This article was written by Marina Khubesrian, M.D., South Pasasdena City Councilmember
Proof positive, a no-plastic, less waste, vegan and vegetarian friendly event is possible.
We accomplished the task recently, piloting the Community Dishes Program launched by Transition South Pasadena during a baby shower I co-hosted for 40-50 invited guests.
It was a very rewarding and successful experience by all accounts, working with Transition South Pasadena – a local movement that focuses on building community through environmental and sustainability projects.
I decided I was going to avoid using Single Use Plastics (SUPs) and wanted to significantly reduce the waste I typically see generated at such events. The baby shower was held for a couple who care very much about what kind of impact they have on the planet and are concerned about the environment.
I decided that this was the perfect opportunity to make the leap and get back to hosting a party like our grandmothers used to do before plastic became ubiquitous. I admit I was nervous. I did not want to purchase and then store 50 new plates or glasses. I did not own 50 forks and knives and did not want to buy them. Then there was the question of what to do about the decorations if we wanted to avoid disposable ones. I decided to reach out to our Transition South Pasadena (TSP) community for help.
I already had a fabulous co-host who got on board and volunteered to make homemade hummus dip for veggies, persimmon pudding and sangria. Like most busy moms who wears several hats inside and outside the household, I knew that convenience would have to be key if this type of sustainable event was to succeed.
This is where the TSP community really came through. Rona and her crafty friends sewed 2 beautiful hanging banners, a table runner, and bedazzled plain linens with fun nursery fabrics. We borrowed a set of 50 eight-inch glass plates, a collection of utensils pooled from several TSP friends. We bought and used mason jars for glassware for the punch and other drinks. Madeline made a vegan quiche and a hearty farro and kale salad. I supplemented with Porto’s party sized potato balls and chicken potpies. Porto’s mango sponge cake and fruit tart are light and always popular and their bright colors went well with the theme of a baby shower. The best part was that I did not feel overwhelmed in making this transition to no-plastic, less waste, vegan and vegetarian friendly event.
The hand-sewn decorations where precious and it was tempting to hold on to them. A few observations about using Community Dishes: we had some left over plastic cups from a prior party and I had them out just in case we ran out of the glass ones. No one wanted to use the plastic cups when they were given the option of glass! It’s helpful to have a designated dishwasher to wash the plates and utensils between the main dishes and the dessert. This was the ideal time to play a shower game. We played Kahoot, which is a fun game where teams compete to answer quiz questions, in this case questions about how well we knew the expecting couple. When the event was over, there was very little to throw away. Leftover food was placed in take out containers that I save and sent home with guests. The best part was I did not have bags of plastic waste to throw out.
Additionally, I did not have to figure out where I was going to store the decorations, glassware and silverware. They went back to TSP where they can be used over and over again by our community members looking to make the transition to a sustainable event. Community Dishes will include sets of dinner plates, utensils and napkins for 50 people and several decoration kits for the community to choose from. The dinnerware items can be checked out like in a library and returned clean for the next user. I know that we all felt good to be a part of welcoming a new baby to our community and not contributing to the plastic waste in our landfills.
Madeline DiGiorgi, co-founder of TSP reflected: “As a millennial, I find myself constantly worrying about climate change and the future of our planet. It is truly amazing to see our community embrace the reduce and reuse movement. It gives me hope for the future.”
“The event was a huge success. Not only was it vegan friendly, it was nearly zero waste. Everyone was interested in making their events like this, it’s an easy path towards sustainability.”
Rona Bortz, co-founder of Transition South Pasadena, hopes that Community Dishes can tap hidden talents in our community and build partnerships with those who have a knack for design and like to make things. The amazing party decorations, banners, table runners and cloth napkins for this baby shower were designed and sewn by Erin Barrow from Pasadena and Christy Billock from Altadena. We will invite people from South Pasadena’s senior and scouting communities, and whoever else is interested, to help make decoration kits for other party types. We can help our city reduce waste, promote a sharing economy, save people money and encourage a connected community, all while throwing an amazing, guilt-free party! Who could ask for better?”
What does the Community Dishes project hope to achieve?
Less Plastic Waste
Community Dishes reduces plastic waste. If used only once a week, Community Dishes will save 2,600 disposable plates and over 7,000 pieces of plastic utensils per year.
Community Dishes raises awareness of our planet’s plastic waste crisis, and demonstrate alternatives to adding to the plastic pollution. Our goal is to normalize the use of reusable ware over buying disposable.
Community Dishes means simplifying your life. One community resource to be shared and borrowed regularly rather than individually purchased items used once or twice.
Community Dishes creates partnerships with community groups. It provides easy-to-sew decoration and napkin patterns that senior and scouting groups can sew which connects us to each other and builds a happy society.
Community Dishes encourages giving. The more things that can be shared freely, the less waste created and less stuff required. Community Dishes is like borrowing from your “cool” friend and hopes to encourage the continued growth of the local sharing economy.
Jaime Garza, a founding member of TSP, and active community partner in addressing our plastic waste crisis at City events, said: “Holy Family Church and the Holy Family Environmental Ministry is excited to be an active partner with the City of South Pasadena and Citizens of South Pasadena with Community Dishes and City Plates. We’d like to set an example of sharing our resources to care for our common home, and encourage other institutions to do the same.”
Also instrumental to the success of the event was Karen Vetch, who supported us with her contributions and many ideas.
Community Dishes will be launched in April 2020. Look for our scheduling calendar on our website soon!