Gathering with loved ones to share tales, food, and laughs has been something we’ve done for more than 100,000 years, and it’s one of the most beautiful aspects of being human. However, in recent years, our celebratory occasions have become intertwined with bags of discarded food, flowers, and throwaway decorations, turning our celebrations into a bit of an environmental nightmare.
Every backyard BBQ, wedding celebration, and family reunion may actively contribute to a more sustainable future by employing a few easy methods from sustainable event planners worldwide. Here’s how to turn any occasion, large or little, into a celebration of the Earth.
Consider the menu—and what happens after the guests have left.
Food is one of the most contentious and divisive aspects of sustainability because people are prone to squandering it. While tossing out that package of wasted greens or those too-old-for-comfort leftovers is inconvenient enough on its own, parties take food waste to a whole new level.
Reduce the amount of food you supply each visitor to ensure that all of your lovely party cuisines, whether provided or handmade, get served. Caterers will prepare numerous meals for each guest at certain more formal occasions, according to Ellen Hockley-Harrison, chief events officer of Greater Good Events in New Jersey, in case everyone wants to taste every snack, side dish, and dessert.
Consider giving a more realistic amount of food–enough for everyone to eat a few hors d’oeuvres and a lovely main course–whether you’re catering or setting up your buffet. Even while we all adore eating, at the end of the day, folks can only eat so much before becoming too ill to enjoy the party.
Aside from keeping track of how much food is served, choosing a sustainable menu is also essential. According to Hockley-Harrison, reduce meat intake, look into seasonal produce-based meals, and use local vendors instead of flying in food from all around. Taking these actions, she says, is also a way to empower your community.
There will almost certainly be leftovers, no matter how well you pick your guest list and meal selections. The 1st thing you should do with any leftover food is donated it to the community by working with local shelters or food banks. If it doesn’t work out, composting is the next best thing, according to Hockley-Harrison. “Compost isn’t perfect because it’s still trash,” she explains, “but it’s a better type of trash than garbage.” After the festivities are passed, do some research on how to get your garbage to a composting facility to guarantee that, at the very least, your cupcakes aren’t emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
Flowers are attractive for a variety of reasons.
Weddings, graduations, and religious rituals would be difficult to fathom without flowers. However, just like food, when blooms degrade after being discarded, they generate methane. Flowers, unlike food, are mainly used for aesthetic purposes.
You don’t have to say goodbye to the concept of bright, fragrant vases adorning your birthday or baby shower—but you may be creative with them. To begin, Hockley-Harrison advises ensuring that each plant has numerous functions. The sizeable floral arch from a wedding ceremony may be converted into table bouquets, photo booth props, or take-home party goodies.
She recommends donating flowers to hospitals and senior care institutions once they’ve had their moment in the limelight so that their beauty lasts longer than your event. Some firms, such as BloomsURent, even enable brides to reuse their bouquets for many occasions. If some flowers are unable to be repurposed, composting is the best option.
Disposable plates and utensils are out.
Disposable plates and cups are convenient in the short term, but they are a disaster for the environment in the long run. While you may spend more time washing dishes, it is unquestionably the more ecologically responsible and cost-effective way to celebrate.
Consider this: when you buy throwaway items, you’re throwing your money away, says Sofia Ratcovich, president of Los Angeles sustainability consulting firm Zero Waste Co. Rather than purchasing styrofoam cups, seek distinctive second-hand dishware at thrift stores or on Etsy. A hidden benefit is that they may occasionally be used as gifts, so while a paper plate may only be used once at your party, a reusable one might serve as a joyful memory that lives on in your friend’s cupboard. You might also request that guests bring their cups and plates (that way, no one mixes up their drinks, everyone is in charge of scrubbing their receptacles after).
If you must use disposable tableware, Meegan Jones, a sustainable events specialist at the Institute for Sustainable Events in Australia, says it’s essential to know what can be recycled. Certain items and packaging may not be recyclable depending on where you live, so check your municipal website or apps like Recycle Coach before you sign off on that big purchase for cups.
“Right now, where we are,” Jones adds, “being sustainable takes a little bit of elbow grease.” Thinking about the lifespan of your purchases will ensure that your sustainable party is more than just talk.
Consider your gathering as a chance to teach about sustainability.
A person is likely to feel thrilled, enthusiastic, friendly, and open-minded when they walk into a party. As the host, you’ve most likely gone to great lengths to create a welcome atmosphere. After you’ve double-checked that all of your waste-reduction features are “on point,” Jones adds, you can leverage all of your hard work to educate your enthralled visitors.
When visitors are snacking on sustainably made treats, for example, you may pop in and emphasize the importance of purchasing locally. Alternatively, if your venue and twinkling lights are powered by sustainable energy, mention how solar, wind, and batteries are becoming more affordable and accessible for home-usage.
“Events are such a great way to get people involved,” Ratcovich adds. So, whether it’s a large crowd at a music festival or a small gathering at home, individuals in their element are more likely to think about sustainability than, say, after a long day at work.
Beyond just arranging a sustainable event, don’t be afraid to give your guests a taste of what a sustainable existence may be like. After all, a sentiment like that is more likely to stay with them than a plastic party goodie.