Thursday, April 19, 2012

Party with the Earth in Mind*

On Thursday mornings red cups overflow trashcans and cover lawns around campus like confetti. The red cups are so ubiquitous that Toby Keith even wrote a song about them.

But one thing that most students don’t know about the notorious cups is that most are recyclable on campus and not recyclable off campus. Because Solo cups are made out of polystyrene, the same material as Styrofoam, they are harder to recycle and only certain places can recycle them. The university uses a company that can recycle the cups, while the city of Santa Clara does not.

Its simple: just take a look at the recycling symbol on the bottom of your cup. If it has a 1–5 or 7 on it, you can recycle it wherever you want. If it has a 6, take it to a recycling station on campus.

Do we really need to use so many cups in the first place? Instead of getting a new cup with every drink, rinse out and reuse your cup all night. When you are at home or a friend’s house, consider using a reusable cup.

Forgo plastic cups all together and use bottles or cans that are more easily recyclable. If you are hosting a party, leave recycling bins out with signs so your guests can easily clean up after themselves and increase the amount of bottles and cans that are recycled.

When you are out, recycle your bottle or can and empty your cup before you leave the party instead of throwing them on lawns, streets, or in the trash. Littered bottles and cans not only make our campus unattractive and upset neighbors, but they also end up in storm drains and local waterways. After you host a party, be sure to pick up the cans, bottles, and cups that are outside the next morning.

Kegs are the most sustainable option if everyone can use their own reusable glass. Don’t forget to encourage guests to keep track of their cups and reuse them throughout the night. If you want to forgo the mess of red cups altogether, consider buying locally produced beer and wine.

Party decorations and costumes can also be sustainable. You can decorate with things found around the house and repurpose old items. When you are looking for your next toga or rock star outfit, check out local used clothing stores.  

As the weather gets warmer, opening the doors and windows is a great way to keep your party cool. Instead of keeping the air condition on and guzzling down energy while people file in and out, let the outside in.

In honor of Earth Day on Sunday, don’t forget to make your parties sustainable this weekend. 

*This post was originally published in The Santa Clara in my Sustainable Student column

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