutions and is too busy to worry about cleaning up or washing dishes and sometimes because it seems less costly to buy disposable than to provide enough plates and cups for all the guests that might show up.
When I go to a party that serves on china, I feel like I’ve just attended a high-society dinner. The food tastes home-made (even though it was bought in a store and put out on china), the conversation is more personal, people around me watch where they put their dishes and the guests help the host with the clean-up afterwards. Parties that serve on “trashable” items where everything ends up being shoved in a trashbag leave me a bit sad because it feels like the memories are just as short. There is no memory connection later with the plate, the silverware, or the dish china.
My family has lots of parties around the holidays and the kitchen and the dining room is always filled with food and drinks. Year after year, the plates that we serve on remind me of the other parties, the dishes stir memories and they give comfort. All this is missing when I go to homes that serve on plastic and paper.
It would be great if we all could encourage our friends and families this season to use real dishes. Not only because it looks nicer and more welcoming but also to be gentle on the environment and also to give our guests a feeling of welcoming, love, warmth, and even respect. The guests will treat your home and each other better. They will feel like they matter, like they are part of the family.
And if you don’t have enough dishes, ask some friends to chip in. If the party is a potluck, ask your friends to bring some dishes, silverware and glass ware if they can. If it’s not a potluck, ask anyway. Nobody will feel offended. You can label each brought item with their name on the bottom of the dish, or a sicker on the handles. It’s simple and it can be made into a fun activity for those who arrive a bit early.
Make the parties and the festivities into a social event from beginning to end. And recruit those who don’t want to leave at the end of the night to help you clean up and wash the dishes and pack up for you.
I wish you all a sustainable Thanksgiving season, filled with love and comfort and memories!
This article appeared in the on-line magazine for actors The Networker, in November 2012.