Host A Low-Waste Holiday Party
Nearly zero-waste events are possible with a few simple swaps and little ingenuity.
By Laura Fenton
Even the most eco-conscious host can get a little lax with her sustainable lifestyle when it comes time to plan a party. Suddenly it is so much easier to just buy paper napkins, plastic cups and canned beverages. But hosting a low-waste party doesn’t have to be hard, it just takes a little extra planning and a few simple swaps. Here are six ways to green your next get together:
Choose cloth instead of paper
Instead of using single use paper napkins, offer guests a cloth napkin. Not only does this create no waste, it will feel downright luxurious! For open houses or cocktail parties, simply stack the cloth napkins up on the buffet like you would their throwaway cousins. Vintage cocktail napkins are especially affordable, and if you buy a bunch for this year's party, you can use them for years to come. Put a basket in the kitchen labeled “dirty napkins” so guests know where to put their used ones.
Hang up a fresh hand towel in the bathroom and place a stack of fresh towels in sight, so guests can easily grab a one if needed. If your household has already kicked the paper towel habit, don’t feel pressure to buy them just for an event. The same cloths you use daily are fine for hosting too.
Offer guests a real glass
Drinking from a real glass is so much nicer than a plastic one--and so much less wasteful. If you don’t have enough glasses for all your guests, treat yourself to additional cups, buy some affordable extras at a thrift shop, borrow from a friend, or if you’re feeling extra thrifty, wash out and remove labels from all your glass jars leading up to the party. We promise guests will be happy to sip from an upcycled jelly jar if it’s filled with a festive spirit.
Shop for “naked” snacks
Popular party foods often come in non-recyclable packaging (think chips, crackers, cheese, and cured meats), but there are plenty of delicious, package-free options. Shop the bulk aisle and fill up reusable cloth bags with nuts, snack mixes, and popcorn kernels. Loose vegetables can be turned into crudité or quick-pickled in a jar. Hit up your bakery for fresh bread (have them put it in your cloth sack) instead of plastic-wrapped crackers, and ask your cheesemonger to put your fromage into your own container too.
When it comes to beverages, it’s difficult to figure out the least wasteful packaging: glass, plastic or aluminum--and you’re likely going to want to serve your guests more than tap water. If you have a local business that offers refillable sips (like a brewery that will fill your growler, a winery that reuses its bottles, or even a mini keg), support them! If not, think bigger when you shop: A box of wine is less wasteful than bottles because of the energy required to recycle the glass and a tall boy uses less aluminum per ounce than conventional cans. Fill pitchers with lemon slices and water instead of grabbing the case of La Croix.
Skip the disposable decorations in favor of ones you can use year after year. And remember, a little goes a long way: Beeswax candles and a vase freshly cut evergreens are enough to make your home feel festive.
Clean up consciously
When it comes time to tidy up stick to your usual low-waste cleaning routine, but keep an eye on food waste too. Those leftover crudité vegetables could get cooked into a soup, and there’s no need to toss what’s left of a bowl of toasted nuts. Pack anything salvageable up into beeswax wrap, stainless containers and glass jars. You might even save your almost-empty wine bottles for cooking!