Hosting A Waste Free Holiday Party

The most wonderful time of year is upon us- and also the most wasteful. Thanks to excess amounts of gift wrap, tape, and foil; the amount of garbage Canadians produce over the holidays rises 25% compared to the rest of the year. But we’re not telling you this to put a damper on your Christmas spirit. Rather, as a reminder for us all to stay mindful of our consumption this holiday season. After all- the holidays are all about spending time with our loved ones, celebrating our years accomplishments and showing gratitude. Also known as, party season! And while it may not be possible to completely boycott gifts, decorations and junk food, it is possible to make more mindful choices while planning this year’s waste-free holiday party!  

Hosting a waste-free holiday party might sound damn near impossible, however, decreasing your waste while hosting party of the year is attainable with these unique and creative tips. 

Include Your Guests in the Preparations

There is no good reason to resort to disposable dishes when we all have plates and cutlery sitting around at home. As the host, don’t feel like you must do everything yourself to host a waste-free party. Your friends and family will be more than happy to pitch in on bringing things they don’t even need to buy, but already have in their homes! 

Include your guests in the party prep by mentioning these ideas: 

  • Party Supply List: Create a list of all the things you need for the party from dinnerwares to decorations. Then when you get asked, “What can I bring”, share the list with your guests so see if they can cross off an item!
  • The BYO Party: Another approach is to make it a BYO Theme party. Ask each guest to BYO wine glass/plate/cutlery/napkin/favourite decoration!

Intentionally Plan the Menu 

The food, drinks and snacks you chose to serve can have a huge impact on making your holiday party waste-free. By intentionally adjusting your menu you can easily reduce the amount of food and packaging that will be thrown out at the end of the night!

  • Plan, Plan, Plan. Choose items that you know can be purchased unpackaged like items in the produce section or the bulk aisle. 
  • Finger Foods For The Win! Serving foods that your guests can simply grab with their hand, you automatically reduce the amount of utensils and plates needed.
  • Make the “Serving-ware” Edible. Serve dips and sauces or recipes that guests can scoop up with chips, veggies, buns or pitas. 
  • Yes, Finger Foods need Napkins! When it comes to napkins, offer cloth napkins if you have them. Guests will take one and will typically keep their own napkins throughout the evening.
    If you don’t own cloth napkins, ask a friend! If nobody has them, make them! Cloth napkins are an easy DIY by cutting old towels or t-shirts into squares. Stick-em in a jar and label it!
  • Serve a Signature Cocktail. Offer only one signature cocktail to your guests and serve it in a large dispenser or bowl. This pre-mixed drink will reduce the need for multiple drink mixes like orange juice, pineapple juice, coke, sprite, eggnog, etc.
  • Growlers and Kegs! Calgary’s brewery scene is booming and most of them have growler refills at a decent price so you can offer your guests delicious, waste-free, local beer! Or consider getting a keg. Kegs are also a fantastic option to reduce the number of cans and bottles your party produces.

Take Inventory of what you already own.

Before going out and filling your cart with decorations you’ll probably only use once, consider the following options: 

  • Use what you have. Take a look in storage and use any decorations you still have from past years. 
  • Everyday Items with a Holiday Feel. Start looking around your house for useful items. You’ll be surprised how some things may be just right to help decorate. Use pretty scarves in your closet to drape over side tables. Tie old ribbon around a jar and put a candle inside. 
  • Bring the Outdoors IN. Something as simple as a few pinecones in a vase can look really nice.
  • Food for Thought. Oranges adorned with cloves in a silver bowl, not only make the room smell festive, they add a little colour to the table (plus you can still eat the orange). Cinnamon sticks tied in a bunch with a ribbon can also add some nice scents.
  • Go Back to Step 1. Ask your guests to help decorate by bringing extra decorations to fill the space!

Re-Gift and Re-Use

We get it. Gifts are tradition, and one of the most fun parts of Christmas. Gift giving can be a difficult area when reducing waste, especially while hosting a party, so keep these ideas in mind: 

  • White Elephant Gift Exchange. Have your guests bring an item they have in their home already, they are not to buy something new. It is usually something a person doesn’t need or want or have any use for. This is rather entertaining as you never know what kind of random gifts people may bring!  Follow the rules of this typical group gift exchange.
  • RE-Gifting is not rude. There is this idea that re-gifting a gift you received is rude. But if you get something that is absolutely of no use to you, but perfect for someone else, why not re-gift it? This saves a lot of time, money and waste! 
  • Wrap it up, with love not garbage. When considering how to wrap your gift, think of ways that won’t create waste. Use a pretty cloth or scarf. Re-use packing paper that came with your recent online shopping! Or simple, re-use that gift bag that you received a gift in. 
  • Don’t Gift, Donate! A truly waste-free gift is giving a donation. Have your guests bring donations of money, food, or even warm winter wears to donate to your favourite charity or nonprofit. 

Hosting a waste-free holiday party shouldn’t be stressful and we hope this list of tips and tricks help take some of the challenge out of reducing your waste this year. Stay mindful, well intentioned and do your part this holiday season. Besides that, have fun, live it up, be safe and enjoy the festivities! Happy Holidays!