Summer is all about simplicity, in my book. Gathering with friends at home or in a local park is such a fantastic way to enjoy the season. But, who wants it to be complicated? And, worse, who wants to deal with bags of trash after the fête?
With a little preparation, hosting simpler, more sustainable parties can become second-nature. I find that if I have a stash of zero-waste party gear on hand, and the right mindset for keeping things easy and less wasteful, I'm more likely to hit send on the invite.
Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure no one's sending out paper invitations for casual parties these days, so let's move beyond that and look at some other ideas for hosting a zero-waste summer party:
1. Decor: Lean into nature
- Use natural elements like flowers, leaves, and plants for decorations. If you have a yard, there's probably something green and nice-looking out there — just cut some branches and place them in a large vase or jumbo jar
- Drape a few reusable decorations like fabric bunting or DIY paper garlands. When my daughter turned one, I sewed a simple fabric bunting which we've re-used every year for her birthday
- Up the ambiance with solar-powered accents, LED lights or candles in jars
- Make things cozy at dusk by providing big throws to wrap up in
2. Tableware: Think reusable, and use what you have
- Having a little stash of cloth cocktail napkins, dinner napkins and tablecloths on hand makes hosing a snap: they're infinitely reusable, more stylish — and don't blow away in the wind
- Use reusable plates, glasses, and cutlery instead of disposable options. A trip to the local thrift store can stock you up with a pleasingly casual, mix-and-match stash
- If reusable isn't feasible, choose compostable or biodegradable alternatives made from bamboo, palm leaf, or bagasse
- The most sustainable thing is to use what you already have, so embrace an eclectic look
3. Drinks: No more piles of red solo cups
- Obviously reusable is your friend: Provide a stash of glass tumblers or even small mason jars
- Offer pitchers of homemade beverages like infused water, lemonade, or iced tea instead of individual bottled drinks
- Serve a streamlined selection of wines: a white and a red. Offering every choice under the sun often leads to over-buying and waste
- For the beer/cider lovers, check to see if you can fill a couple of growlers at your local brewery
4. Food: Go seasonal and simple
- Plan a menu with locally sourced, organic, and seasonal ingredients
- A selection of items from the bulk bins makes a great, graze-able spread
- Skip the cutlery: serve mostly finger food
- Keep it easy: people just want to socialize and have something nice to drink and nibble on. Consider hosting between-meal "drinks-and-snacks" parties, rather than a party at a mealtime. Often, a lot of waste (and overwhelm) happen when we feel compelled to serve a complete meal
5. (Zero-)Waste stations:
- Set up clearly labeled recycling and compost bins, plus a nice basket for used cloth napkins. If you use compostable plates and utensils, just pop everything in paper bags, and they can go straight into the green bin
6. Party favors:
- Skip the single-use plastic party favors and opt for sustainable alternatives like little potted plants, seeds, or a delicious cookie for the road wrapped up in pretty fabric remnants
- Encourage experiences instead of physical gifts, such as organizing games or activities to enjoy together
The key to a zero-waste party is to prioritize reusable items, reduce waste as much as possible, and keep things simple for yourself.
What are your eco-friendly, simplicity-focused party tips? Please share in the comments!