From paper plates to plastic wrap and utensils, outdoor entertaining can require products that aren’t the most eco-friendly. But you don’t have to settle for the status quo. Instead, enjoy the company of your guests without a guilty conscience by following these tips for a zero-waste celebration.
Keep it local
When prepping for your party, create your menu based on dishes you can make yourself with ingredients from your area farmers market. Display fresh fruit and vegetables with cheese on a simple serving tray before the main course is ready.
Canned pickles and tomatoes are tasty additions to any meal, and if you aren’t a seasoned canner, Kansas City Canning Co. offers a wide selection of canned goods from local growers. Their jellies, jams and pastes can be found at Pryde’s Kitchen & Necessities, Made in KC stores, The Sundry and Westside Storey.
When it comes to meat, buy cuts from your local butcher to reduce the packaging that often comes with supermarket fare. Use metal skewers and a reusable stainless-steel grilling basket instead of the disposable versions from major retailers.
Make note of your materials
If the party you’re throwing requires an invitation and not a simple text, e-vites are often easy and come in a variety of modern designs. Sites like Paperless Post and Greenvelope offer electronic invitations that are easy to design and send, without the waste paper invites generate.
No need for plastic wrap; instead, Hand + Land offers Bee’s Wrap, which can be used to cover bowls, bread, cheese, and vegetables galore. The wraps are made of beeswax as well as organic cotton and jojoba oil, and are reusable once washed in cool water. Bonus: The cute prints make it look like you’ve put added effort into the décor.
Use linen napkins instead of paper, or if you’ve got leftover fabric from craft projects, cut and fold the scraps to fit the needs of your soiree. Tuck silverware into each and tie them with twine and place at each table setting. If you don’t own napkins or scraps, shop your local thrift or vintage store for less costly linens that will last.
Slide a tablecloth or two over your outdoor tables, or if you don’t have any on-hand, use a thin blanket or sheet that can be washed later if spills occur.
Don’t forget the décor
Since you’ll already be outside, it only makes sense to use flowers or plants from your garden as décor. Put single blooms in small glass vases and light candles you already own at each table. Surround your outdoor space with potted plants or fresh herbs guests can pick and add to their plates for extra flavor.
String solar-powered LED lights around your deck or patio for a calm, cozy atmosphere once the sun sets.
If your bash is on a grander scale, rent big items like tents, seating and lights from local rental companies like Ultrapom or Marquee Event Rentals. Smaller items like chargers, server-ware, flatware and table runners are also available to rent for bigger events.
Whether you’re serving chilled iced tea or a frozen cocktail, offer glassware that can be reused after your guests have gone. Mason jars are not only ideal for sipping your favorite beverage, but can also be used later to store household items like pencils and pens, spices or snacks.
Nix water bottles for a carafe filled with ice water and fresh fruit for added flavor, and if wine is on the menu, opt for a boxed version with recyclable packaging. (Or if bottled wine is the only option, save your empty glass bottles and reuse them to store dishwashing liquid or olive oil.)
Paper straws make for a cute backyard-barbecue accessory, but you can also find biodegradable versions on Amazon for the same effect with a more earth-friendly outcome.
After the fact
When all is said and done, compost your leftover food scraps like fruits, veggies, buns and salads. If you’re not well-versed in the art of composting, take what remains to a community garden and let the experts do the work for you.
Store your leftovers in glass containers, or for snack-sized portions, use eco-friendly Stasher bags from Hand + Land in lieu of plastic sandwich bags.
And don’t forget to give your guests a gift to remember the occasion, and perhaps inspire them to host their own earth-conscious bash. Make a batch of your favorite baked good and send them off with something sweet, or hand each attendee a seeded gift box they can plant in their own backyard.
No matter how you commemorate your green get-together, it’s ultimately the company and the effort to keep the planet healthy that will make your occasion count.