Whether it’s for Christmas, year-end, New Year’s or any other festive occasion, holiday party planning doesn’t have to end up with a big pile of trash at the end! Make your party full of gorgeous decorations, memorable foods and easy clean-up, all without throwing away so much.

Use Real Dishes

Shelves of dishes to use for your holiday party planning
Save on the disposable plates and cups by using reusable, ceramic or glass dishes that are cheap and easy to find at any Goodwill or thrift store

If anyone has loaded a dishwasher before, you know that plates are the easiest to load and clean. But, plates are one of those things that we always see disposable versions of, especially at parties. Even though there are recyclable and compostable types, not everyone recycles or composts them. In fact, if you don’t live in an area that does large-scale, commercial composting, those compostable plates will go into the same landfill where they won’t get oxygen and won’t decompose.

So we’re suggesting that you keep it all out of the trash and use real dishes. If you don’t have enough, this is a great chance to ask friends or party guests to pitch in. Or, use this as a chance to do some fun thrifting. The one thing Goodwill and thrift stores are overflowing with is dishes. No matter how old they are, ceramic dishes still look great. Ceramic is one of the longest-lasting materials on earth, giving archaeologists plenty to uncover on ancient sites. Then, after the party, keep these dishes put away as your “partyware” to reuse for your next soiree.

When the party is over, you may have an extra load to run through your dishwasher but you’ll have less to lug out to the dumpster. Plus, you’ll be filled with that yummy, good feeling when you’re not contributing to the waste stream.

The Prettiest Decoration is Your Smile

plant cuttings used as decoration for holiday party planning
Plant cuttings and food can make beautiful and festive displays for your party

Well OK, maybe your holiday party planning isn’t complete without decking the halls of your office/home/event space. Think about using the same mentality as you might for a trade show: make the items reusable! Yes, you may not have the space to store boxes and boxes of decorations for a once-a-year event. But, if you don’t have the room to STORE them, then where do you think they go after you throw them away? If your decorations are made of foil, vinyl and plastic, those items may not be built to last but they WILL last forever.

Consider these ideas:

  1. Have a paper snowflake-making party and decorate with all of those unique snowflakes. Or, have party-goers make their OWN snowflakes. Just make sure you have a good vacuum to clean up all the confetti debris.
  2. Check into renting decorations from a local party supply or event company. For the same price as buying a bunch of disposables, you could get much prettier decorations that you don’t need to trash OR put away. They’ll take them away for you!
  3. Use real plants: evergreen branches, poinsettias, rosemary or local flowers (here in the desert, there are a lot this time of year). These can all be composted or mulched after your event.

Party Tray=Stay Away

Delicious display of low-waste foods without all the packaging
This food looks delicious! And, it involved virtually no waste.

You know the deal: you go to the grocery store to pick up a few supplies and you’re lured in by all those enticing party trays. You start thinking of all that time you’ll save for just a few extra bucks. But most of those trays come in big, plastic trays with plastic lids or wrapped in tons of plastic wrap. Back to our first point of using reusable dishes, these trays don’t exactly jive. Besides: exactly how much time does it take for you to cut vegetables?

Your party food can be delicious and fabulous without all that plastic. Use sites like Epicurious.com for ideas on easy-to-make party snacks. Using from-scratch ingredients not only makes you beam with pride, but it also cuts back on the plastic trays and bags all those pre-made items come in. Plus, you reduce your risk of food-borne illness by using the freshest of ingredients that haven’t been sitting for so long.

Some party snack ideas:

  1. Cut veggies with a yogurt dip
  2. Chips with homemade guacamole or salsa
  3. Flatbread pizzas
  4. Homemade popcorn, with your favorite flavoring or topping
  5. Assorted chocolates, bought in bulk at stores like Sprouts, Whole Foods or Natural Grocers

Hide the Trashcan (not really)

recycle and compost bin with hand drawn labels
Set up your very own, clearly-labeled recycle and compost bins at your party so guests know where to put their waste

Have you had that moment where all your environmentally-minded guests leave and you find a glass beer bottle in the trash can? Were you as horrified as me (no? just me?) Remember that your friends and co-workers aren’t on the same frequency as you. No problem. Just make it as clear as possible for your guests to know:

  1. Recycling and composting is available at your party
  2. Where they can recycle or compost their waste
  3. That you (kind of) expect them to do so

It’s about more than just hiding the trashcan. Your holiday party planning should involve thinking about where the leftovers and eventual waste will go. Whether you write signs by hand or print them out from your computer, put CLEARLY-LABELED signs where you want people to dispose of which waste. If all of your party waste is either recyclable or compostable (because if you’re not using plastic plates, cutlery or cups, it could be), you can have two bins, clearly labeled RECYCLE and COMPOST. To make it even better, put a list below each label so they know what that means.

And look…we know that not all cities compost (Phoenix does not in most areas). But, you allow your party-goers to understand that their party waste IS either recyclable or compostable. By not even putting out a standard trash can, you affect how they perceive the typical situation when confronted with throwing things away. Plus, if you are one of those lovely citizens who compost in your backyard, your garden will thank you for all those nutritious contributions.

Best Holiday Party Planning Ever

While there are plenty of options out there for us to make holiday party planning quick and easy, they can come at a price. Aside from the financial cost, there’s the long-term impact of contributing more to the waste stream. By making a few of these simple changes, we can still have amazing parties for our clients, companies, friends and family. We just shift the perception of what a holiday party LOOKS like. You also let your clients, employees, friends and family know that you practice what you preach in sustainability. Just as you can make small changes in your marketing, your office and your home life, you can do so for leisure and fun! We are full of ideas on how to incorporate all of these aspects into a clearer, more sustainable picture. Drop us a line

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