Interested in the party kit concept? In this article Isabel Mack, founder of the Party Kit Network, shares her 5 top tips for setting up a party kit.
I love how simple a party kit is. I love how easy party kits can make avoiding waste from disposable tableware at parties. And I love their role in helping us to live more sustainably.
As well as running the Party Kit Network, I also run a party kit based in Winchester UK.
Here's my top 5 tips for setting up a new eco-friendly party kit for your local community:
1. The best tableware is reusable tableware
There is a wide range of tableware available in our party kits. There's party kits with tableware made of plastic, recycled plastic, plant-based plastic, moulded bamboo, melamine, crockery, enamel and vintage china. But which is better?
As you might expect, I often get asked which type of tableware is the most eco-friendly, but there is no perfect solution.
Each type of tableware has its own benefits and disadvantages. Some tableware is better suited to children's parties, while a garden party host may want something a little more fancy than a plastic plate for their cucumber sandwiches.
All types of tableware have some level of environmental cost. Whether it's during the production, how far they are transported or what can be done at end-of-life to turn the materials into something new.
So for me, the best tableware is reusable tableware. Anything which can safely be used again and again (and again!) is better for the environment than disposables.
And for an even greener party kit, including preloved equipment will help lower its carbon footprint. Some network members, like Ellie from Brighton Reusable Party Pack (pictured), have managed to source enough secondhand tableware to make up a whole party kit.
It does require more time and dedication to find preloved tableware. But it is more sustainable to make use of tableware which may be tucked away at the back of someone's kitchen cupboard than to buy new. It is worth asking in via local Facebook groups or freecycle.
2. Don't get carried away!
I love how enthusiastic people get when setting up a new party kit. And it is easy to get excited as you think up new things to include.
To avoid becoming overwhelmed with equipment, first decide what type of party you'd like to cater for. Work out what equipment would be most useful for these party hosts. For example, you may find that parties for younger kids don't require cutlery; not only does this save a huge amount of time counting knives and forks but can save you money in the beginning by not buying equipment which isn't going to be used as often.
Be realistic about how much space you have available to store party kit equipment while it's not out at a party. While having a cake tin library alongside your party kit might seem like the best idea - do you actually have space to store it all?
Once your party kit is established ask hirers what else might be useful to them. Try to be lead by their needs rather than your excitement over yet another themed backdrop you just spotted on eBay. It's all too easy to find yourself with a rapidly expanding collection of party props!
3. Keep packages and add-ons manageable
When starting out I'd recommend having only 1 or 2 package options. This is the basic equipment that a hirer can expect to find which can then be adjusted according to the number of guests.
This makes the booking process and equipment management much easier. It also makes your messaging to potential hirers much simpler.
For my own party kit I offer two packages: a basic with tableware and a few reusable decorations, and a deluxe kit which also includes serving platters, more decorations and items like reusable pass-the-parcel bags. I do offer a couple of optional add-ons, although I really try to limit these as it creates too much back and forth communication with hirers when arranging a booking.
Starting simple will make things easier while you figure out your party kit management process. If you really get into it by all means add more variants or even branch out into themed packages!
4. Create a laminated equipment list
I can't claim this next tip as my own, but it is a really useful one! This was one of the many ideas which have been shared via our Facebook group for people who run party kits.
Once you've got your basic package sorted, there's a downloadable template in our members area which allows you to create an equipment list for your party kit. Print and then get this laminated so it can be reused many times. For each new hire simply write in the total number of items included in the party kit on the equipment list with a Sharpie pen and include in the box.
In addition to asking for a deposit, this is one of the best ways to ensure that you get back all the equipment which has been lent out. When tidying up from a party, hosts don't want to be checking emails so giving them a list gives everyone the best chance of ensuring a complete kit is returned.
My equipment list also includes guidelines on how to care for equipment (for example not putting dirty tableware back in the same box as the bunting) and instructions for how to return the kit to me.
Once the kit as been returned and checked, simply use a small amount of nail varnish remover to wipe off the pen marks ready to reuse next time.
5. Include an Emergencies Box
This was another great idea from our Facebook group - a small box included in the party kit with party essentials a host may have forgotten.
The emergencies box in my party kit includes birthday cake candles, matches, a pen, safety pins, a rubbish bag, scissors and Blu Tack (poster tack or poster putty). Anything that might save the party host caught in a bind. You'd be surprised at how often the candles get used! And while they are single-use, I still include part-used candles in my box after washing off any cake.
Other emergency boxes include party bags - helpful if the host has miscounted or an unexpected extra guest turns up.
Tell me more!
If these tips have you excited about setting up a new party kit then we have a whole wealth of information to support you:
Download our Get Started guide for more in-depth guidance on running a party kit.
Join our Facebook group for people running party kits: https://www.facebook.com/groups/partykitnetwork
And once you're set up and ready to go please join the network to get your party kit added to our map!
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