Everyone loves a good party, but nobody loves the waste they create! Here is a guide to help you throw the perfect low-waste party – one that’ll save you money and help the planet at the same time.
Let me start by saying I think the zero waste movement is overrated. It’s an unrealistic name because, well, we’re humans and we consume things. None of us are ever going to be perfectly “zero waste.” I get where the name comes from, but trying to be “low waste” is a lot more encouraging and attainable, so that’s how we refer to it.
There is a whole movement of people striving to reduce their negative impact on the planet. Reddit has several communities on this topic, including r/zerowaste, r/frugal, and r/simpleliving, just to name a few. If you’re looking for every-day ways to go low-waste, these are awesome places to start! Read on for tips on how to throw an environmentally-friendly party.
Low-Waste Party Food & Drink Options
Buy Locally-Made Snacks
Veggie trays are usually a hit at any party. You can buy veggies (carrots, celery, broccoli, etc.) from the local farmers market and pair them with a dipping sauce. Be sure to bring your own bag to the market so you don’t need to use a plastic one.
Chips and salsa can also be done in a lower-waste fashion than just buying them at the grocery store. Salsa is often sold at local farmers markets, made right there in your hometown by a small business. If you want chips made locally, consider your local Mexican restaurants – the chips are fresh, come in a paper bag, and didn’t travel halfway around the world to get to your party. Plus, it’s always good to support local businesses!
Buy Snacks in Bulk
Currently, some grocery stores are not using bulk bins due to Covid. But when they open back up, you can find all kinds of great party snacks in bulk such as nuts, pretzels, chocolate, candy, and more. Either bring your own glass jar (again, post-Covid) or use a paper bag to fill up on the goodies.
Buy Beer in Bulk
If you often have a bunch of beer drinkers over, investing in a kegerator or growler can save quite a bit of waste (and money in the long run!).
A growler is a 64oz container that can keep beer fresh and carbonated. One growler-full of beer can supply many beer pong games, meaning no single-use cans to deal with! Most breweries are cool with you bringing in a growler and asking them to fill it, but it’s always good to call and check with them beforehand.
Make Ice Ahead of Time
Your ice machine can only make so much in one night, so if you know you’re going to need a lot of ice, consider making some ahead of time rather than buying a bag. Early in the day, start filling large tupperware containers with ice and keep them in the freezer so your ice maker can continue to replenish with ice. This way, you won’t run out, and you also won’t have to buy a bag of ice, eliminating the plastic bag problem.
Go Reusable When Possible
Although a lot of plastic is recyclable, recycling is not a perfect solution. A piece of plastic can only be recycled 2-3 times before it’s polymer chain loses quality and renders the plastic unusable. Additionally, around 50% of what is recycled ends up in the landfill – often due to human error. So while we encourage recycling wherever possible, the best solution is to find a reusable solution that eliminates the need to toss something out!
If you want to put a stop to the dozens of red solo cups that get thrown out after a party, you can buy reusable cups for games like beer pong and slap cup. The only downside is having to wash them, but in the long run you are reducing so much plastic waste and saving yourself money by not having to purchase new cups for every party. It seems like a win-win.
These reusable cups are sturdy, come in any color, and are dishwasher safe!
Even just for sipping drinks, you can offer your guests reusable cups to use. We all know you’ve got a bunch of mismatched plastic cups taken home from restaurants and sporting events. Great way for people to tell their drinks apart!
If you can offer your guests reusable plates and utensils, that’ll significantly cut back on waste. You don’t have to give them your best China, though – there are tons of plates you can purchase cheaply at thrift stores. Or if you’re not sure you trust your party people with breakable plates, consider keeping around a set of plastic plates that can be washed and reused each time you have guests over.
What will make this process easier is going into the party with an empty dishwasher. Encourage everyone to put their dishes, silverware, and cups into it as they finish with them.
Here’s an example of some perfect party plates! Unbreakable, dishwasher and microwave safe, and colorful so guests can tell their plates apart.
Anywhere someone might be washing and drying their hands, hang a clean, washable towel so they can use that instead of paper towels. It’s also a good idea to have some rags around for the inevitable spill. You can keep them in a cute basket and let everyone know they’re meant for wiping up messes. At the end of the night, just throw everything into the washing machine and you can deal with it in the morning. Easy peasy!
Everyone loves party decor, but you can achieve a lot without purchasing disposable plastic decorations. Take inspiration from nature, and use flowers, leaves, and twigs to spruce up your table. They look beautiful and can be returned to nature at the end of the night! Any time you can replace plastic decorations with paper or wood, you’re doing good.
Compost What You Can
You might have some snacks and unopened drinks to save for later, and that’s great. (By the way, here are fun ways to use up alcohol-soaked fruit!) But what about vegetables that got left out, or half-full glasses of beer? If you have a compost bin, almost everything from a party can be composted – fruits, vegetables, chips, nuts, leftover alcohol, even that bagel bite that fell on the floor. Just watch out for meat and dairy products, as too much of them can attract animals to your compost.
You don’t have to have a lot of land for a compost bin! This one is a personal favorite. Even in a modest backyard, this 65 gallon bin works perfectly for us. It’s easy and fun to use, and there’s no smell to annoy the neighbors.
We hope this guide has given you some good ideas for your next low-waste party. There’s no need to sacrifice on fun when reducing your environmental impact is so easy!