Pre-party Tips for a Waste-free Shindig
1. Skip the disposable tableware. You can do this!
Disposable plates, cups, utensils are not recyclable, and what's worse? A ton of energy is consumed in the production, manufacturing, and transportation of them. And then they're only used once.
Check out these no-cost to low-cost alternatives to disposables for your next party.
Borrow real stuff
Plates, silverware, and glasses are something we all have, so ask a neighbor, friend, or family member, to borrow theirs. Don't be shy, go ahead and ask!
Growing up, my mom and aunt bought the same dish pattern so they could borrow from each other when hosting big parties. That was back when life seemed more formal. Nowadays, it seems any mishmash of real plates and glasses are preferable to plasticware. It just feels nicer, and is a lot more festive!
Local thrift shops, and online market places like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and Offer Up are dependable spots to find used tableware on the cheap. Quality plates and glasses can be found for less than $1, sometimes for free.
Moving sales are also a good bet. Expect to pay $0.10 to $1.50 for basic quality items and a couple dollars or more for crystal, silverware, or China pieces.
Include a BYO message in the invite
Heck, make it part of the theme! Your guests might enjoy showing off their favorite beer mug or wine glass, and it's a fun conversation starter for guests.
2. Buy Less Packaging
Try to buy food and beverages in bulk to reduce packaging at the source, and to get more bang for your buck. Serve water in pitchers instead of individual bottled water. Try to buy the largest container you can use. For instance, a keg of beer has a much smaller footprint than buying individual cans or bottles.
The chart above from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality shows the GHG expenditures of different types of beer packaging from worst to best - per serving. For smaller crowds, a re-useable growler or two is another great alternative to single-serving bottles or cans.
3. Decorating? Consider alternatives to confetti & balloons
If you're looking to add some pizzaz to the party, leaf confetti is gorgeous and doesn't carry any of the environmental hazards that microplastics like confetti and glitter do. Balloons, unfortunately, are bad news too. They're not recyclable, and if they're released into the wild they are a menace for wildlife.
4. Line up your Bins
Pair up your recycling bin next to the trash bin; it encourages guests to recycle. Ensure the bins are clearly labeled, put a sign above the bins, need be.
Do you compost? Yay! Put your compost bin first in line so guests can put their food and liquids into that bin. Then line up your trash, and lastly your recycling.
If you’re not composting but you're curious about it, check out this guide with DIY compost options for homes and apartment dwellers alike. You can also visit zerowastechicago.org for local vendors who provide drop off and/or pick up composting services too.
5. Be prepared for leftovers
Did you know about 40% of the food grown in the U.S. goes to waste? Don't let your party food become a statistic! Be prepared with clean to-go containers so you can offer leftovers to your departing guests.
Hope these tips empower you to host with less waste than ever before. Have fun and don't worry about getting everything "right". Imperfectly moving forward is just perfect. Party on, good people.