With Covid-19 restrictions easing, and people being able to meet up again and make up for lost time, it’s only natural that backyard bbq’s and gatherings are making a come back! Here are some tips to make sure resuming normal activities doesn’t increase your waste production.
If you’re being invited
When someone else is hosting a bbq or a gathering, decisions about the amount of single-use plastic for example, aren’t really in your control, whether the bbq is a socially distanced one where everyone is bringing their own, or whether the host is providing you with everything, you shouldn’t feel awkward bringing your own dishes, cutlery, cups etc.
If it’s friends and family that already know that you are moving towards a plastic-free/zero-waste, lifestyle then we’re sure they won’t be judging you or feel offended by you bringing your own things, but if it’s someone new that has invited you over, maybe let them know before hand. This way you can get a sense of what to expect, and if they do plan on using disposable items, you can explain in advance that they won’t need to count you in because you will be bringing your own.
If you’re bringing a dish to share, use a reusable container with a lid, or else cover the food with reusable food covers (e.g beeswax wraps). Also remember to bring a reusable serving spoon or fork.
Do not feel uncomfortable if on the day you are the only one not using disposables, stick to your ground and if anyone asks explain (without judgement) why you prefer reusables and who knows, maybe at the next bbq you’ll discover that you’ve actually inspired others to go plastic/waste free.
If you’re the host:
For informal gatherings very few people (if none) still tend to print out invitations, so cut down on costs and on paper by simply texting or emailing all the information needed. Include the fact that you would like the occasion to as waste/plastic free as possible, and encourage those who wish to contribute to the day by bringing homemade dishes, to place them in reusable containers.
Food and drinks
Put out reusable plates, cutlery and glasses. If you don’t have enough for everyone, borrow them before hand, or when inviting people ask them to BYO (be sure to have a couple of back-ups available though, as the likelihood of someone forgetting and showing up empty handed is always there). You could also consider eliminating the use for plates and cutlery altogether by serving finger food, or cutting down on the need of a lot of glasses by offering drinks in cans or glass bottles. Yes, it will unfortunately create waste, but it’s better than them drinking from a single-use plastic cup. Skip the straw or offer a reusable one to guests who really want one. Using reusables may mean more washing up, but most people will be happy to help out and at least wash their own.
We always encourage you to use whatever you have at home before going out to buy reusable alternatives that will last you a lifetime, so if you still have plastic utensils in your home, consider using them, but let everyone know that you would want to wash and reuse them. Get a tray or a bus bin labelled ‘Plasticware’, and ask your guests to put them in there and not in the trash (tip: Hide the trash and put trays and bus bins in places that are easily seen. That way the chances of people using them and not mistakenly throwing things away will be higher).
Same goes with napkins, if you already have paper napkins in your kitchen use those, but be sure to compost them later (if you don’t compost, ask someone who does) but be sure to have a bin labeled ‘Napkins’ so people know exactly where they need to go. If you’re starting fresh, and are clean out of paper napkins, either ask your guests to bring their own, or up-cycle old table cloths, or old sheets, and make yourself some cloth party napkins that will be used for years to come.
When shopping for groceries for the event buy in bulk, and consider recipes that could be easily stored or transformed into something else in case you are left with leftovers. Also, offering shared dishes, where someone can decide the amount he or she wants, is another great idea to limit food waste. If you do end up with a lot of food left, encourage your guests to take some home with them, or experiment with new recipes.
One of the biggest sources of party waste are decorations, so keep things minimal and use what you already have or what is either recyclable or compostable. Use Holiday string lights for evening events and use natural decorations like flowers or foliage. If you don’t have enough vases or centerpieces to go round, up-cycle glass jars, and get creative by using fabric to make bunting and banners.
Things to remember
Make sure you label bins and trays so that your guests are clear where everything needs to go (food scraps, plasticware you want to keep, napkins you want to compost, etc) and use plant based bin liners for everything else.
Get your kitchen ready in advance by organizing your fridge in order to avoid food waste, as well as freeing space for what you will need to store on that day, or for leftovers afterwards.
Have a great time!
Having a completely zero waste party is hard, but by following these tips you are sure to cut down on a lot of it! Make sure you use what you already have, and if needed borrow or ask guests to come prepared.
If you are a big party planner and often entertain people (and if you have a big enough storage space), consider building up your stash of reusable party-ware over time by slowly investing in dishes, glasses/cups, cutlery, cloth napkins, etc.
Be patient if your friends turn up with single-use plastic, or highly packaged store bought platters, or trash plasticware you were planning on washing and reusing. It will take time for some people to get into the waste-free mindset, but keep seeing it as an opportunity to start conversations about zero waste/low waste living.