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Throw a Bash with Less Trash

Say goodbye to the old year and welcome the new in green style! It is possible to have a fun holiday feast or blowout New Year’s Eve party that jump starts resolutions about reducing clutter and living lighter on the planet in 2012. Here are some timely entertaining tips that will serve you well for all of 2012 — and the rest of 2011:

  • Instead of resorting to disposable cups, use wine glass charms, ribbon, twine, rubber bands or other items to create a unique marking system for glasses, cups and mugs. Everyone knows which cup is theirs and nothing goes in the trash!
  • If your party isn’t formal, acquire a mix of plates and beverage glasses at local thrift stores and yard sales. It can be fun to drink wine out of juice glasses and jelly jars and they aren’t as tippy as stemware. After your party, box everything up and return it to the thrift store. The organization receives a nice “donation” from you, and you aren’t left with the clutter — or a trash can full of paper plates.
  • While beer bottles and cans are recyclable they’re also heavy and take up a lot of space in the recycling bin. Consider springing for a torpedo keg, a pony keg or a whole keg. Beer glasses are washable, as are plastic cups. And, of course, you return the keg and its tackle.
  • Self-serve buffet tables with a choice of small bites, carefully labeled for guests with dietary restrictions, make a lot of sense for limiting food waste and or leftovers. Check out our great small bites recipes and spend a few minutes with our servings calculator while making your shopping list and you can purchase more accurately for the number of guests you expect.
  • Keep an eye on the buffet table and make sure nothing cooked sits out longer than two hours – this will help prevent having to throw out the food that’s no longer safe to eat.
  • For a formal event, consider borrowing or renting tableware and serve ware. You can return them the next day and not have to worry about storing them year-round.
  • Cloth napkins, of course. Hopefully you have dozens by now. If not, see thrift store tip above. For informal parties, you can find cotton bandanas for about a dollar each. Or a length of cotton fabric can be cut into serviette-sized squares and washed once to give a fringed effect.
  • Our vendor-partner Preserve offers serve ware made from 100% recycled plastic. It is sturdy enough to be used multiple times and can be recycled once it has been to its last party or picnic.
  • If single-use serve ware is best for your needs, you can now find a gratifying selection of recyclable and compostable options in our stores. Handy for a drinks and small bites party, some stores carry elegant appetizer plates designed to hold a wine glass that are made from a sugarcane fiber-based paperboard called bagasse. Other serve ware and some utensils are made from bamboo, an eminently renewable resource that also composts well. Finally some stores carry plates made from dried tropical leaves that are lovely to hold and use.
  • Enlist guests to help with recycling and cleanup. Clearly label bins for recyclables and compost and put out trays for washables.
Finally, enjoy and celebrate the season, your friends and family — and the food. What tips do you have for entertaining with flair while avoiding a landfill hangover in the morning?

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Karen Koch says …

Had a party last night and remembered to cut the steaks into smaller portions BEFORE serving so that people could take one two or three - depending on their hunger level. Had a lot less waste. 13 people and had 4 whole steaks left over. What a waste that would have been.

RL says …

How about using dishes? After all, we do have dishwashers. Even if needs to be run more than once, so what?

Kaylee says …

Spent the better part of yesterday afternoon going through and organizing my mother's garbage. Trying to teach her how to recycle and be less wasteful in general-not an easy task, haha.

Angie says …

Maybe have some people bring dishes to eat and have others bring dishes to eat off of. If they have a different color and style they will be easy to gather back up. You can be more assured that they are clean compaired to a thrift store plate so they will only need to be washed once. Rather then thrift store plates that you will have to wash twice. Plus this will give a chance for those who do not cook to still bring something to the party.

Meliha says …

We'be been throwing a lot of parties this year so I'm pleased to report I made this a goal. I now have 24 guest dinner plates AND appetizer plates + all cloth napkins + 24 guest silverwares (forks, spoons, knives, dessert spoons). It was a little but of an "investment" but not too bad since I waited for sales on each piece. It is well worth it though and adds a level of class to my party (no more throw aways!!). :)

barbara paul says …

Great ideas. I have given up using paper plates, napkins and paper towels. It's more work (of course), but I like the idea of doing a little something for the environment. After doing this for about a year, I don't miss the paper disposables at all. Also like your suggestion to cut down on food portions to avoid waste. I have a pet peeve with restaurants that serve huge portions of food. I know that a lot of it gets trashed. If I do have too much food for one meal, I take the rest home for lunch or another dinner. Thanks for a good column.

sherylin Johnson says …

My pantry must haves are rice (brown & white), pasta, beans, oils, oatmeal, tea, tomato sauce, salmon and tuna... there are many more but these are my absolute MUST HAVES!

Qays says …

Great tips! I also like eliminating soda (bottles and cans) by offering tea and fridge water.

Lynn says …

Remember to think of the environment during clean up also. Many laundry detergents have very high Dioxine levels and contaminate our materials and water. The FDA has agreed that it is a higher level of carcinogen than previously thought. The lowest levels are in ALL while SUN and the 'green' brands have untracable levels. Stick with a liquid as the powders have other contaminates as well. Since we have done away with all disposables, I also want to take care of our water supplies... and my skin likes it better also! Much fewer breakouts and reactions. I used to think it was the manufactured materials.... now I know it was the detergent. GO Green!

Karen says …

I love to challenge myself to making a meal without going to the store which requires having foods on hand. Beans of all kinds for dips and soups, flour and yeast for great bread. Lentils, brown rice, quinoa,oats, almond milk , sundried tomatoes, and whole grain pastas as well as groats are all somewhere in my kitchen! Add fresh herbs (which in a good year, I can bring in and nurture all winter in their pots inside) and a few fresh veggies and I can make meals for days!

Maureen says …

Do you sell compostable cups for hot drinks (coffee)? I need to buy 100 ASAP (do not need lids). If so, pls advise which store & price. thanks

Nikki - Community Moderator says …

@MAUREEN - Our exact paper copies differ between stores. Check with your local store to see if they have compostable options and the price point.