I was hoping you zero waste savvy people could give some suggestions on how to go about helping my family with our next family dinner of 50 guests. We do ALL of the work ourselves, hence why my parents adopted using disposable flatware, utensils, napkins etc. I would like to do it ALL with REUSABLE items to reduce the waste of course plus it'll look prettier. However, how do I do this without it being too much work and still be able to enjoy being with my family? One thought was to set up a station similar to a college cafeteria where the leftovers(if there are any) are thrown in a bin and put the flatware on the table so I could then put them in buckets of water to soak in the meantime. I just am not sure how feasible this is.
Thanks in advance for your comments.
Re: How To Do a Big Family Gathering of 50 Guests?
I faced this problem hosting Christmas Eve dinner.
There are several options:
1. ask whichever family member lives closet to you to bring over all of their dishes to make up for the numbers you lack
2. ask family members to bring enough dishes, silverware, etc for those coming with them.
3. you can rent the needed dishes, silverware, cups, etc. But, the gas to transport, the packaging, etc, makes this option difficult and not necessarily any greener
4. you can bite the bullet and use disposables, but remember not all disposables are created equal, there are a lot of recycled paper products that are of course compostable, along with bambo and compostable plastic silverware. (wait plastic?, yes those potato based plastics really are compostable and they rot down in compost very quickly)
If you go the actual dishes route, remember to clean up the kitchen and clean out the dishwasher as you go. That way, at the end of the party, you don't need to wash everything that was cooked with and everything that was eaten off of. This takes some foresight, but if you keep the dishwasher running throughout the event, refilling and emptying as you go, clean up isn't too bad.
For years I sat down approx 50 people for Thanksgiving. Me. Coming originally from a family of 4 total.
Personally I used good paper plates (my only toss item) because I didn't want to do any clean up that day and enjoy the day with my guests. Also I have a small house without a dishwasher. (If you have a dishwasher empty it before your party.) I invested in a few bus boy trays that I soaked all the other dishes/flatware in for clean up the next day and stashed in the garage. I borrowed flatware from work, you could borrow plates/flatware/glassware or pick some up at GW (because this was family/not a one time event I invested in serving/glassware that got passed around to whoever hosted events; most vintage/used). All potluck people were required to bring serving pieces/serving flatware - and a bag to send them home with their dirty dish. That way everyone has just their one dish to wash. Tablescapes/centerpieces were made with items from nature. All my napkins are cloth (world market is good for this) - for bbq I use cloth dish towels. I set up a dessert station separate using a coffee maker w/timer preset. For food service buffet you could borrow/rent tables but I used saw horses topped with plywood that I draped with cloth. You could preset the tables with everything but plates, or stack set plates at the front of the line, with flatware/napkins at the end and set up a separate beverage station. This will help to keep things moving. Set up beverage/cocktail stations the furthest away possible from the entrance - it helps to keep the party spread out without stacking folks/clogging entryways/traffic patterns.
I asked people not to bus their dishes and leave tables as is. I was easier for me to clear dishes to bus trays because I had a plan in place. The next day I dismantled the tablecloths/centerpieces etc. You could also assign people to do clean up - as long as everyone is on the same page it will work out fine. One year without asking I turned my back and the family cleared the tables -- the tablecloths, centerpieces, salt/pepper, everything including the unused dessert forks into a armloads I had no place to put - before I served dessert (and I was now out of forks!). They were used to everything gets tossed out -and as soon as folks got up from the table. So if you plan ahead, you'll do fine.
If you have questions - ask away, I've done event planning for a living.