My husband and I committed early on in our relationships to be people who throw good parties. We're Christians and we see throughout the Bible that God calls His people to celebrate. To celebrate with food, community, rest, and joy. We decided that we would develop the habit of throwing good parties often. As I began to adopt a more minimal waste lifestyle a couple years into our marriage, the challenge of maintaining my commitment to (and love for) throwing parties while also limiting my waste was heavy. But both those things are values I refuse to let slide, and so we've begun to figure out how to have our cake and eat it, too.
The key to throwing a minimal (or zero) waste party is to adjust your expectations and plan ahead. I grew up hosting a lot of parties as a kid, but they usually included bags of chips, cans of pop, tons of candy or cookies, and sometimes decorations. Our parties don't look much like that anymore.
First: Just don't buy disposable, paper products. It's not necessary. Just don't do it. If you really want to commit to a minimal waste lifestyle, you'll have to do more dishes (or use your dishwasher more). But that's okay! Reusable things are more classy anyway. I think that the ton of a party shifts when you offer people real wine glasses and ceramic plates. Things might get broken and you'll definitely have a lot of dishes, but that's part of life in community. If you really hate doing dishes, do what my husband does and just ask your guests to wash their own or load them in the dishwasher for you. It might make me cringe every time, but it gives people a sense of responsibility and usually, people are happy to help the people throwing a great party. (If you really cannot commit to no single use items, considering purchasing ones that are compostable and setting out a bin for people to put them in when they are done. Then just compost the items through your cities compost program or find someone else to compost them for you. Check out the products at the end of the post for some suggestions.
Second: Make things from scratch. This can be the time-consuming part, but it is so satisfying. When you feed them fresh baked cookies from scratch rather than the premade, wrapped in plastic kind. For me, the preparation and intention behind a party speaks to my love for the people who are coming and also my love for the earth. If you don't know how to cook/bake, ask people to bring something homemade to share, or find a friend who will come and help you. If you learn to buy your ingredients in bulk with your own containers, you really could throw a zero waste party pretty easily! For some of my favorite recipes for parties check out the recipe page here.
Third: If you drink alcohol or at least want to offer it to your guests, try buying beer in growlers from a nearby brewery. Buy wine in boxes. I know the association of boxed wine for many people is trashy wine for trashy people, but I'm here to attempt to put that to rest. Many boxed wines are as good, if not better than their bottled companions. Plus, boxed wine is generally more environmentally friendly. Bota Box is one of my favorite brands and features boxed wines that have 100% recyclable packaging (including the spout!). Their wines are delicious and the cardboard is more easily recycled than glass bottles.
Fourth: Decorate with plants or flowers. Purchasing cut flowers that are rainforest alliance certified is one way to add a little beauty to your party without the earth suffering. Or better yet, grow some in your own yard and cut them whenever you need!
Throwing a minimal waste party is so manageable with a little time and intentionality. It can also be a great conversation starter when someone asks you for a paper napkin and you hand them a cloth one. In my experience, people love seeing someone make intentional efforts toward caring for the environment. Try making your next party minimal waste and see how it goes!