I have never professed to be the green crunchy hippie type of mom. There are too many negative connotations with being such. I am however pretty green. As a family we try our best to use reusable items such as canvas and cloth grocery bags. We also use a lot of biodegradable products. We recycle a lot of goods, even if that means using a Zioploc bag more than once for dry items like cereal.
One problem that up until recently, that we always had was the dreaded party. After parties at home, especially for our daughter, my significant other and I realized there was always so much junk left over. We also had this problem for our usual Halloween party that we host. Now, if we have all this clutter and waste after our party, I could not imagine the amount of waste left for teachers. In a little over two months many teachers are going to play host to Halloween parties or as they call them now “Fall Holiday” parties. They are going to have an innumerable amount of waste left over. However, I think I may have some tips and solutions for these hard worker teachers of America. I worked out the different problem areas that may cause waste and gave some helpful tips on how to make them less wasteful and more yummy.
Problem One: Decoration. For many parties the number one cause of waste is the decorations. Many traditional Halloween decorations are made of paper and can be reused but not right away. There are other decorating ideas that I have found very useful. The use of Indian corn is very popular as well as bales of hay, these are not only cool Halloween décor but for the classroom they can be fun decorations through all of autumn. Old stockings are a great way to make spider webs and old pillow cases mainly of the white variety, make excellent ghosts.
For a class project before Halloween, kids can scrounge up some old clothing their parents are going to toss out and some newspapers and in groups make scarecrows to display through the Halloween season. I remember in second grade we did a similar project and it was a whole load of fun. Rocks and stones can easily be made into some fun items too. Depending on the size and shape students can make them into headstones. Another fun idea with them is to glue on eyes and pipe cleaners to make spooky little spiders.
One other decorating idea, which is a bit perishable, is to make a Jack O’latern. Now, I know that they do not last long and on paper it seems wasteful, but in my house we use all of the pumpkin. A little tip here for teachers, take the pumpkin to class a few days before Halloween, carve it with the students, instead of tossing the pumpkin guts (that is what we call them in my house) separate the stringy stuff from the seeds. Put them into separate containers and take them home. Just in time for the Halloween party the pumpkin guts can be turned into a pumpkin pie, muffins, cake, cupcakes or even custard and the seeds roasted for a salty little treat. Now, I know what question people will ask. What about the actual pumpkin? Well when our pumpkin at home is just about ready to depart, we bury it the compost pile to add into our garden’s fertilizer. Now, if say you have a class trip to the pumpkin patch and each child has their own pumpkin, you can paint them in class and use them as decorations as well, and maybe send a recipe for a yummy pumpkin treat home when they take the pumpkins. You really do not need to fill your classroom with a bunch of paper streamers either. Go to the craft store or fabric store and pick up some gossamer in black and orange for an added touch to the class room. The good thing about the gossamer is that you can use it for more decorating in the future.
Problem Two: Party Supplies. Most schools in my area have paper recycling bins so it is not necessarily an issue in my daughter’s district. We can send in paper products without worry of waste. Which, if you have a district like that and you over-buy, or more than one student brings in the paper products, keep the extras! You can use the extra paper products for crafts through the entire school year. You also never know if you might forget to have a student bring them at Thanksgiving for your party then. Another idea is to use reusable items like plastic. You can always wash the plastic utensils and use them again through the year. You can also wash plastic plates. Another idea for plastic items is science class. Spoons can be used as scooping items, knives to cut, and forks to poke holes. Plates can be used as ways to divide up supplies, or even for under potted plants. Plastic cups can be used to pour or if you do a botany project, they can be used a planters. Napkins, well, they always come in handy. For serving bowls, bring them from home.
Problem Three: Food. Make sure for one that any food you make is stuff the students want and like. If you brainstorm with them a few days before the party you will know what to bring or what the students can bring. Small servings might be best. If too much is brought in there is a high chance that it will not be eaten. If there has to be large portions there is also a chance that it will be left on the plate and go in the garbage. The best way to ensure there is no wrapper waste from candy is to make cupcakes or muffins in paper cups, they are recyclable.
Unwrapped candy is always another option. Now a fun little idea if you plan to have a piñata is to make an edible one. You can find the recipe by clicking Edible Piñata. Fill the piñata either with toys or unwrapped chocolates. If using white chocolate or white vanilla melts, you can add food coloring paste to make them in Halloween colors. Another fun waste less item that is both food and decoration is something my step-dad makes annually called The Graveyard Cake. It can be any flavor cake decorated to resemble a graveyard, it is both cute and practical for a waste free Halloween party. It is definitely something to consider instead of cupcakes. Another waste free, edible fun class activity that is good for a Halloween party or if you have to hold the party closer to the Spanish holiday Dia De Los Muertos, the Mexicans who generally celebrate make Calaveras de azucar or sugar skulls. These colorful little skulls make a fun holiday treat in addition to good learning activity.
Problem Four: Favors. Favors are a big problem because many times the bags themselves are the waste factor. However, there is a solution to the bag issue. Oriental Trading a company known for its wonderful selection of party favors in bulk has three very cute ideas for teachers. The first idea are Polyester Jack O’Latern bags, they are tote bags that students create themselves to look like smiling Jack O’laterns. The second idea is a pumpkin looking Design Your Own tote, they are completely blank orange bags with green handles that can be decorated however the student likes. This might be a good idea for older students. The third idea is a Paint Your Own bag. They already have a design on them similar to a coloring book that kids can paint themselves. These bags are best if you have pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten or even First grade students since the designs are very kitsch. For favors to put in the bag, edibles like cookies, homemade lollipops, homemade chocolates, and pretzels work. Also cute are coloring books, notebooks, pens, pencils, crayons, or small age appropriate toys.
The Green Parent: http://www.thegreenparent.com/