Throwing a zero waste event does not require you to put on your plastic bag dress and recycled can shoes. In fact, a zero waste party can be beautiful, elegant and more unique than any party you threw before.
Planning (this is the key word in throwing a zero waste party) is a process that can be overwhelming to many, as we are not all party planners.
Most turn to the convenient rout, I went there before: going to the party store and buying all the disposables, ordering balloons, going to the mega store and buying all the processed food, and if it was one of the kid's party, order pizza, plastic favor bags and lots of other plastic toys that are going to be used for about 1 hour and than disappear forever from my sight, but not really disappear from the planet for many years to come.
Parties can get very messy and produce a big amount of trash so especially for those of us who care, and want to have a unique wasteless party, I created this guide. I combined my vast experience from the event world I was a part of for many years, with tips from the zero waste philosophy.
If you need Confetti, opt for the natural alternative- leaves!
PICKING THE RIGHT DATE AND PLACE
Picking the right date and place is very important and has to do not only with your busy calendar but also with working with the environment. Decide whether the party will be outdoors or indoors, at home or at a venue. Most of all, think what free compostable resources will be readily available for you- Is it fall and all the leaves are falling? That can be a great resource for leaf confetti. How about branches? What type of flowers are in season? What type of fruit and vegetable are in season and can be used?
If you have no choice in setting the date (your kid's birthday for example) than answer the above questions to be in the know for the next steps of planning.
Pretty strait forward, in today's technological world the best way to send invitations waste free is electronically. programs like E-vite and others cut the sending time and the RSVP time. If you want to mail paper invitations, make sure they can be recycled- no glitter and no plastics. If you can, use recycled paper, upcycled paper that can be recycled again or even seed paper that is compostable.
Traditional decorations include many times balloons. Modern day balloons are made from materials such as rubber, latex,polychloroprene, or a nylon fabric. Although latex balloons are considered bio-degradable, this will take anywhere from 6 months to 4 years to decompose and they can wreak a lot of havoc before they do.
Some zero waste decoration ideas for your party:
- Hang paper garlands, bunting and pinwheels
- Create interesting table centers from mason jars, tie hemp rope around them and put fresh flowers inside
- Hang pine cones from trees if you are out doors or bring nature in the house with added branches and leaves.
- Use your holiday strings for light and added festivity
Make your own decor with natural branches, leaves and wood items
TABLE/ BUFFET SET UP
One of the best advises on going zero waste that I received was: Be prepared.
It is all about planning ahead and think of everything (well, that is what this guide is for). With planning a zero waste party remember that every item that you can find disposable, you can replace in a reusable: Linen table cloths and napkins, plates, cups, glasses, serving dishes and utensils.
If you are throwing a big party, you probably don't have all the dishes and linen you need, and here comes the preparation part- couple of weeks ahead, make a count of the dishes you have and for whatever is missing, ask family and friends if you can borrow. The result: A beautiful celebration of colors to serve your food in.
If you do want to go with disposable items, try to buy compostables such as paper. You can also find bamboo items that are strong and reusable if you wash them by hand. When the bamboo item finished its life cycle, just throw it in the compost bin.
You probably dread the clean up involved with all the dishes that will be created. This is a legit concern. The last thing you want to do is to clean for hours after the party has ended. The disposables did create a comfortable (yet very unhealthy) lifestyle for us. So what to do?
Your close friends will probably ask you- what to bring? Ask them for 30-45 minutes of their time. Whether before the party for set up or after, for cleaning. You will be surprised how many of your friends will prefer to donate their time to help you out and enjoy the "after party".
Design a colorful table with assorted crockery
Use Bamboo and linen dishes if you choose to not use ceramics or glass
For center pieces we advice to use your imagination- anything can be a center piece. If it is your child's birthday, use a drawing that they made. Save all those beer bottles and turn them into vases with fresh flowers inside. Buy a small plants and at the end of the party give it a a favor or use them to mark seating. The possibilities are endless.
Put all those Beer bottles to work and upcycle them into decor
WHAT TO SERVE
Remember we talked about the importance of the season of your party? Here it comes to play; Each season offers us a variety of beautiful and fresh produce. A simple trip to the grocery store can easily confuse us as the shelves are stocked with the same fruit and vegies all year round... So, to get the foods that are in season, shop the local farmers market or take a "Whats in season" list with you.
Shopping seasonally is:
🍓Tastier as the produce is harvested at the right time
🥑Cheaper when it is locally sourced
🥥Fresh with high nutritional value
🍅Has Less chance of being contaminated as they travel less on their way to you.
🥕The right foods at the right season support your body's nutritional needs
🍆Better for the environment when we support local farming which means less transportation
So if you are not convinced yet, just think of the horrible sugar rush the kids will be in if they eat all the regular foods usually served- loaded with sugar and no nutritional value and also think of all the empty calories. Since you probably go to many parties throughout the year, try to make yours one of value.
LET'S TALK TRASH
Naturally, if you followed even one of the advice above, you will have less trash. But even if you decided not to change anything about your party, try to do this: As trash bins are still needed while entertaining, try to create several bins and mark them: Trash, compostable, Recycle. That way handling your trash will be easy.
To send your guests home with a truly great taste in their mind, find meaningful favors like a small plant or an item they can use daily such as a home made melt and pour soap bar or a small home made sugar scrub or lip balm in glass or compostable packaging.
What ever you do and any small effort is a good effort. Don't try to be perfect, sometimes it is just too much pressure. Do what you can, as little as it may be and know that it counts.
Your event could have great impacts, well after the guests have left the venue. Who knows, some might even adopt these practices in their normal routines thanks to your event. It is also a great conversation starter if you don't know some of your guests.
All it takes is communication, asking the right things from the right people and being prepared. Like any routine, it does get easier with practice, and before you know it, zero waste will become second nature to you and your family.