Trash-free Party — Dutch style

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I made a new friend! In the basic Spanish class I am taking there is only one other student. I totally lucked out. Anja’s from Holland and carries her own bag to the market, eats organics, and tries to avoid plastic. Talk about serendipity! I could have ended up in a class with a wasteful, Styrofoam-loving mid-westerner, but no. Instead I found myself learning Spanish with a gal who celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary / 50th birthday by throwing a party for 150 of her closest friends. With no garbage. BOOM! How cool is that? Here’s how it was done:

1. First up is the locale. Where do you put 150 people for a fun and casual party? Given that the weather in Holland in July is iffy (like Oregon, methinks), Anja rented two places for the day. The first location was a park / field with covered tables and a cooking area. The party began there at 5PM and at 8PM moved to its second location, a bar with dance floor. The plan was to spend the day outside at the park and go to the bar in the evening for dancing. However, given the ever-present possibility of rain, the bar was rented for the day as well, just in case the party had to be relocated.

1. Next is the food. Anja had a potluck for 150 people! I have not yet been confident enough to have a potluck for 30 (I’m working on it), and she pulled it off for 150. Was she worried about having enough food, or about having 7,000 salads and no main dishes? No, she was not. She figured if they had just salads, people would eat salad. It just wasn’t an issue. There was a good mix of food, and plenty of it. FYI: Leftovers were taken to the bar at five, and then used for late-night noshing. People also brought containers to take leftovers home.

2. Beverages were provided by Anja, along with rented glasses and bartenders at both locations.

3. One of my favorite parts of this party is the plan for plates, utensils, and napkins. Guests were asked to bring their own. At the end of the day guests could take home their plates and utensils or leave them in bins. Those left in bins were washed and donated to charity.

4. Anja had décor for the party as well. All year she had been collecting small bottles, cleaning them and removing the labels. She also collected buckets. She wrapped twine around the necks of some bottles, which were hung from the indoor ceiling with a single bloom in them. Other bottles were placed on tables for a decorative touch. The buckets were hung from the walls in the bar / dance area. The flowers and greenery came from her garden, which was denuded for the occasion. Large cornucopias of flowers were hung from the ceiling, and were made from recycled chicken wire and filled with fake flowers from thrift stores and real flowers and greenery from the garden.

5. The possible glitch: Worldcup soccer. Holland was not only still in the game on party day, but playing in a match. Knowing that many people would not attend if it meant missing the match, Anja moved a large screen TV into the bar area, and guests who were so compelled to watch could do so.

6. At some point Anja had an attack of nerves and worried that the party would not be a success. A friend said, Think about it: You’ve invited all your friends. You like your friends, right? Your friends are nice, right? How could this party not be fun? The friend was correct. The party was a huge success.

7. Help from another friend was requested and received. One of Anja’s best friends is a party planner. Anja made a checklist for the day and gave it to the planner, who oversaw the payment of bartenders, the TV wiring, the movement from one location to another, the behavior of drunken guests, etc. When the time came to move to the bar, this friend gathered other guests to move the food, clean up the park area, and make the transition run smoothly. Anja wanted to pay for this service (an invaluable one), but she and her friend instead worked out a trade. In exchange for the party help, Anja will help her friend in her garden.

8. Cleanup was done the following day. Even with no trash, there is a lot of cleanup for 150 people: Glasses to be returned, dishes to be washed and donated, décor to be taken down, TV returned to its original resting place. And more – there’s always more. Anja and her husband took care of most of this, all while looking after a few drunk relatives.

I hear a lot of people say that throwing a party is intimidating. Anja made it seem so manageable. Could you give it a go? Here’s a tip: Don’t start with a party for 150. Get your sea legs with a smaller crew. Why not try a potluck, help from a friend, party in a park, and roll with it. Anja was the first person up the day of the party and the last person to bed. Sounds exhausting, right? But you know what she said about it? That she flew a little that day. How cool is that?