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Birthday celebrations and other parties can be great, but they can often cause a lot of waste – from unsustainable decorations and disposable napkins, or cutlery, to store-bought food and drinks in plastic.
With a couple of easy tips and tricks, you can easily adapt any party to ensure it is (almost) zero waste. This blog covers a range of practical, affordable, and easy tips for hosting a minimalist & sustainable party.
We’ll look at all aspects of your party, from preparation and decoration to food & drink, gift-giving, and even clean-up. So let’s jump right in!
Zero waste party: Preparation tips
Proper planning and preparation are the keys to a successful zero waste party.
As a rule of thumb, if you leave everything for the last minute, you will likely be more inclined to opt for disposable and convenient – often plastic – shortcuts, which may save some time, but create unnecessary waste.
The following points will help you to plan your eco-friendly party and reduce unnecessary waste:
- Send eco-friendly invitations – If you insist on sending an invitation, you can send an online one or create DIY origami envelopes. For online invitations, use Canva – it has many templates and is easy to use.
- Avoid buying unnecessary items to give out as party favors for guests – You can avoid it altogether or create homemade, heartwarming gifts.
- Use real reusable cutleries instead of disposable/plastic ones – While disposable ones may seem like a great idea for fast clean-ups, it is far from sustainable.
- Create a shopping list to avoid last-minute trips to the grocery store – Start thinking about the menu at least a couple of days in advance.
- Visit the farmers market and perhaps a bulk store to get all the things you will need for the party – When shopping, use reusable bags, containers in jars, to avoid getting plastic bags.
- Give yourself adequate time to prepare everything – It is super important to not underestimate the time you will need to make everything.
- Create different bins (or reusable bags) for waste – In that way, you can encourage the guests to recycle correctly. Make sure that the containers are with labels.
- Use cloth napkins instead of single-use paper ones – The cloth ones are more durable and practical, and you can make your own from fabric scraps.
- Give the leftovers that some guests will leave to prevent food waste – Ask your guests to bring lunch boxes or Tupperware, or if they forgot, you could fill leftover food in jars you have at home.
Zero waste party: Decorations
Glitter, balloons, or other decorations may look pretty and festive, but they are wasteful, non-recyclable, and unnecessary.
Luckily, there are many great eco-friendly plastic-free, biodegradable decorations that you consider, including:
- Use natural decorations, such as flowers, leaves, herbs, twigs from outside.
- Get fresh flowers from your garden or local farmers’ market – Place them in jars or vases you have at home.
- Use party/Christmas lights or candles, (if you have them) to create a more chill and festive atmosphere.
- DIY pine-cone string garlands
- Play thematic music in the background
If you decide you want or need to use store-bought options, ensure decorations are fully recyclable or home compostable and visit local second-hand stores first.
I also wrote an article with my favorite alternative to balloons & eco-friendly party decorations that you can check out!
Zero waste party: Food & Drinks
Delicious food and drink are crucial to any successful party. If you want to wow your guests without creating excessive waste, begin by thinking about the food and drink itself:
- Create simple & plant-based meals – An appetizer menu, finger food, plastic-free snacks, etc. In this way, you can save extra food and consume it later. Some easy ideas include – freshly bought or homemade bread, with a variety of dips, or toppings, such as avocado, hummus, bean pate dips, etc. Other ideas include kale chips, sweet potato & avocado bites, chocolate-covered nuts, homemade cookies, cupcakes, etc. You can find 50 ideas for quick and delicious vegan dishes here.
- For drinks, you can always opt for local brands in plastic-free packaging & glass bottles – It can be craft beer, wine, juice, tea, kombucha, etc.
- Try to purchase mostly locally grown ingredients – And focus on making the food with seasonal items. This is an easy way to support the local economy and a great way to reduce food miles immediately.
- Consider making an entirely plant-based menu – Or try to offer at least a few vegan options.
- Quantity matters – You don’t want guests to go hungry, but you also don’t want to have excessive waste-bound leftovers at the end. Do the math for the number of guests.
- Make use of refrigeration and sensible food storage – If you serve every dish you prepare as soon as guests arrive, you will have loads of food sitting at room temperature for hours. After some time, it can get cold, melt, go bad, etc. To avoid that, don’t take everything out, and re-stock the buffet table throughout the party.
Zero waste party: Gifts
Depending on the event, the guests might surprise the host with a gift. However, the gifts can often be wrapped in wasteful packaging, create waste, and ultimately be unwanted.
To avoid unnecessary gifts and clutter, you can make it clear on your invite that zero waste gifts are preferred. Zero waste options can take the form of:
- Zero waste & eco-friendly gifts – There are many great zero waste gift ideas that you can give or expect someone to give to you. Just point the people in the right direction, so they know what you need & will love to get.
- Consumable gifts or DIY gifts – It can be chocolates, locally made jams, homemade cakes, DIY candles, bath salts, coffee scrub, body butter, etc.
- Experience gifts rather than physical items – Cinema, theatre tickets, concert tickets, etc.
- Cash – Probably the least creative gift, but if they want to give you something and aren’t sure what, money could be an option, so then you can purchase the exact thing you want afterward.
Zero waste party: Clean-up
Cleaning is the final part of any party. Follow these clean-up guidelines in the planning process of your zero waste party:
- Prepare an empty washing machine and load everything after the party.= – If you don’t have a washing machine, you can still clean up everything, and it wouldn’t take as long as you might think. If you have a roommate or partner, divide the cleaning to help each other.
- Consider making a homemade cleaning solution – You can make it by using natural ingredients such as baking soda, lemon juice, and vinegar.
- Try to find other cleaning products with eco-friendly packaging and more natural ingredients
- Compost any leftovers from plates of guests
Zero waste party tips: FAQ
Does a zero waste party mean zero-fun?
Not at all. Zero waste parties can be as good as any other party and even better. Creating a zero waste party is often more thoughtful, creative, and even more extravagant.
Will a zero waste party mean more work?
Not necessarily. If you can set aside adequate time for planning, you can ensure there is not much additional work compared to a typical waste-filled celebration. As a result, you can save yourself a bunch of clean-up work and money.
Will a zero waste party be expensive?
Again, not necessarily. You can purchase items in bulk, often cheaper than store-bought & plastic-wrapped options. In addition, you can find eco-friendly options for your party in second-hand stores, and making food at home will be much more affordable than ordering food.
What do to if I need single-use options?
If you need to go with single-use options for convenience, look for items that can be home-composted. Look for bamboo or paper options that are not treated with chemicals or coated in plastics.
After your party, these can be rinsed and added to the compost. Using the Bokashi composting method for plates smeared with food will allow you to get rid of everything, including food waste, without attracting flies and vermin.
There you have it –
some of my favorite tips and ways to have sustainable & fun party celebrations.
If you have any questions, or you think I’ve missed something, feel free to leave a comment below!