We humans love to celebrate, but all to often those celebrations can come with a steep environmental cost. Celebrations and parties of all kinds too often come along with unnecessary waste as it can be perceived that it is cheaper and easier to use disposable everything, however with a little pre-planning this does not have to be the case. When you stop to consider the long term impact of the created waste you quickly realize it does not outweigh the time, effort, and cost of going as zero or low waste as you can at your next get together.
So where do you start when planning your next party? To save you some time, we have put together 33 easy and affordable zero waste party tips and asked a few of our favourite zero waste heroes for their tips to include for inspiration on making easy changes that can be incorporated into any party theme.
Setting the tone starts with your invitation. Use this as an opportunity to get your guests on board with your zero waste thinking.
1. Send or text invites digitally instead of printing them on paper. You can even include a little mention of why you chose to send the invites this way.
Natalie Isaacs, 1 Million Women
There are many resources you can use to create invitations to be sent via email or shared on your social profiles, Canva has an excellent invitation tool that is very easy to use.
2. Go minimalist and ask people not to bring cards or presents. The materialist element can be countered by asking people to read a few words or quotes. And you can always ask for cash or online gift cards instead. –1 Million Women
Taking a bit of time to consider all aspects of your party and how you can reduce waste will help you see areas you can keep waste to a minimum.
3.Use your purchasing power to vote for the world you want to live in. Be a conscious consumer – ask questions like what is this made from and what will happen to this after I’m finished with it? –OzHarvest
4. Make sure you will have clear signage so your guests know where compost and recyclables belong. Use plant based 100% certified compostable bin liners for everything else.
5. In the weeks leading up to a big event, defrost and eat the contents of your freezer. That way it will be empty and ready to store leftovers so nothing goes to waste. –The Rogue Ginger
6. Check with your friends and family and borrow liberally. Things like dishes, glasses, silverware, punch bowls and even themed decorations sit in pantries and garages just waiting to be used.
7. Cloth napkins are more durable and effective than flimsy paper napkins. Look to borrow some or make your own from fabric scraps.
8. Forgotten fridge food is the number one reason for food waste. Be sure to check what you already have in the fridge and freezer to avoid overbuying.
Ronni Kahn, OzHarvest
9. If you are opting for party for favors, carry over your zero waste party theme with something reusable and long-lasting that your guests will find useful.
One of the biggest sources of party waste are decorations. There are many things you can use that will create zero waste while still creating a festive atmosphere.
10. When considering your decorations keep it minimal and use things that are either recyclable or compostable.
11. Upcycle items you already have to make decorations – for example old glass jars for table centerpieces. –1 million Women
12. Holiday string lights are an easy and festive way to decorate.
13. Choosing natural decorations of flowers and foliage is a low-waste option when entertaining. Vegetables, fruits and plants can be woven into wreaths, set up as table decorations and placed on cakes. They can be composted at the end.
Erin Rhoads, The Rogue Ginger
14. If you start with a recyclable material for your decorations, keep in mind that covering it in glitter and glue will make it unrecyclable.
15. Bunting, pinwheels and garlands made out of paper are a great recyclable options. You can even make bunting and banners out of fabric so you can use them year after year.
16. Try to make decorations that will work for multiple occasions rather than one specific theme.
Food and Drink
There are many ways to reduce waste when it comes to food and drink. It’s not just what you use to serve your guest but the potential for food waste is a factor as well.
17. You can eliminate the need for plates and cutlery altogether by offering finger food. Options like shrimp, stuffed mushrooms, and potato wedges are easy to manage.
18. To reduce cost and waste, follow caterer industry standards and make about two servings of each variety of finger food for every guest.
19. Have pitchers or a punch bowl of ice water with reusable cups and glasses available.
20. Ask your guests to bring their own reusable drink containers or have them drink directly from a bottle (e.g. beer). – 1 Million Women
21. If you’re making something that calls for ingredients you rarely use, try and get whatever you can from the bulk section in the grocery store. This will allow you to grab only what you need and nothing more.
22. Try to find recipes that will make for good leftovers or that can be repurposed into a new meal.
23. Buy or bake some fresh bread for your guests to make their own custom sandwiches. Rethink what goes between the bread by offering a variety of proteins, cheeses, spreads, veggies and even thinly sliced fruit for a unexpected tasty crunch.
24. Choosing shared dishes made of local, seasonal food helps keep food waste to a minimum. This way guests can choose how much they want to eat. –The Rogue Ginger
25. Mason jars can provide a dual function and they are an inexpensive reusable option. They are easy to clean after being used fpr beverages by your guests for and you can use them to store leftover food from your party.
26. Source food and catering by finding local businesses who are happy for you to bring your own containers and bags. Our local Turkish restaurant is happy to put their delicious hummus and baba ganoush into our containers and Turkish bread into bags.
Rebecca Prince-Ruiz, Plastic Free July
27. Know where your scraps are going. Is there somewhere you can compost it all? A pet you can feed? If you don’t have those things, arrange with a friend or neighbor who has chickens or a compost to give them the scraps. –1 Million Women
28. Needless to say, skip the plastic straw. If you want to provide straws opt for ones made from recycled or sustainable materials (and are themselves compostable or biodegradable) or consider reusables that people can take home with them.
29. Encourage your guests to take food home with them or donate leftovers to a shelter if you are not going to consume the food.
Be a Zero Waste Party Guest
Zero Waste should not be just the concern of the host. As a guest of any party you can reduce your impact in several ways:
Zero Waste Gift Wrapping
30. No need for single-use wrapping paper that is literally ripped up and then discarded after one use. Try these wrapping ideas instead:
Wrap presents using a scarf, handkerchief or cloth napkin. Not only does it look chic, it works as an added gift too.
Wrap presents using newspaper. Make it look luxe by adding ribbon or twine.
Add vintage brooches to decorate, they make any present shine. They are often less than $2 a piece and make a present even more special.
An added tip is adding natural elements to your wrapping such as eucalyptus leaves, evergreen ferns or flowers. They look stunning and are totally compostable too.
Homemade, Upcycled and Previously Loved Gifts
31. Thrift stores are full of treasures. Depending on the recipient and occasion you may just find the perfect gift and give it a new life.
32. Homemade gifts add that extra something. Things like candles and bath salts are easy to make and can be done in batches so you always have a gift on hand. Using glass containers and jars you already have and add a bow or ribbon from fabric scraps.
Encourage Zero Waste
33. Your host may not be considering the waste involved or seeing all the ways to reduce waste. When responding to the invite, offer to bring over decorations and supplies beforehand to encourage them to think differently.
Please Share This Information
Zero or low waste is not as intimidating as it sounds. Think of it as not just diverting waste from the rubbish bin to the recycling or composting bins but reducing waste overall. Keep in mind that most disposable products can be substituted with reusable, borrowed and second hand items.
We hope you found some zero waste party inspiration with the amazing tips above. If you found them useful, the chances are someone else you know will too. Please share this article to help spread awareness of how easy it is to celebrate any occasion in a zero waste way.
If you have any tips you’d like to suggest please contact us as we’d love to hear them and they may even be added to this article!