Hosting a Sustainable Gathering: How to Throw a Zero-Waste Party

This is the time of year when many people host an array of holiday gatherings for family, friends, and colleagues.  It can be a lot of fun, but it can also result in a lot of waste.


Not only is there paper waste from gift wrapping that gets immediately discarded (you can find more sustainable package decorating suggestions HERE), but people frequently use disposable goods in order to lessen the work involved with hosting a party.  While using recyclable or, better yet, compostable goods helps to ease some of the ecological burden, both of these options take a lot more resources than simply utilizing the reusable items you already have around your home.


Here are some ways to make your gatherings more sustainable:


  1. Use Regular Plates. It’s okay if your plates don’t all match (mine don’t either).  I keep a second set of plates (extras from when my husband and I combined households over 13 years ago) just so we always have enough, even when we host a large number of people.  Not only does this create less waste than disposable plates, it’s also nice to have a sturdy plate that won’t collapse beneath the weight of your feast.


  1. Use Real Cups. Again, it’s okay if your cups don’t match; it actually makes it easier for each person to identify his/her own drink.  If your cups do match and you want to label them for easy identification, than simply use masking tape and a pen.  Throwing away a small piece of tape is definitely more sustainable than tossing an entire disposable cup.  This also has the health benefit of allowing you to avoid plastics.


  1. Use your Regular Silverware. We use our everyday silverware for our parties, sometimes supplemented with a second set we pull out when we’re hosting a large group of people.  It doesn’t all match, not all of the pieces are even the same size, but it works.  And it’s so much nicer to eat with sturdy silverware instead of flimsy disposable cutlery.  And, again, it allows you to eat plastic free.


  1. Use Cloth Napkins and Table Cloths. Sure, things get dirty and sometimes get stained.  Yes, our napkins are a random assortment made from various scrap fabrics.  But they work well.  And they feel fancier than paper napkins.  Not to mention, it takes fewer of them to clean up the inevitable spills that happen around the table.


Indeed, it takes a bit longer to clean up when you use real place settings at your gatherings.  You can’t simply put everything into a trash can when the party is over.  But we have a dishwasher.  And if each person scrapes his/her plate before stacking it beside the sink (most adults do this automatically), then the loading up the dishwasher doesn’t take that long.


Avoiding disposables for a party is less expensive (there’s nothing to buy), it’s more sustainable, and it’s a nicer eating experience.  Truly, it’s a win from all angles.  Why not aim to make your next gathering zero waste?



How do you aim to create less waste at your holiday gatherings?

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