How to Throw a Sustainable Party (Tips & Checklist)
Picture the scene… You watch as the last of your friends and family exit and just as the latch closes on your front door an awkward feeling arises in the pit of your stomach.
You turn around and that awkwardness transforms into dread. What do you see?
Plastic cups on every side table, mantle piece and kitchen countertop. Disposable knives, forks and spoons (barely used), piling up on paper plates and printed napkins.
Decorations made from who-knows-what lay trampled in the living room next to half drunken soft drink cans that can scarcely fit in your already overflowing recycling bin.
Who can honestly say that they haven’t experienced this feeling?
That feeling...The small peng of guilt that rises up as you stare down into a bin overflowing with waste that we all know will someday make its way into the ocean.
When David Attenborough pulled that straw from the turtle’s nose in Blue Planet, feasibly it could have been a straw from any number of brunch parties, birthdays or Saturday soirées that any one of us has thrown…
Here’s the thing though…
This guilt that we associate with every waste-ridden party. It needs not exist. We can prevent it, and not only is it preventable, it’s easily preventable.
I know what you’re thinking. Are my friends going to come to my party and secretly bemoan me as an “eco-warrior”, always pushing and preaching my lop-sided opinions onto anyone that will listen.
No, they won’t. They will barely even notice the difference. Here’s a rundown of how to throw an eco-friendly party, how to find eco-friendly party alternatives and how to make your party sustainable without anyone noticing!
Sustainable Party Planning
As any events’ organiser will tell you, the success of a party is in the planning. The first thing to do is write a checklist of jobs that need to be completed to make your party a success.
We have written one giant checklist below that encompasses ALL parties. From sustainable kids parties to eco-friendly dinner parties, green birthday parties all the way to eco brunches!
Zero waste party checklist
- Plastic-free food and drink options
- Reusable party tableware or recyclable party tableware?
- Sustainable decorations
- Props and furniture - Is renting party furniture eco-friendly?
- Eco-friendly party favours? (Small sustainable gifts for party goers)
- Most environmentally friendly party invitations - Email is obvious, but is there an alternative for weddings etc?
- Waste-free party games
Now, you should feel motivated and with a checklist in hand let’s dive deep into hosting a sustainable party!
First stop, food and drink options.
Food and drink for a sustainable party
Everybody has their own taste, so rather than suggest a full menu, we’re going to provide you with inspiration and resources so that you can pick and choose the food that you like to eat and the food that you think your guests will like too.
We’ll start with kids. If your party is a kid's birthday or a party with children invited, fear not. Here are some awesome, tasty, sometimes glutenous sustainable treats for your little ones.
Kids food and drink
Zero waste store snacks -We’re going to put this one in the kids section, but these snacks are adult friendly.
Take a few tupperware containers down to your local zero waste store and fill up! Some stores have a basic selection of treats that include nuts, crisps and seeds. Whilst others have a range of mouth-watering treats that range from raspberry and coconut chocolate balls to salted pretzels and peanut butter balls!
Buying snacks from a zero waste store is fantastic because you can purchase the exact amount you need, with no waste and you can lean into healthy snacks or go full fat!
(As a side benefit, you’re also supporting a small business and if you do happen to see some Jungle Culture products when you go in, put in a good word for us!)
Fruit and vegetables -This can be as simple as chopping up apples, carrots, grapes etc. or as creative as building fruit rockets like below. (Top tip: Substitute the fruit rocket tails for shredded carrot)
If rockets aren’t your thing, check out this blog that runs through a bunch of very simple, easy to make, fun fruit based party dishes for kids.
Sandwiches -Sandwiches don’t have to be stuffed with slices of processed meat filling! Check out this recipe list from the BBC for kids sandwiches. They are easy to make and you can pick up the fillings at your local butchers, supermarket or zero waste store.
Baked goods - Remember being a kid, arriving at a party to find that the host baked brownies? What a fantastic feeling!
Baking isn’t for everybody, but if you like to bake, you can pick up supplies from any zero waste store or farm shop. Most supermarkets have baking supplies packaged in relatively low waste recyclable packaging as well.
Adults food and drink
Most children’s food is simple to make, but party food for adults can range from raw and easy to “do not attempt if you’re not a chef”.
We recommend a bit of both, provide some cold, pre-prepared snacks as well as a few more complicated canapés to show off your skills!
Here is a list of some adult party food, (ranked in order of difficulty):
Charcuterie / cheese boards / vegan alternatives -Pretty much the most simple thing to serve at a party, but very much appreciated. If you’re a meat eater, then any deli or cheesemonger will offer a good selection of meat and cheese and probably some good pairing advice too!
If you’re a vegan then speciality stores across the UK offer cheeseboards delivered. Here is one from Planet Organic.
Pair charcuterie and cheese boards with figs, grapes, walnuts, relishes, chutneys and preserves for a simple, elegant party feast!
Chips and dip -Here’s the thing about dip. Everybody loves it and it ranges from a humble guacamole to an outrageously decadent baked spinach and cheese dip!
Dips are usually pretty easy to make and you can pair them with pita, potato chips, bread or carrots. Here is a list of 25 scrumptious party dips.
Canapés -Canapés are great for parties, but bad for waste. Most canapés served at parties are purchased in small batches from a large supermarket. With a little bit of extra effort, we can recreate that experience with no waste at all. Here is a list of recipes that include some cult-classic-canapes.
Restaurant quality party food -Finally, if you want your friends and family to marvel at your kitchen skills, we have just the thing. Ottolenghi is one of London’s best lunch spots, serving fresh, elegant salads and mezze style dishes with a twist. They put a huge emphasis on creative dining and if you like the recipes you find online, you can even purchase a cookbook for your kitchen or as a sustainable gift. Check out some of their recipes here.
This should give you some options when it comes to food and our advice is to minimise waste by using your local butchers, zero waste stores, greengrocers, fishmongers etc. but if you absolutely need an ingredient that is packaged in plastic, don’t feel too bad about it!
The important thing is that you tried!
Tableware for sustainable parties
It can be frustrating looking for eco-friendly tableware for a sustainable brunch party or eco dinner party. Is disposable tableware more environmentally friendly or is reusable tableware more eco-friendly?
It can be tricky to separate the green-washing from truly sustainable suppliers with every party supply website touting their “green credentials” whilst on a separate page selling plastic cups at £3/per crate!
So what’s the solution?
Whilst you may not want to spend £11 on a reusable wooden cutlery set for every single guest you invite to your house, you could start by buying one for yourself.
Not only does that stop you from creating waste at your own party. It also allows you to avoid making additional waste at other people’s parties. After all, not everybody is as much of a sustainable party-planner as you are.
For the rest of your guests, here are some simple solutions:
Plates - We like palm leaf. Rustic, disposable, but natural!
Knives and forks - If you don’t have reusable options, then disposable bamboo is the next best thing.
Cups -We recommend using glass or if you’re looking for a beach vibe then our selection of natural and sustainable wooden cups are perfect!
Straws - Jungle straws bulk bamboo straws are reusable and beautiful.
Napkins -Unbleached napkins are the most environmentally friendly option here.
Sustainable decorations for a zero waste party
Party decorations add life and flair to a gathering and switching from standard to sustainable party decorations won’t just invigorate your party, it will make your home look chic and stylish!
Candles & Tea lights - Light up your home with a natural candle or tea light. Perfect for small gatherings and creating atmosphere.
DIY Decor -Sounds like a lot, but it’s not time-consuming at all. Think, hole-punching leaves into confetti or folding old cereal boxes into letters. Okay… we admit that DIY decorations may not be for everybody, but if you have time it’s environmentally-friendly and could also be a fun activity to do with your children.
You can even replace rubber balloons with traditional Japanese paper balloons that can be blown up, deflated and reused again and again. And look how cute they are!
Sustainable props and party furniture
Depending on how big the gathering is, you may need to bring in additional furniture such as tables and chairs for your party.
Before we go into the environmental issues of purchasing hard plastic party furniture. Let’s just put it out there… Who the h*** wants to buy stacks of cheap plastic chairs anyway? Bringing them out once a year to see the sun, while the rest of the time they are taking up space in a guest bedroom. Sounds terrible to us!
Clutter aside, renting party furniture may be a better option, but where can you rent furniture for an eco-friendly party?
If you are throwing a big sustainable party or a high end eco event then you can find furniture rental places quite easily. Here is one that has a lot of options.
If your gathering is fairly small, you may not meet the requirements to use a national furniture rental service, so check locally and if you cannot find a suitable rental place, then get creative!
All you need is a few seats. Give your mum or dad a call and ask to borrow a few camping stools, turn an old crate on its back and drape a tablecloth over it. People are going to be having so much fun, they won’t be concentrating on your extra chairs anyway. And if they are… who wants those kinds of squares at a party!
Where to find eco-friendly party favours
Party favours are supposed to be small little trinkets to give out to your guests. Cheap, thoughtful and useful!
With that in mind, send us a message. If you provide a full list of names for your guests we can customise bamboo straws for as little as £0.30/per straw. Imagine, a personalised gift for just 30p…
Or, if you’re feeling crafty, you could always make party favours, and here is some inspo.
How to send eco-friendly party invitations
The most obvious choice for sending environmentally friendly party invitations is not to send them at all. Simply create an account at Canva.com which is a free service and has a ton of invitation templates that you can edit quickly and send out at a moment’s notice!
But not every party is the same.
Not all parties can be arranged by email. What about kids parties? What if you don’t have the emails of the parents whose children you want to invite? What if the people you want to invite are elderly and don’t use email?
There are a range of situations where a paper invitation may be appropriate and if you’re in one of those predicaments, don’t worry. Using paper can still be sustainable.
Most local printing shops will have eco-friendly party invitations available, but if you don’t have a print shop near you, here is one example of an online store which specialises in sustainable party invitations.
The most crucial detail is to use unbleached paper that is recyclable and preferably recycled. If the printer uses eco-friendly ink, that’s great. But using sustainable ink at the moment is still quite rare and expensive (unfortunately).
Best Waste-free Party Games
Party games need not involve slices of plastic cheese/pie, handed out as token rewards to your most brainy friends. Ditch the plastic and play one of the following games from our list of best eco-friendly party games.
Charades - Most people know the rules. Charades is a classic for a reason… It’s fun, easy to set up and requires nothing more than a piece of paper, pencil and a hat.
If you don’t know the rules. Charades involves one person writing down names of movies, books, famous people or any other subject that your particular group is interested in. Separate the words onto different pieces of paper, scrunch and mix into a hat.
One person then chooses a piece of paper and acts out the word with the help of some common charades movements.
Their teammates guess and voilà! Here are the rules in their entirety.
Pictionary - You can buy pictionary as a set or you can reinvent it at home using a pencil and paper.
The rules are simple. One person writes down words, movies, books etc. (same as Charades) and another person picks one from a hat and then has to draw it while others guess what they’re drawing.
To make this classic party game completely waste-free, use the pictionary app and draw using a tablet or some recycled paper!
Full rules here.
Priorities -A fun game to mix with drinking, priorities is a simple game where you ask your friends to rank things based on their view of the world.
For example: Who do you find more annoying, Donald Trump, Piers Morgan or Jeremy Clarkson?
What do you find more boring, golf, snooker or cricket?
The only rules are that the questions have to have three answers and must push the person to rank the answers. You can then ask away and make the questions increasingly more controversial… I mean, that’s how I play anyway.
Spoons -The king of party games and the destroyer of friendships. Spoons is a fast paced game that requires a decent sized table, a handful of spoons and a pack of playing cards.
Spoons are laid out on the table, with the total number of spoons being 1 less than the total number of players. Each player starts with 4 cards and new cards are picked by the dealer and passed around until one person has 4 of the same card. When they do, they take a spoon and the person who is left at the end without a spoon is eliminated.
It’s kind of an adult version of musical chairs. The rules are best explained by watching a game, so here is a video demonstration.
Hopefully you found this checklist and party advice helpful and we wish you a very sustainable and fun party!
The most important thing to remember is that a party is really about people and coming together, so if you didn’t have time to bake treats or make leaf confetti, just remember that people aren’t visiting your home to be fed, they are there to see you and have fun!
If you have any questions or advice on how to make a party sustainable, feel free to share it below!