In my last post, I pointed out the incredible waste of the traditional party industry. Plastic decorations, one-off themes, and balloons are nothing to celebrate. But it doesn't have to be that way. Even if you are a serial party thrower, investment in basic dishware and linens in neutral colors will provide the appropriate backdrop for any celebration. Rather than a predetermined set of themed plasticware, natural and compostable decorations can change the atmosphere of each gathering. This way of thinking will bring simplicity to the process and give you room to shine as the creative host I know you are. You just need three little tweaks.
Use Natural, Reusable, or Compostable Decorations
Decorate with produce, flowers, plants, branches, paper, or textiles. It will be lovely, promise. Eschew disposable for reusable (aka "real") dishes, flatware, and glasses — think of the sophistication of it! Get what you need over time (and on the cheap) at thrift stores which are always flush with glasses and dishware. For kids' parties or when reusable just isn't reasonable, choose compostable paper or plant-based products (and compost them, obvs). If you're attending a party or picnic, consider bringing this nifty travel cutlery set.
Check out these sites for eco-friendly decorations:
Shop Party Decorations
Avoid Packaged Food
Packaged food is devastatingly convenient, but creates a lot of waste. Instead of cooking everything yourself, make things easy — have a potluck and encourage homemade fare. Avoid packaging by making party mixes from bulk bought items like nuts, beans, seeds, or dried fruit (this kind of food makes for great party favors as well). Try these sweet and salty chickpeas from Cupcake Project or mixed nuts from Baker by Nature.
Have Useful or Natural Activities & Favors (or none at all)
Whether it's a birthday party or a professional conference, swag is often useless plastic junk. It's played with for about half a second and then it's probably added to the tsunami of plastic overtaking the ocean. I'll first say that you don't even need favors because spending time together is the point of a party. But if you must have them, win all the parties by having cool or useful favors like mushroom farms, seed bombs, or DIY wooden (or cardboard) ukuleles. Also look for recyclable or compostable packaging. Don't want to spend that much on favors? Send home the flowers you decorated with, or baked goodies, or email photographs out later, or maybe you really don't need them. Have fun, be together, and take home memories instead of tchotchkes.
Activities at the party fall under the same guidelines. Think about what could be useful or zero waste. Maybe it's making part of the food for the party. Maybe it's terrariums or planting a garden. Throw a clothing, jewelry, or book swap (a kids' book swap would be swell). Play board games. Gather for community service or a drive for some needed good. Just don't box yourself in with traditional party games.
With a little bit of thought and a few tweaks, your celebrations can be low to zero waste. Once you've got the hang of it, the simplicity will make throwing a party together as easy as vegan peanut butter pie.
One caveat: if this thing with climate change does go really poorly, you might consider some of these survival-themed favors. That last one's just for making gin. ;)
This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you buy anything through the link (it doesn't change the amount you pay). I only include brands that I believe in, that I would use myself, or think might be of interest to you.