How to Throw a Zero-Waste Party for Any Occasion

By Ashley Ess in Thinking Sustainably

Getting ready to throw a party, but want to celebrate in an environmentally conscious way? You've probably thought about going the eco-friendly route. But have you considered going completely waste-free by eliminating all trash a party typically produces?

Throwing a memorable celebration doesn't have to include piles of trash bags filled with used paper and plastic products. Going the extra mile by planning a zero-waste party is actually much easier, and more fun, than you may think.

Don't know where to start? Here's a step-by-step guide for embracing waste-free at every level of your next big shindig.

Preparation: Take Stock of the Essential Party Elements

In order to throw a party that produces zero trash, considering setting a theme. Having a theme is not only fun, but it can help you hone in on what exactly you'll need—cutting down on any unnecessary efforts.

Next, take stock of every item you'll need for the party, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does it produce waste?
  • If it does, is there a waste-free alternative?
  • What reusable items do you already have that can be used in its place?

Much of the waste produced at a party comes from plastic or paper plates and napkins, gift items like wrapping paper and tags, and miscellaneous items like party favor bags and streamers. Luckily, it's possible to gather the items you need to throw an amazing party without creating trash. It just takes a little outside-the-box thinking.

Fabric scraps

Invitations: Embrace Paperless Alternatives

Email invites are all the rage these days. As fun as it is to get an increasingly rare paper invitation, this shift to digital RSVPing reminds us of how many things are changing in a surprisingly environmentally friendly way.

Sending digital invites via email, text, or social media is the first step in throwing a zero-waste party. It's the no-brainer part, but that doesn't mean the rest won't be just as simple!

Table Essentials: Break Out the Good China

You already have usable dishware, glassware, and cloth napkins at home. If possible, use these instead of purchasing single-use plates and napkins. But what if you've reached all the way into the back of your cabinets and realize that you don't have enough items to accommodate all your guests? Or perhaps your punch bowl and platters are too chipped to use for your soiree?

In these situations, it's a good idea to ask friends or family to lend a set or two of these essentials. Don't be shy to present mixed sets of dishes and glasses. A mismatched look not only adds creative character, but is also much preferable to using wasteful alternatives.

If you're running low on cloth napkins, you can make your own with absorbable cotton fabric. Cut the scraps into squares, then sew the edges or use pinking shears to reduce fraying.

Another zero-waste idea: enlist your guests to bring their own "mess kit," which includes a plate, cup, silverware set, and cloth napkin.

Table at zero-waste party

Decor: Go for Glam, but Ditch the Plastic

Streamers. Banners. Table coverings. Centerpieces. These are all party essentials that are often made with paper or plastic. But this is where the true beauty of a zero-waste party comes in: all of these items and more can be easily replaced with reusable materials.

Perhaps you have scraps of material or outgrown clothing hiding away in a box, with the intent to repurpose the items or give them away. Strips of fabric can be tied together to make streamers. Larger pieces of fabric can be turned into a sign or banner, decorated with flowers or fabric paint. Chances are you have some unused material lying around, but if not, a trip to the local craft or fabric store will yield the perfect reusable supplies for your theme. String lights are another way to create a festive atmosphere without creating trash.

Potted flowers or creative food centerpieces can decorate tables beautifully. Using items found in nature like twigs, bark, and vines adds eco-friendly elegance. Plus, after the party, they can be composted and go right back into the earth.

Food: Purchase Package-Free Fare

When buying food at the grocery store for a party of any size, you're bound to be faced with options wrapped in wasteful packaging. To avoid this, you can buy many items in bulk (bring your own reusable containers for this) or from the deli counter.

Purchasing food at a farmers' market is also a good option. Going Zero Waste has a helpful, detailed guide on how to make food-buying choices with the greatest environmental impact.

When it's not possible to make your own drinks, purchase ones that come in glass bottles that can be reused as vases or drink containers for your future parties.

Food spread at zero-waste party

Presents and Party Favors: Encourage Reusable or Upcycled Items

When throwing a kids' party, presents and party favors are obligatory. Ask invitees to bring presents that are upcycled, homemade, or regifted, with paper-free wrapping that utilizes fabric, scarves, ribbons, jars, etc.

While the kids will be excited by the appearance of an action hero or cartoon favorite on a plastic favor bag, using them isn't worth the waste they create. Consider replacing them with zero-waste bags made of fabric. Additionally, try finding goodies Mother Earth would approve of, like simple wooden toys. For adult parties, give out reusable stainless steel straws to reduce the plastic straws in the ocean, or reusable shopping bags with compact carrying pouches.

Your guests will appreciate that you've prioritized the planet as well as the party. With a little creativity, you can throw a waste-free bash with no wasted time or effort.

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Why It's Good

Making environmentally conscious choices, like going waste-free for your party materials and decorations, will make a positive impact on the environment in the long run. Your guests will admire your commitment to both the party and the planet!