Last week, we talked about the immense amount of waste created from holiday gifts, but the way that we celebrate the holidays is also a big contributor: disposable cups, napkins, and cutlery from our holiday parties; leftover scraps from the food we often tend to overbuy; and oodles of cling wrap that not only ends up in landfills but also leaches toxins into our food (yuck!)
So how do we entertain droves of friends and family without creating any waste or extra work for ourselves?
Here’s My Zero Waste Entertaining Guide:
Keep it Real.
Use real plates, cutlery, glasses, straws, and napkins. Having a washing machine or dishwater is a huge help when you make this choice, but if you don’t have either of these (like most New Yorkers), a little elbow grease gets the job done. And if you think about all of the trash you won’t be fishing out of random corners of your apartment, it probably equates to the same amount of time and effort.
So dishes aren’t your thing. I get it.
If you’re totally opposed to washing dishes, then opt for compostable utensils and plates. Whole Foods usually has a few varieties, but Verterra is another great company which makes all of their flat/dish-ware out of fallen leaves…yup, you heard right…FALLEN LEAVES. That means that no trees were harmed in the harvesting of these kickass products, and they can be composted in your backyard (as opposed to requiring a commercial compost). For more info on the difference between backyard and commercial composting, click here.
Invest in a SodaStream. It pays for itself.
If you’re anything like my husband, you drink soda water like its going out of style. SodaStream enables you to drink as much soda water as you like without breaking the bank or going through dozens of aluminum cans and plastic bottles. SodaStream is a soda maker that uses no electricity and runs off of carbon cylinders. Empty cylinders can be exchanged at a local store, where you can get a replacement at a discounted price. You can carb up tons of water and serve it as is, or make a fruit-infused beverage that’s perfect for cocktails, mocktails, and kiddos.
Keep it simple, Stupid. Part 1.
Having a spread of finger-foods entirely eliminates the need for cutlery and plates, which will significantly lessen your after-party clean-up. You can get creative by having a basket filled with cloth napkins, each one with its own flare so people can identify their napkin if they put it down. You can write a little note on the basket encouraging everyone to hold onto their napkins for the evening’s festivities (and if they lose it, that’s ok too).
Cling Wrap and Foil? Uh Uh. No Thanks.
Cling wrap and foil certainly had their hay-day, but as my mother always says: “all good things must come to an end, and all bad things too.” Stretchable Silicone Lids are a great alternative for covering up bowls and containers. Beeswax wraps have the same functionality, but they also have the ability to wrap up blocks of cheese, uneaten baguettes, and fruits and veggies. Rather than transferring leftovers to tupperware, these allow you to utilize the existing container, leaving you with less dishes at the end of the night. Pyrex containers are another solid option as they are built to last, can be used for cooking in the oven, and come with lids of their own.
Keep it simple, Stupid. Part 2.
Clearly mark your recycle, compost, and trash bins so that there are no questions about what item goes in which bin (Make it idiot proof!):
Nutshells & Seeds
Fruit & Veggie Scraps (even those from mulled wine/sangria)
Paper Napkins/Plates (if you choose to use them)
Rice, Quinoa, Grains
(If you have access to a commercial compost, then these items can go in the compost bin)
Plastic Cups/Utensils*** (if you choose to use them)
**Wine Corks are usually not accepted in curbside recycling programs, but there is a company called CorkClub which offers free mail-in recycling. They accept both natural and synthetic corks. Tip: Have a vase next to the wine bar that’s already half-full of corks. When people open up a new bottle, they’ll get the hint to put the cork in the vase.
***Many recycling programs do not accept plastic utensils/straws (made from #5 and #6 plastics) because they are too expensive to recycle. This means that these single-use suckers will most likely end up in the landfill.
So, ya’ll ready for some zero waste entertaining?
I’ll take that silence as a yes.
Looking for more inspo? Check out my other holiday blog posts: