The holiday season is coming up, and we all know what that means: parties! Turn on the grill, get the drinks flowing, and bring out the party hats and balloons! 

But wait, there’s something wrong with this picture―especially if you’re a zero-waste practitioner.

From an environmental perspective, parties are truly wasteful―not to mention expensive―affairs. Imagine all that money, logistics, and planning just for a day’s worth of revelry. At the end of it all, you’re left with a week’s worth of trash and leftovers that could feed a tiny village.

Thankfully, going zero waste doesn’t mean going antisocial and skipping having celebrations altogether. You can still be zero-waste and have a fab, happening celebration―minus the environmental impact and eco guilt. Here are some great eco-friendly ideas for hosting your next party.

Guest List and Invitations

Friends having a party rising wine glasses

1. Keep it intimate

Don’t go overboard and invite the whole block to your party. Keep your celebration small and cosy. Stick to your ‘main’ people―this way you don’t end up overspending, plus you’ll be better able to gauge how much to prepare.

2. Go electronic with your invitations

Speaking of invitations, minimise paper waste by creating an online invitation page. Online invitation sites like evite offer customisable invitation cards for just about any celebration (birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, weddings, and baby or bridal showers) and even let you keep track of RSVPs.

Food and Meal Prep

Friends eating food together

3. Go meatless

What’s a party without meat? Still a party! Prepare a guilt-free and healthy plant-powered spread: garden-fresh salad greens, kale chips, grilled vegetable kabobs, buffalo cauliflower wings, spinach and eggplant lasagna―the possibilities are endless! There are plenty of vegan or vegetarian recipes online that are sure to wow even the most skeptical. 

4. Shop package-free

Avoid serving food that comes in packaging. Instead, buy fresh, seasonal ingredients from your neighbourhood bulk store, local grocers, or farmer’s market and use your culinary genius to whip up a feast from scratch.

Here are a couple of other ideas: 

  • Serve fresh fruit juice from a punch bowl or beverage jug instead of serving drinks that come individually packaged in cans or cartons.
  • Go with fresh fruits for dessert
  • Instead of using paper cupcake cups, serve cupcakes in an ice cream cone

5. Use reusable cutlery

Forget red solo cups, plastic utensils, and paper plates. If you’ve got tableware that’s been gathering dust in your cupboard, now’s the perfect time to whip them out and put them to good use. Cleaning up after can be a bit of a hassle, but it’s a small price to pay for keeping unnecessary waste from going to landfill. 

(Note: If disposables are unavoidable, go for compostable alternatives such as bamboo or plant-based cutlery and paper straws.) 

6. Prepare just enough

Here’s why it pays to have your guests RSVP. In any case, prepare just enough so you don’t end up creating food waste. If you do end up with leftovers, have reusable containers ready so you can offer guests food they can take home after the party.

Gifts and Favours

Eco Friendly brown wrapping paper

7. Hold the gift . . . wrap! 

No birthday party or baby shower is complete without gifts. But then you’ll have to deal with wrapping paper. 

To avoid waste, tell gift-givers to ditch using wrapping paper or, if they must, to use environmentally friendly alternatives like wicker baskets, shoe boxes, newspapers, old shirts, or used paper bags. 

But sometimes gift items still come with extra packaging (like manufacturers’ boxes, bubble wrap, or styrofoam). If you’re really intent on keeping your party zero-waste, you can request a cash gift instead.

8. Prepare green giveaways

Planning to give guests something to take home? Having sustainable giveaways is another great idea to try. DIY grow kits (which come with seeds, soil, and a pot), mini plants (like herbs and succulents), handmade naked soap and shampoo bars are just some excellent eco-friendly suggestions. 

9. Avoid Plastic Junk

How about if it’s a kids’ party? Instead of goody bags filled with candy bars and plastic crap (pardon the language), here’s what you can give instead:

  • Homemade cookies and cake pops
  • Handmade soap in fun shapes
  • Gardening kits that come with easy-to-grow plant seeds
  • Beeswax clay or crayons
  • Plantable pencils

Make sure your goody bag is made of renewable materials too. Try kraft paper or fabric tote bags. 

Decorations

Confetti paper decorations

10. Go with sustainable decors

Ditch helium balloons (which harm animals and the environment), banners, and glitters. Instead, use reusable decors like chalkboards, cardboard flowers, soy candles, and reusable fabric or chalkboard banners.

Here’s another great idea: Instead of environmentally harmful glitter (microplastics alert!) and confetti, make ‘greenfetti’ by punching holes in leaves using a puncher.

11. Decorate with plants 

Instead of cut or dried flowers, potted plants make an excellent living decor. You can use them as a table centerpiece or accent. One wedding dinner we attended had mini succulents as centerpiece. At the end of the reception, guests got to take home one potted plant each.

Is it possible to throw a party without ending up with several trash bags’ worth of waste after? Absolutely! All it takes is careful planning, a bit of creativity, some serious will power―and of course, a whole lot of love for our planet.

Have a wonderful plastic-free celebration! 

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