How to Host a Zero Waste Party | 5 Quick Tips

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Looking to host a zero waste party? There’s a lot that goes into party planning, and waste is something we don’t often consider. Sadly, most party plastics cannot be recycled.

To make matters worse, lots of party decorations and food goes to waste too. If you want to reduce the amount of trash your get-together will generate, here are 5 quick tips to try ASAP.

Table of Contents for How to Host a Zero Waste Party | 5 Quick Tips

  1. Use reusable cups, plates, napkins, and silverware
  2. Make a plan for food waste
  3. Pass out eco-friendly party favors
  4. Go for simple decorations
  5. Think plastic-free snacks

1. Use reusable cups, plates, napkins, and silverware

I recommend just using whatever real plates, cups and utensils you have on hand.

If you’re sure you won’t have enough for everyone at your party, head to your local thrift store and buy some discounted chinaware and cups for parties. It’s okay if it’s mismatched if it’s not a formal event. It’ll save you money in the long run because you’ll never have to buy disposable party supplies again!

FYI, napkins may be made from paper but they cannot be recycled because they’re often contaminated with food and body fluids. You can compost them, but that’s assuming they haven’t been used to clean up any cleaning products like bleach or all purpose spray (then you’d have to toss them in the trash).

Try to avoid using disposable napkins that have colors and patterns on them because they’re often packaged in plastic wrap.

Instead, use cloth napkins – linen being the best material for the job. The good news is a pack of these may be expensive at first, but you can reuse them over and over again at every party! You’ll never have to buy napkins for a party again.

2. Make a plan for food waste

There’s bound to be some kind of food waste, be it food scraps on people’s plates or food that just goes uneaten. Have a plan for food waste by setting up a compost bin collection and giving leftovers away.

You can compost an array of items, like fruit and vegetable skins and pits, corn husks and cobs, grains and rice. However, I would avoid composting meat, dairy and oil directly, unless you have a specific compost setup (like bokashi bins) designed for handling these items. 

You should also send some people home with leftovers, if there are any. Try to plan accordingly so you don’t have an overabundance of food – just enough. I tend to notice bigger events always overdo it on food, so be sure to factor this in.

You don’t need to have four tables full of food to appease your guests. One is more than enough!

Whatever isn’t taken home by others, use yourself. Never throw out leftovers – use them up for lunch or dinner the next following days. 

For weddings, try to talk to your caterer or venue about setting up a compost bin, recycling station, and food donations. See what they say – you may also be able to hire offsite composting to put down and pick up compost bins.

3. Pass out eco-friendly party favors

Party favors tend to be pretty wasteful – I’ve been to kiddie parties that gave away tons of little plastic knickknacks in a plastic bag. 

You’ll want to carefully consider the kind of party it is before deciding on favors. Do you even need them? If yes, here are some ideas.

  • Kids: Eco crayons, DIY natural playdough, homemade hacky sacks, candy, non-toxic chalk.
  • Wedding, engagement, bridal: Herb kits, seed packets, cacti or plants, reusable straws, consumables (like natural candles, lotion, wine etc), local honey, chocolate.

4. Go for simple decorations

Using nature to decorate is always the best option, instead of relying on wasteful items like balloons and confetti. Seasonal/foraged blooms and beeswax candles look so much prettier anyway.

You could also make pinwheels, garlands and bunting out of paper, which you can easily recycle or compost at the end of its life. 

For flowers and candles, upcycle old jars to work like vases and candle holders. You can also use dried flowers and sprinkle them all over tables for a “confetti” effect. Or use a hole cutter to make biodegradable confetti with leaves.

In terms of lights, use holiday lights you already have on hand to make things sparkle instead of buying new. Be careful not to overdo it though, as these consume energy.

If you’d like to have a piñata at the party, making your own from upcycled cardboard and newspaper is a fun project you can do with loved ones. There are so many tutorials online to follow, like this cute DIY rainbow piñata.

5. Think plastic-free snacks

Ditch the chips in plastic bags and opt for smarter snacks that you can find relatively low waste. Bulk food stores have a nice variety of dry snacks you can grab like popcorn, nuts and seeds, dried fruit, chocolate and pretzels. 

You could also grab some fresh fruit at your local farmers market to use in a fruit salad, or serve as is. If it’s in season, getting two to three watermelons/cantaloupes at the market to chop up and serve will be a big hit! 

You can also grab some cucumbers, carrots, cherry tomatoes, peppers and celery at the farmers market for dips. Just make the dips homemade – there are tons of amazing recipes like homemade hummus or DIY ranch dressing. 

Personally, I love making homemade salsa using farmers market produce – there’s nothing better! And you can grab some package free chips at a local Mexican restaurant – just bring a big paper or cloth bag with you to put them in. Trust me when I say you won’t regret this!

What are your top zero waste party tips? Leave them in the comments below!

About the Author: 

Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on Going Zero Waste, Mother Earth Living, Green Matters and several other publications. Get her free e-book “10 Ways to Reduce Trash” by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.

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1 thought on “How to Host a Zero Waste Party | 5 Quick Tips

  1. It’s easy to forget or not think about food waste for weddings. Definitely a great recommendation and it’s great to start getting venues and planners to start thinking about composting and other options!

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