More Bash, Less Trash: Your Sustainable Event Planning Guide
BY CHRISTIE BRYDON
You set a date, you sent invitations (or, let’s be real, you put it on Facebook), and it’s official: You’re having a party. From a simple dinner for a few people to a birthday bash with an open guest list, there are a few things to consider, like how to set up, what to serve, and (sigh) when you’re gonna tackle clean-up.
In addition to the after effect of myriad positive memories, you’re also bound to end up with a few full trash bags and an overflowing recycle bin, not to mention food scraps and a fridge full of too many leftovers for one person to eat.
Is there a way to host an event without creating so much waste? Easy answer: yes. More complicated answer: Let’s go through the steps of the party planning process, from beginning to end.
Keep things clear to encourage guests to keep things clean. Photo courtesy of JoeSchmelzer
STEP 1: SET UP THE SPACE
First things first: You gotta get the place set up right. The easiest way to set a clean slate is to declutter your space. Have clean cups and plates easily visible so there’s no need to tear into landfill-bound plastic wares. Clear out large spaces on countertops and tables so there’s less chance of spillage—and fewer paper towels needed.
Oh, and don’t forget to give your roommates a heads up.
The ingredients of an eco-friendly event come in glass, not plastic. Photo courtesy of Sees The Day
STEP 2: STOCK UP ON SUPPLIES
Food can make or break an event, but it can also add considerably to the amount of trash, with packaging and neglected leftovers. When you’re perusing the market for fancy recipe ingredients, finger foods, and drinks, follow this zero-waste shopping guide.
You’ll be covered from the obvious (like bringing reusable bags) to the lesser-known (did you know you pour into your own jar to buy soap in bulk?). Download the ZeroWasteHome Bulk app to find package-free bulk bins for everything from dry ingredients to olive oil near you.
Go a step beyond your own impact and help the grocery store reduce its waste by buying “ugly produce”—those lumpy, misshapen (but still delicious) apples that often get neglected and eventually thrown out, purely based on aesthetic.
Even better? Go full-on eco-foodie and get your produce straight from the source. Pick extra-fresh vegetables at a local farm or get a delivery through a CSA.
Skip the sad, pre-packaged appetizers and opt for fresh and trash-free (herbs go a long way). Photo courtesy of Andrew Lipovsky
STEP 3: MINIMIZE THE MENU
Once you’re armed with sustainable ingredients, translate them into low-waste outcomes. Cooking in a small space? Keep it simple with fewer, but higher-quality foods and spices.
Fortunately, the least wasteful refreshments often work well for small spaces. For drinks, skip a bin full to the brim with bottles and cans and pour up a pitcher next to enough glasses for everyone. Avoid freezer-aisle appetizers that come with cardboard packaging, plastic liners, and individual paper wrappers. Pop some finger foods on a tray and call it a (trashless) day.
BYO-cup? Pose it as a landfill-saving effort, but secretly love the lighter clean-up effort. Photo courtesy of Jacob Ammentorp Lund
STEP 4: HAVE SOME GOOD, CLEAN FUN
As much we love yelling at our friends while they desperately try to draw objects without speaking or miming, party games like Pictionary can litter your apartment with scraps of paper. Download app versions of games like charades, Taboo, and Catch Phrase for virtual fun.
Instead of asking friends to pick up snacks at the grocery store, make the eco-friendly asks of having them bring their own cups or homemade (wrapper-free) cookies.
Make your space sparkle post-party by using cleaners with naturally derived ingredients.
STEP 5: TIDY UP
Every party ends the same: no, not with someone passed out in the tub, but with an overabundance of leftover food. If your refrigerator is lacking space, arrange ahead of time for a food rescue organization to take your leftovers to a place in need.
Not sure what can be recycled? Consult the experts at TerraCycle, a waste management consultancy that knows the story behind that number 1-7 on the bottom of your plastic bottle.
Then roll up your sleeves, grab a (cloth) towel, and get to scrubbing down the countertops. While many sprays contain hard-to-pronounce and harder-to-breathe chemicals, grab GoodGuide-approved products that make the place sparkle with naturally derived ingredients.
Then take a deep breath of clean, fresh air. You did it!