Depending on where you live, you may have already experienced a snowfall or two. It’s an indication that the holiday season is now upon us. The holidays are a time for love, family, cheer, and increased trash production. You read that right. In the time between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Americans will produce about 25% more garbage than the rest of the year. By following these steps, you can decrease the amount of waste you produce over this holiday season, and maybe even eliminate your waste altogether!
For a zero waste party, start with the invitations. Instead of using paper invitations and mailing them out to your family and friends, consider sending them out via email. E-vites don’t have to be tacky or impersonal. You can use adorable photos or videos of your children or pets to give it the personal touch. Make sure to mention somewhere within the invitation that the party is going to be zero waste, so if they want to bring a gift to the party, you request that it be something that won’t be leaving any garbage behind!
Pick out decorations that can be re-used year after year, or even better, ones that can be used over different holidays or throughout the season. You can try venturing out into the wilderness for natures ornaments (think pine cones and acorns) or use parts of nature as a supply piece for a craft project (such as leaves and twigs or branches.) You can also consider other compostable decorations, or even edible ones!
When it’s time to string up the lights, make sure you have LED bulbs! Not only will they save energy, but they’re more efficient which means they will save you money. A string of 100 LED bulbs will cost one-seventh of what it takes to run their non-LED counterparts. They also last longer and are more durable.
Nobody likes doing the dishes, but using china is a great way to keep all that disposable ware out of the garbage. If you don’t have enough for everybody, you can check out your local thrift shop for some great deals. Or, ask your guests to bring their own plates. You could make it a fun contest – ugliest holiday plate wins. Plus, it’s the season of giving, so you’ll most likely get a few relatives who are more than happy to help with the cleaning up and washing dishes.
If you absolutely do not want to have any mismatched dishes, make sure you get plates and cups that are compostable and will not end up sitting around in a landfill. Compostable food ware is now available at a variety of grocery stores, such as Whole Foods.
Instead of using disposable napkins or tablecloths, opt for the cloth ones. With these, you can just throw them in with your laundry to be washed, and they aren’t creating any more waste! If you don’t have enough stock to cover everyone, the thrift store can again be a great place to look for cheap options. If you don’t need to have all those extra napkins and linens lying around, you can donate them back after the party, or consider renting some from from a party rental company.
Whatever you decide to go with for your party, make sure you have a sorting helper and some kind of system set up for when things are winding down. It will make the cleanup process much easier for your guests and your crew. Sorting can get confusing, especially after a big party, so having an organized system will help your guests understand exactly what you want them to do and where everything should go. (For example, the food scraps should go separate from the china, from the recyclable bottles, from the linens, etc.)
After all is said and done, there’s a large possibility that you’re going to have leftover food. Whatever you do, don’t throw any of it out! First, try sending some of it home with your guests. Give them a “doggy bag” if you will, and they can enjoy the holiday meal the next day. If there’s still some left over after that, consider donating it to a local shelter or soup kitchen, but make sure to first find out what they can and cannot accept.