A girl's quest to live on the greener side.

How to Stay Zero Waste at a Party

zero waste at a party

Staying zero waste at a party can be pretty challenging. Whether it's a family event or a friend's party, I get it. Waste happens. Between all the disposable plates, cups and utensils, it's hard to feel like the environmentalist you are. However, I'm here to tell you there's hope. While you can't completely control the actions of others, you can control your own. I've been to several parties, family and friend, and I can assure you, I know how to stay zero waste at a party. If you're confident, pleasant and polite, you won't have any problems. You may slip up every once and a while, it happens to the best of us, but I'm here to give you my tips and tricks. Follow these general guidelines and you'll go home feeling more proud of yourself than ever. Here's how to stay zero waste at a party.

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How to stay zero waste at a party

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 1: Ask for reusables

Nobody ever wants to wash dishes at a party. At family events, block parties, office parties...wherever. No one wants to wash dishes. Personally, I don't think washing dishes is the end of the world, especially if you have a dish washer. But I can't expect people to agree with this philosophy. You're guaranteed to run into disposables at a party, unless it's a fancy event or dinner party (but sometimes even then...).

My solution? Just ask for reusables. Go up to the hostess and ask her if you could use a real dish, fork and cup. Offer to wash it when you're done. Offering to wash it means less work for the hostess, and increases your chances of her saying yes. And washing one plate is a lot easier than washing twenty. If the hostess asks why, just inform her you're trying to reduce your waste. Simple as that.

I've gotten so good at asking for reusables that my boyfriend's aunt just sets aside a reusable plate, cup and utensil set for me every time I come over. 🤣

If you don't feel comfortable asking the hostess for reusables, you have two other options:

  • Hover by the finger foods and drink from your own reusable water bottle.
  • Bring your own reusable plates, napkins and utensils.

Personally, regardless if I ask for a plate or not, I usually hover near the finger foods regardless. I never take a plate for them - I just use my hand to make sure no crumbs fall. I also always bring my reusable water bottle with me everywhere, so I'm not afraid to whip it out if need be.

You could also bring your own reusable plates, napkins and utensils too. This works best if you know there will be no reusables around to ask for (like at an office party). Bringing one small stainless steel plate (that can also double as a bowl) is a great idea. You can fit it in your bag and place a napkin and fork in there too, just in case. And of course, bring your water bottle!

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 2: Stick to plastic free beverages


It's okay if you don't want to drink water the entire time you're at a party. Most parties I go to offer beverages in a can or glass bottle and have recycling for these items. Double check that your hostess recycles cans and bottles too and you're in the clear. 

Of course, if there's something you want to drink that has to be poured into a cup, ask the hostess for a real cup (just like in tip one). Offer to wash it. I've done this when it came to sangria at a party once and it was the best decision ever. I personally believe wine tastes a lot better in glass anyway. Plus, when you have your own glass cup, everyone knows whose cup it is (so no one will be drinking from yours by mistake!). Zero waste perk number 5,000? You better believe it. 😏

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 3: Hold on to any disposable you get


Sometimes, waste happens. If you do, for any reason, wind up with a plastic plate, cup or utensil, stick with it throughout the day. It's more wasteful to dispose of it, just to grab another. If you have to, write your name on the cup or plate with a sharpie so everyone knows it's yours. I've seen people in my boyfriend's family do this a lot. Obviously, this is a last resort, but we live in an imperfect society and have to make do with what we get.

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 4: Don't worry about plastic packaged food


I know you're trying to stay zero waste at a party, but you have to remember certain things are out of your control. For example, the hostess might buy ingredients packaged in plastic to make the food you're eating. My advice? Don't worry about it. 

You have to pick and choose your battles and that's not one you should fight. You want to stay polite too, and telling the hostess how to buy their food might not be the smartest choice. Also, please be aware that most food from restaurants and bulk bins come from packages. Refusing to eat food at a party just because it comes packaged in plastic is a bit too extreme.

On that note, if you want to have a conversation with the hostess about buying package free food, and you keep things polite, by all means! It could be a great way to at least put the idea in her head for next time. If you don't feel comfortable being that open, that's fine too. Some things are better left unsaid, after all (or maybe just wait for the right timing). 

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 5: Bring something (plastic free)


Sometimes, it's nice to bring the hostess a gift. Or, maybe the hostess asked you to bring a certain dish. If that's the case, go out of your way to keep everything as plastic free as possible. This might mean a trip to the bulk food store and farmers market for some ingredients. If you cook a dish, bring it in a big glassware container, or a big bowl with beeswrap wrapped over it.

As far as hostess gifts go, try bringing wine, (plastic free) flowers, or homemade chocolate (in a jar). 

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 6: Mentally prepare for disposable decor


Be prepared: Most parties I go to have disposable decor everywhere. From balloons to confetti, you'll never know what you'll find. Heck, even some table covers are bought solely for party decor (and then tossed - I've seen it done). This is, unfortunately, out of your control. Try not to get too worked up over it and just breath. Comfort yourself by thinking of eco-friendly decor alternatives you could have at your own party, should you ever decide to throw one.

Zero Waste at a Party

Tip 7: Don't go crazy over party clothing


I know some people who like to buy a new outfit whenever they know they're going to a party. Unfortunately, the fashion industry is the second biggest polluter, following the oil industry. If you must get a new outfit, or if it's some sort of costume party, try to find something secondhand. Look in your local thrift stores, or go to a Salvation Army or Goodwill store. You might be surprised at the fun pieces you'll find (plus you'll get it for a bargain)! Better yet, shop your own closet first.

Zero Waste at a Party

How do you stay zero waste at a party? Feel free to share your tips below!

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