Guest Post for That Minimal Life

This guest post on throwing a green holiday party is written by my amazing friend, Becky Migas. Becky is a sustainable business consultant and co-founder of a nonprofit organization called Women in Sustainability. This is the second of two guest blog posts from Becky as we enter the holiday season. Enjoy!

Hello, That Minimal Life readers! I’m glad to be back as a guest blogger as Katie enjoys lots of snuggles with the new little one! I hope you had a chance to read my Green Guide on Sustainable Gift Giving & Receiving and thought of some creative ways to buy and receive gifts this year. Now I’m looking forward to talking about my favorite topic: green parties! 

trash can overflowing with holiday party decorations and waste

Have you ever gone to a party or event and thought to yourself, “where does all this waste go?” Ok, maybe that’s just me, but it’s something I say to myself every time I see events being wasteful. It’s probably why I created an entire business around green events! Waste from events includes water bottles, serving dishes, utensils, decorations (balloons, ugh), table covers, and more.

There are ways that you can be more sustainable for any of your home parties! COVID may change the way your holidays look this year, but it’s never too early to start planning for next year (when we can go big), so here are a few ways to throw an amazing and green holiday party. 

Food & Beverage 

We all know that food and beverage can make or break a party. From what you serve to the clean-up process, a party revolves around the food. In fact, I usually find my guests in the kitchen! While it seems like using single-use is the simple way, there are ways you can enjoy time with your guests and care for the environment with the biggest impact. 

Food: 

caterers pouring soup into pumpkin bowls on white plates
Hire a caterer:

Sometimes you just don’t want to do the work, and that’s OK! If you are looking to hire a caterer, look for one who is willing to use reusable plates, napkins and silverware and not charge a major fee. There will be a little bit of extra charge, but any caterer who prioritizes sustainable practices will be excited to tell you how they can provide quality food and service without the waste! I also like to look for caterers who go the extra mile to provide a menu with local, in-season ingredients. If you do decide to use single-use products, make sure your caterer provides BPI-certified compostable products and not plastic.

  • Pro Tip: If your caterer is not staying on-site, make sure you have a place for your guests to bus their own dishes. 

DIY’ing:

Are you doing all the food prep? Find ways to provide simple, waste-free snacks by utilizing your local grocery store bulk sections (post-COVID). I love to go to bulk sections at Sprouts (local to Colorado and region) and fill up on nuts, trail mix, dried fruits, candies and other items by filling up my own reusable containers or bags. It’s such a simple way to provide guests with a tasty treat without all the waste. Oh, and it’s less expensive, too!

  • Pro Tip: If the store is not able to tare the weight of your containers, repurpose plastic containers from yogurt, cheeses, etc, to fill. The weight of the containers is so minimal that it will only add pennies to your bulk buy. 

If you are DIY’ing be sure to use your own reusable plates, silverware, etc. At least try to use as much as you can.

  • Pro Tip: If you empty your dishwasher prior to the event, it’s super simple to rinse and put the dishes in the dishwasher to run later. So much easier than taking out multiple trash bags! If you don’t have enough dish ware to serve your guests, then ask your neighbors or even ask your guests to bring their own! Make it part of the green holiday party theme! 

leftover pudding in glass jars for a green holiday party gift
Leftovers:

The host is always stuck with leftovers. I can’t tell you how many parties I was left with crockpot rigatoni, and I don’t even eat pasta! My poor partner was stuck with all of it, or we had to (eek) throw it away. Instead, encourage your guests to bring a container with them to pack up any leftovers to take on the road.

  • Pro Tip: provide a parting gift of reusable items such as beeswax wrap or storage bags for guests to pack up items in! 

Cocktails & Non-Alcoholic Beverages: 

canned wine

Serve Cans: Who doesn’t love a good drink at a party?! However, drinks can add up quickly in waste if you’re mixing cocktails or serving wine. Keep it simple! Serve in … cans. Did you know that aluminum is infinitely recyclable? Serve all of your beverages in cans by looking for beer, wine and cocktails in cans! Yes, this all exists. These days, a lot of beverage companies are moving to cans instead of plastic or glass. Check with your local grocery or liquor stores to see what may be available.

  • Pro Tip: Ask your guests to bring their favorite canned beverage to share with everyone. You never know what you may find!  

If you do serve wine in a bottle, be sure to save your corks to recycle and provide reusable or BPI-certified compostable glassware for your guests. 

Compost & Recycle:

various bins labeled as trash, compost, and recycling for a green holiday party

Make sure you are ready for your guests to dispose of their waste by providing the proper waste receptacles. Set out specific cans and label them with Recycle, Compost and Landfill.

  • Pro Tip: Add fun and creative signage to fit your party’s theme to help guests identify where to put their waste. 

Decorations 

Decorations are the next big waste item from events. While decorations provide a “wow factor” at first sight, they are soon forgotten and not part of the “this is what made the party” conversation. So, with a few simple switches, you can still provide guests ambiance with less waste. If you get stuck on creative ideas, check out Pinterest! 

Balloons:

balloons surrounded by confetti

In case you didn’t catch it from the start, I’m not a fan of balloons. They create massive amounts of waste for the environment and are not biodegradable. I’ll be honest, I don’t have a good fix for this but to simply say, please don’t use them. Can you come up with some creative solutions to fix this issue? 

Table Covers:

tables covered in white linens

Instead of using the single-use plastic covering, try reusable (and washable) covers. Not an option? Then use paper.

  • Pro Tip: provide markers or crayons on the table for the guests to write messages for each other, quotes or thoughtful sayings. Have them take pictures and post them following the event to a FB page! 

Flowers / Organic Decor:

green holiday party decor with flowers and pinecone arrangements on tables

With the holidays, it’s easy to run to the store to buy pretty much any type of plastic decoration. Instead, opt to go to your local floral store to pick up some fresh flowers, pine wreaths, and so much more! Allergic to flowers? Pick up some pine cones, small pumpkins or gourds from the grocery store to decorate your home. Simple, organic items can add a lot of accent to any party and give a cozy, home-y feel. 

Decorate for a Cause:

envelope with a red heart inside

I always love when I go to a grocery store or bar during the holidays and donate $1 to put my name on a “decoration” that will be displayed for all to see! You can do something similar to help a charity while having your guests help to create your ambiance. When guests arrive, ask them to donate to a specific cause and add their name to a pre-made decoration to add to your “Wall (or Tree) of Donation.” This is a way to support a local cause and create decor to your event throughout the duration. 

Holiday Cards:

living room decorated with holiday cards hung on the wall in the shape of a tree

I never understood why my parents hung their holiday cards until I had my own home. This is a super simple way to add decorations to your home, enjoy your cards and let your guests learn all about your friends and family. Use thick ribbon to hang from the wall and staple your holiday greetings to the ribbon as you receive them. It’s super simple, elegant and fun! 

Thrift:

decorative items in old briefcases on thrift shop shelves

If you DO decide to invest in a few new decorations for your party, stop by your local thrift store to see what it has in stock. I have found some of my favorite decorations at thrift stores. These places are always stocked full of goodies to make your home look like you spent a million dollars!

  • Pro Tip: Decorations are usually in stock early at thrift stores, so keep an eye out and watch for their “sales” days to get even more discounts on your new-to-you items. 

Do you have other creative ways to decorate your home without the waste? Share some tips and tricks in the comments! 

Other Green Holiday Party Tips

If you focus just on food & beverage and decorations, you are already well ahead of the game to throwing a green holiday party! However, I wanted to leave you with a few additional ideas to take it to the next level. 

Invitations:

laptop with Google on screen sitting on desk

Today, it’s so easy to create digital invitations. Instead of sending out paper invitations that are destined for the landfill, look to the Internet to send your guests a digital invite. There are lots of websites out there to help create and send amazing invitations with a few clicks and no waste! 

White Elephant Exchange:

person wrapping a gift with brown paper and a black bow for a green holiday party

Want to have a gift exchange with your guests? Ask them to bring an item from their home to re-gift instead of buying something new. When I was young, we had a gift exchange at one of our family reunions. One of my great uncles brought a toilet seat with his face printed on a piece of paper taped to it. We laughed and laughed for days. Thirty years later, I still remember this gift. (Side note: it was ironically also the most sought-after gift.) We all have items in our home that may be trash to us but can be another person’s treasure!

  • Pro Tip: Ask your guests to “wrap” all their items in reusable gift bags or recyclable newspaper. 

RELATED: The Green Guide for Gift Giving & Receiving (Becky’s first guest blog post!)

Virtual Holiday Parties:

woman smiling and sending a heart to her virtual companion through the computer

2020 is a year like none other, and I’m sure your holiday parties will look very different this year, too. Virtual parties are a great way to still gather together and have a very low impact on the environment. Whatever you do, stay safe and enjoy! One day we will resume celebrating as big groups in person, and when that day comes, hopefully you’ll be able to give the sustainability pro tips to your guests, too! 

I’ve Been Dreaming of a… Green Holiday Party!

I’m wishing all of you a very safe, happy and waste-free holiday season this year. I hope that you will find ways to celebrate in a safe and sustainable way and be with your loved ones … from a distance. Thanks again to Katie for asking me to guest blog and talk about my favorite topic – sustainability! 

About the Author

photo of Becky, guest author

Becky Migas (she / her) is the co-founder of Women in Sustainability, a sustainable non-profit, and owner of B.Green Co, a consulting company.

B.Green Co, an environmental consulting company, works with organizations in all industries to design and implement SMART sustainability programs to build a greener future. In addition, Becky founded Women in Sustainability in 2019 and serves as the current Executive Director. Women in Sustainability is an inclusive organization that brings together women and allies who are passionate about environmental sustainability to learn, connect and collaborate to create change for a greener tomorrow. In her “free” time, Becky enjoys time in the outdoors with her lifelong partner, Chris. She also is an avid The Ohio State University fan and cheers on the Buckeyes all year long!