Some Do's & Don'ts for Throwing a Zero-Waste Party.
Last Saturday I threw a party in celebration of launching my new business, THE PODGE CO., and my 28th birthday. I didn’t want to do anything huge, just have some people over, have some food & drinks and maybe play a little croquet. [I have yet to play a game with my vintage set, it’s been set-up twice and then it rained both times - so here’s hoping.]
Carl and I have been on the Zero-Waste path for a while now but haven’t done anything to take it up a notch for a bit, so in a whim I decided to try and make our party Zero-Waste, however; I only told a few people in one my text threads instead of telling everyone I had invited.
And thus we come to the first DO...
DO tell all of your invited guests that you’re throwing a Zero-Waste party.
The people who knew about it brought plates, made a dish in their own dishes from home, brought serving utensils and were totally amazing & supportive. [I still need to get them their dishes back - if you’re reading this, they are clean - just need to get them to you now.] The people who didn’t know - obviously didn’t do those things - because [cough cough] I didn’t spread the word, so I don’t fault them at all.
If you brought anything - you’re an angel. If you didn’t bring anything - you’re still an angel because I don’t invite non-angels to my parties - haha.
DON’T overbuy beer.
Ok - let’s be real. This isn’t THAT big of a deal, because - after all - beer isn’t going to get wasted. [Insert cry-laughing emoji here.] The last two parties I’ve thrown, I have gone out of my way to purchase all of the alcohol. I view it as being super awesome & hospitable to provide the booze - BUT - both times it’s like no one touches the beer. Why is that?
I’ll tell you why - it’s because we aren’t in college anymore and we’re all beer snobs. We like what we like, so even if someone tells you - we’ve got the beer and wine, people are still going to bring what they want. Plus, they’re also trying to be nice.
We started the night with 42 beers and two boxes of wine [TJ’s has the BEST boxed wine, so don’t turn up your nose. I’m not talking about Franzia here. This stuff is GOOD. Plus storing it in a box is actually better for the wine… so there] and ended the night with 39 beers and maybe, MAYBE 6 glasses of wine taken from the two boxes. [There’s still SO much if you wanna come hang with us this weekend!]
The Zero-Waste aspect of this is to just buy less beer because even if it will get finished, you just don't need it. Next time we have a party - we’re going the growler route.
DO ask people to bring their own dishware.
This was immensely helpful. We own 6 large plates and 6 small plates, a 50 piece set of silverware that has 20 forks in it [big & small], 11 wine glasses [that don’t match because we’re PROS at breaking them, soooo we’ve got 2 from three sets and then 5 from the winery where I had my bridal shower and they’re sample size glasses], 4 glasses, 4 tumblers and a few oddball glasses.
We invited 20-30 people and I think about 20 people came, so we were going to need plates. Thankfully two other people brought some with them - PRAISE! It was so funny, when we ran out of small plates entirely and handed a large plate to someone, he was shocked and called it “fancy.”
These are the plates we eat on every day. And here comes the part where I try to balance advice with sounding pretentious... If we eat off of these plates every. single. day. Why on earth do we go out to BUY plastic coated paper plates that are “themed” for our parties that we will use ONCE, that can’t be recycled and will then end up in landfill or the ocean.
When you stop to think about it, it’s total bonkers crazy pants. [But we're just so'used' to it, that we don't think about it.] Soooo….
DON’T be afraid to use your dishes. [If you are...]
We can’t all have perfectly curated serving platters and dishes that look like they walked out of a Kinfolk magazine. AND IT’S FINE. Use your chipped bunny rabbit plate [speaking from experience], use your sample size wine glasses from all of the vineyards you’ve visited - it’s ok AND it's awesome! [Saving the Planet & kicking Comparison in the teeth!]
Don’t feel like everything needs to be Instagram ready or Pinterest perfect in order to throw the perfect event. It just doesn’t matter. BUT if you are design & aesthetically inclined, do your best to swap things out slowly and support companies making beautiful products that are doing GOOD in the world and their communities. Don’t go into debt to suddenly be the best host ever - that’s lame.
Bottom line - if what you have can hold food or drink, you’re good - no need to throw your money away by purchasing something that will be used once that will literally NEVER go away.
[Also - Sidenote - we didn’t use one of our glasses to display our silverware [I’ve done this before] because we thought we might need all of our glasses, so we just told people where the silverware drawer was and BOOM. Simple.]
DO ask guests to take leftovers.
Our leftovers were as follows - ALL of the alcohol, 6 bags of 1/2 eaten chips, 12 burgers and accoutrements, 1.5 mason jars of brussels sprouts + bacon, 1 container of fruit salad and 1 bowl of yogurt.
That’s a lot for two people to consume. Unfortunately, we’ve had to toss some of it because we just can’t eat it all plus all of the “normal” food we had in our fridge in a timely manner. It’s sad. I literally hate wasting food - HATE it.
I will save every bit of it because I know that sometimes you only need a bit of this or a smidge of that to complete a recipe and quite frankly my “garbage” meals are some of my favorites. Those are when you look in the fridge + pantry and determine what’s about to go bad and mix it all together. I make some of my best meals that way!
Even though I’ve gotten creative with some of the leftovers, [Brussles Sprouts with Bacon + Other Veggies + Scrambled Eggs for breakfast & Taco Salad to use up most of the leftover chips] asking people to take some home & reciprocating by taking some home with YOU when you go to parties, will help.
DO try & coordinate food dishes a tad.
We supplied beer, wine, everything for burgers, guacamole & a bag of chips. I really didn’t care about what sides we got because I’m not picky, but not organizing the sides got us some repeats.
Again, not the biggest deal in the world, but it led to some food waste. Normal party behavior is to take a little of this and a little of that - if it’s all similar, i.e. fruit or chips, then people are just going to choose their favorite and leave the other untouched.
Preventing that is to either request No Chips - because you can have too many haha - or specify chips to one person and specify fruit to another person. This definitely isn’t any of your guests fault for bringing duplicates if you didn’t specify AND I get not wanting to be picky and put up a bunch of restrictions, because it seems less fun, so you can do one of two things.
Either provide everything yourself or specify things to guests [maybe just to the ones who ask?] I don’t know… do your best.
DO put all of the available food in one place.
This is just so it’s all easily accessible and everyone is aware of all of the food that is available. I think this was to the detriment of the brussels sprouts because we had them on the counter away from the rest of the food. I think much more would have been eaten at the party had it all been on the table.
However, we’re not complaining because - leftover brussels sprouts + bacon - YUM!
DON’T worry about paper products.
We’ve only covered plates, but napkins are another thing. We had one person ask for a napkin because they had a spill and one other person ask for one as a ripple effect. In general, we don’t use napkins - paper or cloth. That’s one thing I’ve really discovered about going Zero-Waste, sometimes you flat out don’t need something and therefore don’t need to buy the “sustainable” option for it.
We just don’t need napkins. If our hands are super dirty, we just wash them in the sink. If we have a spill, we use a cloth to clean it up. Easy peasy. So, when I was asked for napkins, I handed out dish clothes.
I will admit, I got a surge of anxiety when asked because I didn’t have a cloth napkin [which, really, what’s the ACTUAL difference between that and a dish towel?] to offer, but then I just opened our dish and hand towel drawer and grabbed from there. The people on the receiving end might have been surprised, but all was fine.
I think the important thing is to not seek perfection on your first go and to extend everyone, including yourself, grace. There’s a GOOD chance, some of your guests have never heard of the concept - unlike ‘Minimalism’, Zero-Waste has yet to go mainstream. So be patient if people have questions or make weird, surprised expressions.
We all get a little confused when presented with a new concept or perspective. Explaining what you’re trying to do and asking people if they are able to participate is a great way to get started. Individual change is the BEST way to start, but it can’t end there - we’ve got to spread it into our communities to make a global impact.
DO do [hehe] your best.
Like I said, perfection isn’t the goal - BUT don’t let that be your excuse not to seek out improvement, even VAST improvement & spreading awareness. Plant a seed, don’t buy single-use products and cheers your beers.
Also, happy dancing and contagious laughter is always a plus. Enjoy yourself - it’s a party after all!
So there you have it, our first attempt at a Zero-Waste party. I’m actually really excited for the next one, to not be so squeamish about it and to just DO IT.
Our total waste for the party was as follows;
- 2 Burgers [One not finished and one dropped on the floor]
- Meat, Cheese & Bread packaging [This is our next step in our zero-waste journey…]
- Anddd… maybe a few other food scraps. That’s it folks! [Plus the Chip Bags later on.]
We recycled beer cans & beer bottles and eventually the cardboard from our boxed wines can be composted or recycled and the bags inside the box will be tossed. I’m PRETTY sure they can’t be recycled - if I’m wrong - PLEASE tell me!
I’d love to buy wine in reusable // refillable containers but have yet to find a way to do that. I think beer can pretty much be done that way at 90% of the breweries, sooo I just need to get on that.
That’s another cool thing about attempting this party, it’s made me see other ways we can improve in our day-to-day lives and step up our Zero-Waste game.
Thanks for reading! If you have questions or comments, please leave them below.
Love & Blessings,