After years of attending kids' birthday parties and potlucks where, by the end, the trash bins were overflowing with disposable plates and utensils, I decided to invest in a community party kit.

It  was a simple idea, or so I thought: I spent $20 on a large set of reuseable plates, cups, utensils and cloth napkins. I stored them in the storage space accessible to the 4 families who live in our "compound" (an accidental community of four families who live in a row).

I sent an email to all three families and to the 20 families in my son's class (his school is conveniently located next door to our house so I thought they might like to partake as well). The email invited them to make free use of the party kit.

The outcome: My family trots out the party kit all the time, but no one else does. We continue to see disposable stuff being used at most of the parties we go to. I don't want to nag or pressure my neighbors, and I know they haven't forgotten about the party kit because we use it all the time. These are well-meaning, environmentally-aware (but very busy) people — a category that includes just about everyone I know. I'm guessing that the barrier is that they don't want to wash the stuff afterwards (though they all have dishwashers). 

How can I get them on board without coming off as judgmental or nagging? Ideas?

Erica Etelson


Erica Etelson

Founder @Sharemore, author, mother, gardener, reuse fanatic