Think back to the last time you cleaned up after a party. How many trash bags filled with napkins, plates, silverware, and cups did you toss out? If it was a birthday party, you probably added wrapping paper (most of which can’t be recycled), party hats, balloons, and broken or discarded party favors to that trash as well.
Most of us probably don’t give much thought to what is tossed away, but all of that trash is having an impact on animals and our environment. In the U.S., we dispose of 500 million plastic straws, and 50 billion water bottles annually — every minute, one million disposable cups are tossed into the trash. Every year, about 8.8 million tons of this plastic trash ends up in the ocean, where it photodegrades over time and turns into microplastics that are virtually impossible to clean up. Microplastics are incredibly harmful to animals, and over 700 marine species are currently in danger of extinction because of plastic pollution. Plastics also litter our beaches, contaminate drinking water, and harm seabirds and wildlife.
Acknowledgment of these issues has resulted in restaurants and even entire cities working to ban plastic straws and cutlery, requiring businesses to switch to eco-friendly options instead. And many families are starting to make changes at home as well. Swaps for the items we use every day is relatively easy, but how do you make an entire party or event with zero waste?
Making Use of What You Already Have
There’s no reason to purchase disposable cups, plates, and plastic cutlery when the real things will work just fine. And the bonus is you won’t have to worry about soggy plates or flimsy silverware that breaks when you try to cut into something. If you don’t have access to items from home, you can opt for compostable dinnerware — just make sure you compost it instead of placing it with your regular trash. You can also utilize party rental companies to provide dinnerware and linens for larger events and parties.
Planning a Waste-Free Menu
With a bit of planning and prep work, you can easily create a menu that’s completely waste-free. The first step is to steer clear of prepared items like dips, party trays, and snack items that are packaged in plastic. There are plenty of fun dips you can make at home, as well as finger foods and appetizers that will wow your guests.
If you’re doing a potluck-style party, have guests bring their meals in glass serving bowls and dishes with lids. It eliminates waste and keeps cleanup easier on your end. Also remind guests to bring a reusable container to take home leftovers or special treats you’ve prepared.
Decorating the Eco-Friendly Way
Add a bit of elegance to your décor by ditching the plastic tablecloths for fabric. Pick different colors and types of fabric for an eclectic look that will brighten up the space for your guests. Finish the look with plants or fresh flowers from your garden or local farmers’ market, and use jars and vases from your home to create a fun mix-and-match look.
Hang banners made out of fabric or scraps of wrapping paper to add a festive look, and use party lights or homemade candles to add subtle lighting. Your local thrift store is a great place to find inexpensive fabric tablecloths and napkins, as well as jars that can be used to hold flowers, candles, silverware, and napkins.
Using Designated Bins for Recycling and Organic Waste
A common misconception is that food waste or items marked as biodegradable and compostable will break down right away when they’re placed in the landfill, but that’s not the case. The layers of compacted trash in landfills prevent oxygen from circulating, meaning these items can take years, if not longer, to break down.
To eliminate landfill waste, have guests place all recyclables, food scraps, and other compostable items in designated bins to be placed in your home composting bin or taken to the recycling center with your other recyclables.
Working Towards a Zero Waste Lifestyle
The average American generates around four pounds of trash every day. And overall, only about 30 percent of recyclable trash is actually being recycled. Working to increase recycling efforts is one part of the solution, but we also need to work on buying less. Reusing items you already have in your home saves money and helps keep our planet clean.
Read these other One Green Planet articles for additional tips on how you can work towards a zero-waste lifestyle.
- 7 Tips for a Zero-Waste Kitchen
- Less Waste Makes for a Happy Planet: Simple Guide to Waste-Free Grocery Shopping
- Zero Waste Advocate Fits Entire Year’s Worth of Trash Into One Mason Jar
- How to Pack a Zero-Waste Lunch
- Join One Green Planet’s #CrushPlastic campaign
Lead image source: pixabay