Parties are a wonderful way to celebrate life’s happy occasions with the people you love! Here are some suggestions on how to plan a special event with minimal environmental impact:
Invitations are a source of wasted paper and carbon emissions from transport from sender to recipient. The best option is to go paperless by sending electronic invitations or starting a group event on Facebook or Eventbrite. There are lots of free options like Evite or Paperless Post Flyers, which will collect your RSVPs electronically as well.
However, for very special occasions, you may choose to opt for hardcopy invitations. In this case, you can make or buy handmade recycled seed paper to print your invitations on, which your guests can plant after receiving. Paper Culture is a card company prints on 100% recycled card stock and plants a tree for each order.
Start by jazzing things up with items you already own, like string lights, lanterns, candles, or glass vases with local, organic, seasonal flowers (easiest way to do this is to pick some flowers from your garden!). Shop your own closet and garage for items to fit any theme. Get creative with ideas like this recycled book garland!
Next, check out secondhand and thrift stores nearby for anything that could be repurposed as a decoration. Also, this is a good time to ask around to see if your family, friends, or neighbors have any leftover party decorations from previous parties or rent from a party rental company.
Make or buy non-disposable decorations that can be reused for many parties to come and are made from sustainable or recycled materials. We recommend some cute, gender-neutral cotton bunting, glass beads, or wool felt ball garlands.
You can also decorate with organic materials, like pumpkins and gourds for Thanksgiving or Halloween, fresh flowers for spring and summer parties, and pinecones, holly, and pine branches for holiday parties. Using a hole punch, you can make your own confetti out of leaves!
After the party, you can donate these perishable decorations to a local nursing home, dispose of them in your curbside green bin, or toss them in your compost pile.
The alcohol industry is miles ahead of the rest, since nearly everything is packaged in aluminum cans or glass bottles. Carefully calculate how much of each beverage you anticipate your guests consuming so as to avoid having too much left over. Kegs are a good way to buy bulk alcohol.
Other beverages can either be homemade or bought in bulk and dispensed in a large glass or stainless steel drink dispenser. When buying bulk drinks, try to stick to beverages that come in glass containers like this apple juice.
Unless your guests have disabilities that require straws, we recommend you avoid using them entirely. If they are necessary, it’s best to stick to biodegradable paper straws in recyclable packaging like these.
It’s important for many reasons, detailed in our Food post, to choose food that is sourced locally and grown sustainably and organically. Take the extra time to find a caterer who can accommodate, or even shares, these values. If you are preparing the food yourself, try to choose local, bulk, organic ingredients with minimal plastic packaging.
Any leftover food should be sent home with your guests or donated to a homeless shelter (or just go downtown and give it to someone hungry). Non-perishable items can be donated to a food bank like the Second Harvest Food Bank or sent to Matthew:25 Ministries for distribution to disaster zones around the world.
Resist the temptation to buy disposable plastic silverware! If you have enough silverware for all your guests, even if it doesn’t match, stick to serving items that can be washed and re-used. When your guest list outnumbers the forks in your kitchen, ask around to neighbors, family, and friends to see if they can lend you any extra items you need.
For large occasions like bar mitzvahs, consider renting your serving-ware and table linens. When disposable silverware is the only option, opt for compostable silverware and paper plates. Make sure your guests are aware of and have easy access to a compost bin.
It’s key to make sure compost and recycling bins are easily accessible and clearly labeled for all your guests. You can put helpful signs on the bins to inform guests which items can be disposed of in each.
Any additional non-recyclable/compostable party decorations, signs, banners, streamers, or party hats can be saved in the garage for the next event or recycled in the TerraCycle Party Decorations box.
As the saying goes, the most eco-friendly purchase is the one you didn’t make! Unless your guests expect a party favor, it is often a party planning element that can be skipped.
If you do want to give favors, go for something that your guests will really use (like a succulent in a ceramic pot, handmade soap, lavender sachets, reusable water bottle, hand-decorated seed packets) or something edible (like honey or jam in glass jars).
Disclaimer: We receive no financial compensation for any of the products recommended or shared anywhere in this blog.