Post by Isabel, founder of the Party Kit Network.
Round up of 2019
The Party Kit Network started in June 2019, but in just 6 months it has grown beyond what I could have possibly imagined.
In June 2019, I read a blog post - little did I know that it would be the trigger to launch a network.
Having started my own zero waste journey in 2018, as the mother of a toddler I'd been dreading the impending birthday party phase - how was I going to avoid all those difficult-to-recycle paper plates?
Jen Gale wrote about Frome Eco Party Packages on her blog Sustainable(ish). Reading it, I was struck by just how simple the idea of a reusable party kit really is. A box of reusable tableware and decorations hired out to the local community to be used again and again - genius!
Via a local parents Facebook group I discovered a nearby primary school was already hiring out a party kit and that local mums had recently set up Bamboo-Do Parties near me - they very kindly answered all my questions about setting up and running a party kit.
In my efforts to tackle my own waste from food packaging, I'd previously come across the amazing resource Zero Waste Near Me, an online directory of waste-reducing projects across the UK. So I emailed Dian Sofia, who runs the website, suggesting that party kits would make a good addition to her directory and offering to help her source a list of available kits.
252 Party Kits
When we first started the search Dian and I wondered if we'd even find 20 party kits. Well, we did and it took just 4 days!
Someone then suggested that I set up a Facebook group and before I knew it there was a rapidly expanding network. In 6 months, the Party Kit Network has grown to 252 party kits across the UK with more added each week.
The Network is a community group, and not a franchise of any kind - all the party kits are run independently but we work together to drive forward the concept. It is free for kit owners to join the Network. Many of the party kits are run to raise funds for school PTAs, baby banks or charities and I believe that everyone should have access to this simple and sustainable alternative to disposable partyware.
This does mean that currently I cover all costs as the Network itself generates no income, but it's been great opportunity to put to good use the skills I've acquired in my ecommerce career. And this Network would be nothing without the hundreds of people across the UK who give up their time to run a party kit for their local community.
Many of the party kits have been set up within the last year with more and more people joining our Facebook group which supports those running kits.
The party packs are run by a mixture of individuals, school PTA parents, pre-schools, zero waste stores and small party businesses. This means that the equipment and services offered by each party kit varies. Everyone offers reusable plates and cups as a minimum, but you will also find many kits have cups, cutlery, table linen, patters, jugs, reusable decorations, and (my favourite) reusable pass-the-parcel bags.
1,115 Facebook Likes
In 6 months we've achieved 1,115 likes on Facebook. While this doesn't yet rival many sustainable community projects, this was achieved with no marketing spend and is just the beginning. I couldn't believe it when one Facebook post reached over 35k people, but it did validate that party kits really could have universal appeal.
As well as helping to make parties a little greener, hiring a party kit is often cheaper than buying the equivalent disposable equipment. In other parts of life, many low-waste sustainable alternatives are currently more expensive or require an upfront investment, but party kit hire is really accessible and can actually SAVE people money.
7,100 Website Visitors
I want to make it as easy as possible for people to switch to reusables and many find that hiring a party kit has been more convenient than sourcing all the disposable items they would have used before. And with many party kit owners offering a washing up service it really is easy.
Helen recommended Waste Free Party Box Nailsea...
"So convenient and easy to organise. It really helped keep the stress down and we didn't have a big bag of rubbish at the end!"
15,120 Single-use items
If all 252 party kits currently in the Network were each hired out for a party today we could save over 15,120 single-use items from landfill. I think that is just amazing.
A few years ago I would never have stopped to consider the waste from a party. I would have simply chucked everything into a black bin bag and thrown it away without a second thought. I didn't think about the resources used to manufacture and distribute those disposable plates or what happens to the waste once it had been collected by the bin lorry. I was blind to the lost resources and the huge carbon footprint of my choice to use disposables.
The mission of the Party Kit Network is very simple - we want to make it easy for people to avoid unnecessary waste at parties. This can be done by making reusables the norm at parties.
We want to spread the word that switching to reusables is an accessible option. We want to support those who run party kits. And we want to inspire more people to set up kits so that most communities across the UK can avoid the unnecessary waste from disposables.
The last 6 months have been an amazing journey and I can't wait to see what 2020 will bring!
Isabel Mack is a 30-something mum from Winchester. An expert in digital project delivery for ecommerce businesses, she has previously tried to sell you bananas (Waitrose), bikes (Wiggle.co.uk) and video games (GAME). When she isn't accidentally launching a new network championing sustainable change, her current roles include: snotty-nose-wiper to her 2-year-old son, Girlguiding leader, amateur cake-baker, reformed shopaholic (mostly) and aspiring zero-waster.