A collection of things I sometimes write about. Comments? Questions? Get in touch

Zero Waste Parties

December 14, 2019

Eliminating, substituting and/or reducing our waste from the parties we throw for fun and human interaction. 



I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a host, and being increasingly anti-social the older I get, I hardly ever put on a party, not even small intimate ones. So I am probably not one to write about this. However, I did throw a surprise party with a couple of friends recently, and it got me thinking about ways to do this in a better way. 


So while I may have zero tips on how to throw a smashing, Crazy-Rich-Asian-level kind of parties, I can help in keeping your party relatively low waste and environmentally-friendly!


Not this type of party with intentional flooding and fancy light sticks



Parties can either be small and intimate, or massive and crazy. Either way, the same pointers apply, just at a different scale (and different hits to your wallet!). To simplify things, I have broken down party-throwing into 4 main categories: Food, Decor, Entertainment, and Gifts.







The food maketh the party, at least in my very Malaysian opinion. (To be honest, the only reason I ever go anywhere is for the food.) Being the most important category, it also generates the most amount of waste during a party, ranging from organic food waste to very on-organic plastic waste. So here’s a few things to keep in mind:


Prepare or cater for the appropriate amount of food and plan ahead regarding extras

My mom would always say more food is better (and less embarrassing) than not-enough-food, and that’s fair. However, try not to be excessive with the food. Whether you’re cooking everything or outsourcing it to a caterer, be mindful of the extent of the menu and prepare plans on what to do with extras: do you have people you can give some of the food to (neighbours, family members, soup kitchens) after the party? Can you opt for food that will keep well, at least for a couple of days?


Serve real food
Go low on the  junk food and processed food, and you will automatically escape the tyranny of wasteful packaging. All those chip bags are 75% air anyway. Instead, opt for 'real' food that typically come without packaging and are healthier: fruits, veggies, and anything home cooked. 


Learn to make this platter here



Avoid disposables

The easy thing would be to use disposable paper or plastic plates, cups and cutleries so you don’t have to deal with the hassle of washing up. Unfortunately, easy doesn’t mean good.


Amazing, but not really



If it’s a small party, consider making use of your existing plates and cutleries, and putting in the little extra effort to wash up. If it’s a large party, consider borrowing or renting plates and cutleries, and assigning or even hiring someone for a few hours to handle the task of cleaning them. If you are using a caterer, ensure your caterer is not using disposables, and if they are, specifically request for non-disposable plates and cutleries (besides, it’s way more classy that way!)


If you’re already planning on having containers on stand-by for people to take away leftover food from the party, opt for biodegradable containers that they can them throw into a compost bin.


Set up recycling and food scrap bins and inform the guests

Speaking of compost bin, make sure you prepare bins to separate and capture the waste accordingly. Have a bin for food scraps, and another for any recyclables, both with clear labels (and instructions, if necessary!). Take the time to inform your guests of the arrangement so that they are aware and act accordingly. 


Waste separation station. source





Keep it minimal

I, for one, enjoy planning and making decor for a party, because it allows me to flex my creative muscles. That being said, decor can get excessive and are typically a one-time thing, leading to a lot of unnecessary waste.


To that end, keep the decor to the essentials. See if you can achieve the same effect with 5 things instead of 10 things. Can ambience be achieved in other zero-waste ways, such as projecting scenery onto a wall with a projector, or using lamps and other existing things to set the mood?