Have you ever thought about how much plastic your PTA uses? Do you have more plastic or polystyrene cups used at your events than children that attend?
Awareness of trying to cut down our use of plastic is everywhere. We know it can seem daunting, difficult and most of all, expensive, to switch from plastic to eco-alternatives, so to help you, we’ve put together some simple swaps to show you how easy it can be to use less plastic at your PTA events.
1. BYOB – Bring your own bottle (of water)
At school discos or film nights, why not ask children to bring their own water bottle? Most classrooms have an area for children to put their water bottles anyway, so collecting them before the event should be easy and would ensure there is no waste afterwards. You can then fill up the bottles using jugs of water, squash or juice? Maybe have a few re-usable cups on hand for anyone who forgets to bring their own.
2. Organise a Mug Amnesty
We all have mugs at the back of the cupboard that are unused gifts or part of a set where too many are now damaged for you to use them, so why not donate them to your PTA? If you can use your school’s kitchen to wash up after an event, then organising a mug amnesty is a fun and cost effective way of reducing your plastics use. All you need to do is ask people to donate unused mugs from home that can then be used at your events instead of plastic and polystyrene cups.
Alternatively, if it’s glasses you need, lots of supermarkets provide free glass hire, which means you don’t have to invest in buying them but can still use them instead of plastic ones for one-off occasions.
3. Paper Straws
It’s been all over the news that plastic straws are an environmental no-no. If you don’t want to banish straws altogether, why not buy paper straws for kids to drink from at your events? They come in cool designs and have the same effect as the plastic versions.
4. Re-use your bags
If you’re holding a shopping event or fair, ask people to bring their own bags, donate bags in advance, or invest in some small paper bags for more delicate items, instead of using plastic. Cake stalls can wrap cakes in paper and gifts can be presents in paper.
While organising tea-towels and cards for the parents to buy at Christmas or at the end of term, why not make school branded tote bags too? Then every parent has the opportunity of having a re-usable bag; plus you can make some extra funds for your PTA!
5. Wooden cutlery and paper plates
Not just for fish and chips, wooden cutlery is easy to use and source, as well as recyclable. Having wooden or bamboo cutlery and recyclable paper plates are both simple swaps from plastic alternatives, and ideal to have at a school bbq or fete.
If you don’t want to buy cutlery or plates at all, you could always order in pizzas or have a pizza van at your event. That way everyone eat with their hands and all you need to buy are some paper napkins! Parentkind members can get 40% off Papa Johns.
6. You don’t need plastic to glow in the dark
Children’s discos don’t need to be full of plastic and glowing materials which are environmentally unfriendly. Although still made of plastic, if you buy led lights, they are reusable, so there is not as much plastic waste being created.
You could also get the DJ to use UV lights at the disco, and then give kids glow in the dark face paint, hair paint or fake tattoos for their disco. This way, they’re the ones that glow!
Props for photo booths (whether you have one or not) are also loads of fun for kids, and depending on whether you have a theme for your disco, could really tie in nicely. If you want to have a photo booth, why not ask parent volunteers to take the photos?
7. The end of plastic prizes
Take a look at your prizes at fairs, to see if you can hand out more eco-friendly (and useful) alternatives to plastic toys. Prizes at games stands could include; books, both reading or activity/colouring, bookmarks, stickers, notebooks, crayons/pencils, card games or chocolate coins. All of these can be bought in bulk to save money.
If you want to give out bigger prizes at your events, why not use our stamp card template? It works like a loyalty card, and the children collect stamps in order to win prizes at fairs.
8. Paper doesn’t go pop
Creating decorations out of paper, instead of using balloons, is really easy and gives a traditional charm to your event. Why not go back to basics and make/buy paper bunting or paper chains? The kids will love it and you’ll be able to use them for multiple events.
Does your PTA want to use less plastic? Then hopefully these simple swaps will help inspire ways in which you can get the ball rolling.
Paper straws, plates and wooden cutlery are easily available at Booker, where Parentkind members can get an account.
If you want to go the whole hog and become a ‘plastic free’ PTA, then you can read about Joanne Denne and her PTA who managed to do just that earlier this year.
Alternatively, you could speak to your school or student/parent council about how to become plastic free. We would recommend getting in touch with Surfers Against Sewage, who are campaigning for plastic free schools.