You may associate celebrations with an overflowing garbage can, but this doesn’t need to be the case! You can entertain while keeping your can from filling up. It just requires a little pre-planning and setting yourself up with durable goods. Some foods, drinks, and decorations also lend themselves to low-waste better than others. Whether you celebrate religious holidays or are getting ready to honor your mothers or fallen soldiers, we have some tips for you.
Don’t buy things you will just throw away. To avoid a large source of waste, make sure to use reusable plates, cups, wine goblets, utensils, and even napkins at your next celebration. If you don’t have enough, look for extra sets of dishes and utensils at secondhand stores and garage sales. Or, borrow extras from a friend or family member, even ask your guests to bring their own [fill in the blank!].
Afterwards, load up the dishwasher with your reusable dishes and cups and add your napkins to the next load of laundry. If you’re not using reusable place settings, make sure everything is recyclable or compostable and dispose of them properly. Don’t have organics recycling service at home? Take your compostable items to a drop-off. Avoid unnecessary items like straws and stir sticks in drinks or extra forks for a dessert course.
What to eat
Think about waste when planning your menu. Use your regular, low-waste shopping habits like buying in bulk, using your own containers and reusable bags and shopping at the farmers market for local foods. Some easy snack or appetizer options are cut-up fruits and veggies, or bulk bin items like nuts or unwrapped candies. You can even find jellybeans and all kinds of chocolate goodies in bulk. Serve drinks like flavored water or tea in dispensers, or purchase beverages in returnable growlers or kegs. For meals, make an appropriate number of servings for your guests and have a plan for leftovers. If you don’t want to eat them or freeze for later, encourage your guests to take them home. If you do serve cans, bottles, or other containers, make sure your guests have access to a labeled recycling container.
Since the invention of plastic, decorations have become another major source of trash from celebrations. Avoid cheaply made decorations and other items that are only useful for a day and consider having a stock of versatile decorations such as reusable lights, candles, or cloth tablecloths for holidays. To make each season special, change up accent pieces such as reusable table runners or bunting and make your own centerpieces from fresh cut flowers, house plants, seasonal produce or greenery.
For Easter celebrations, reuse the same baskets and plastic eggs each year and consider low-waste options like using natural dyes for eggs instead of disposable kits.
Don’t forget to separate your recyclables and food waste, and make it clear for your guests. You don’t want to end up correcting their mistakes! After your party is over, clean up using green cleaners.