To Paper or To Plate: That’s the Question

We were packing boxes to send to missionaries and behind us, at another table, was a Vera-type-gal, a micro-manager of the Universe.  She was organizing the Ladies’ for an upcoming reception, “And of course, we must use the nice plates, and the good glasses.  Nancy Sue will you iron the tablecloths and napkins?”

Heavens to mergatroid. Poor Nancy Sue  I thought.  I haven’t used my iron in…well, let’s just say I think it still works. Last time I used it was to create melted crayon crafts. I leaned over to my packing partner and whispered, “That’s a lot of frou-frou.”

She rolled her eyes. “Yeah, that’s why I never volunteer for those things.”

Now obviously, I was born without a Martha Stewart gene, but it got me thinking, with all the coffee hours, receptions, mid-week suppers, etc., we’d get more volunteers if we’d use disposables. So what’s the better choice? Hence…

THE CERAMIC VS PAPER WAR

Being frugal Lutherans, most of our matched plates and flatware came from saving boxtops. (Everyone keep eating…we need 10 more sets of service.)

Ceramic/Glass Benefit

  • Their production and delivery have a carbon foot print, but it’s a one-time thing.
  • They have to be washed. (Blah…like we all don’t have enough washing in our lives). But according to GreenGoPost.com dishwashers have become more energy and water efficient. (Obviously they’ve never watched the youth wash dishes).  Of course they caution if you run the dishwasher with only a cup and a spoon inside, it’s not too cost-effective, but the nature of most Lutherans is to fill that machine up until it looks like a steam-punk contraption. We know how to get the most soap out of a buck.
  • The threat of bacteria spreading is most likely not an issue unless we’re experiencing a horrible disease like cholera or maybe contamination by zombies.  Basic hygiene still applies.

Paper Plate Benefit

  • Disposable. No clean up. Hooray. But…here comes the rain on my dancing-dish parade…we’ll be buying them again and again. More production, transportation and bigger carbon footprint.
  • So, we’ll just recycle, yes?  No, not really. Usually soiled plates can’t be recycled and not all grades of plastic can be recycled. “Even if your community could recycle each and every disposable fork or cup,” says Leon Kaye of GreenGoPost, “they still require energy–and water–to create new batches of paper or plastic goods.”  And then there’s the bags of garbage after an event, percolating gas and goop like the eggs in an Alien movie.

So my lazy bones stand corrected. Ceramic and metal flatware is the winner.

It’s wise stewardship for money, attitude, and planet. “Think single purchase, not single use,” says Kaye.

Okay…I may volunteer for clean-up, but I’m still not ironing.

How has your church or organization solved the problem?

Thanks to Leon Kaye, editor and founder of GreenGoPost.com. Check it out for more info.