How to host an amazing zero waste party

We have been entertaining in a zero-waste style for about four years now.  Not always 100% successful at actually getting to zero, but we get pretty close.  We are also pretty lucky as North Vancouver, where we live, has an excellent recycling program.

Here are some tips and tricks to get you started on hosting an amazing zero-waste party:

1. Make it easy.  For every party, even for children’s parties, we always set up a recycling station.  Our station includes something for compost (usually a nice carboard box lined with newsprint for a larger party, or just our regular compost bin – cleaned and empty – for smaller get togethers. A pretty sign for the compostables seems to win over the more ick-fearing guests.  We also always have a blue bin or two for recyclables. Our final bin is a nice tub or tote for dirty dishes (if we are going that route). We intentionally don’t put out a regular garbage bin, which requires our guests to put in a tiny bit of thought and effort to separate their waste, but most are very appreciative of how easy we make it.


2. Start with the basics.  Just like decorating your home, you start with neutral basics and add your pops of colour with the party accessories.  I keep what I call my Zero-Waste Party Supply Kit on hand to serve as the foundation for the party.  It contains four plain white table cloths, the type caterers and hotels use.  I bought mine really affordably on amazon, but I recommend checking your local thrift stores or restaurant supply stores.  I also stocked it up with six sets of the Ikea Kalas children’s plates and cups. At $2.99 per set, you can’t beat that price, even with paper plates.  They wash up beautifully in the dishwasher, and in my mind they are a no brainer for children’s parties. Sometimes I use them for serving cake for adults if the event is casual.  I also have a small collection platters and bowls.

Zero waste party supplies
Quick and affordable, keeping these zero waste party supplies on hand makes eco-friendly entertaining so easy.

4. Decorate with paper, fabrics and natural materials. There is SO much you can do to gussy up a party with paper products.  Fun napkins, paper straws, banners and posters are easy to source or make your own.  I look to social media (hello Pinterest!) and Canva for inspiration, get creative online, and then print anything oversized at my local print shop.  Everything can be reused for crafts and colouring, or recycled and composted at the end of the party.  I also keep extra-long lengths of colourful ribbons on hand (usually 4-6 m in length), and use them as table runners, bows or bunting.  Similarly, I love having fabric around for bunting, swags, and creative accents.

5. Shop consciously. Sorry to state the obvious, but it still needs to be said.  Shopping with a zero-waste mindset does take more effort, and sometimes more stops, making me think about the carbon footprint of running around town vs. one-stop shopping.  But I’ve noticed that my local butcher, bulk, and produce stores are making it so much easier to shop plastic-free.  I’m so happy that many cities and even countries are staring to ban plastics.  I have a lot of hope that these trends will continue!

For birthday parties specifically, I’ve discovered beeswax candles in great colours!  I love these chunky ones from Papyrus.  For more elegant (aka for the older folks) cakes, they make really lovely ultra-skinny tapers in their “gala” range. 

6. Cater with care.  It was interesting to see how party food changed during the pandemic (when we could entertain that is!).  We went from huge, communal grazing table trends, to individual servings presented in the most amazing ways.  I love all the individual shot glasses and “plated” appetizers on spoons.  But I hated seeing all the waste that came with those creative presentations.  Individual servings are still entirely possible, I just try to use bamboo, or better yet, the food itself (cucumber shooters anyone?).

I hope this helps inspire you to change the way you entertain.  Let’s reduce our single use plastics, and make it fun for everyone at your next amazing zero-waste party.

It’s all made with love!