Take a few seconds to think back to the watch parties, birthday celebrations, barbecues, and other gatherings that you have been to or hosted, and consider this: how much waste was generated by those get-togethers? I was shaken to my core thinking about the amount of trash that was created, mostly for the sake of “convenience”.
I’ve begun to produce less waste when hosting gatherings, and I encourage you all to try these simple strategies to do so, too.
1. Use reusable dishware, glassware, and silverware
Don’t have enough of your own dinnerware? One way to build up an inventory is to purchase cheaply priced dinnerware items at thrift stores. I love the idea of having an eclectic collection of mismatched dinnerware for parties. If you’re looking for a good dinnerware option for children, bamboo is sturdy and biodegradable, too. I found sets on Amazon between $20-35. Getting a set of stainless steel straws is a sustainable option that makes drinking easy and helps to save the environment (read more about how plastic straws are polluting the oceans and killing marine life here).
Will you have more dishes to clean at the end of the event? Yes. However, the amount of trash that you will produce will be far less. Besides, some of your guests may even offer to wash and rinse the dishes or you can always ask them for help towards the end of the gathering.
One way that I prepare for having a lot of dishes to wash from a party is to make sure my dishwasher and dish rack are both empty before the event, so if I need to handwash it’s easy to do, or I can rinse the dirty dishes and put them in the dishwasher and run it right away.
2. Invest in cloth napkins and table linens
Instead of having throw away napkins and table covers, spend a little money on a set of cloth napkins, which you’ll be able to use over and over again. I ordered a 12-pack of linen napkins from Amazon for $13, and you could find some at a local store, too. If you need to cover a table(s), the same goes for table linens (I recommend getting a neutral color that can be used easily for different kinds of gatherings).
3. Use natural and sustainable decorations
Instead of balloons and plastic/paper party decorations, find some lovely, affordable bouquets of flowers to decorate your space with; Trader Joe’s has some great options. If you’d like more decorations than flowers, with a little time and effort, you could make your own sustainable decorations – see this blog post for DIY inspiration. Another idea is to focus on food as centerpieces. Here’s a creative post from Real Simple that offers a variety of ideas for centerpieces that you can create in 5 minutes.
4. Keep the food simple
Food is usually the main event at my parties, so I tend to overbuy and over make dishes and have a ton of leftovers, which usually creates a lot of waste. I’m learning to simplify menus and stick to more finger foods (fresh produce, bites of cheese, crackers, nuts, chocolate, or chopped veggies with dip) and 1-2 main dishes.
If you try any (or all!) of these tips, you’ll no doubt produce less waste at your party, but you’ll also set a good example for your guests. I encourage you to talk to your guests about what you’re doing, too! They may become inspired to do something similar the next time they host a gathering.