Hello Environmentalish readers!
If you have been following this blog, you know that my husband and I bought a house in May. Now that we have settled in, unpacked, set up and have a decent amount of yard work done, we decided to throw a housewarming party. Now, when I say we went all-out for this party, I really mean it. Since we did not get to spend nearly any time with family or friends during the pandemic, we decided to throw an “Alliday” party. An alliday party is a party during which you celebrate all of the holidays together, so we threw one to celebrate everything we missed out on in 2020. We had our party on the 4th of July, and we decorated our house with whatever decorations we had from all of the different holidays we celebrate. We also cooked and baked dishes from every holiday, so nothing would be left out! On top of all that planning and cooking, we also wanted this party to be zero-waste, which would be a big endeavor, but we were excited to try it.
For food, we made a ton of vegan dishes, or vegan versions of our familys’ traditional recipes. We made sure to buy as many fresh ingredients as possible, and chose as little packaging as we could on the non-fresh items. The TerraCycle zero waste box helped us there because we were able to buy Beyond Meat to make vegan meatballs and not have to throw the packaging in the garbage. For drinks, we filled coolers with cans of soda and glass bottles of beer, and I made tea and lemonade in large pitchers.
I set up a wall of trash cans and labeled them so everyone would know where to throw away any scraps or packaging they had during the party. We had a compost bin for all of the food scraps, Popsicle and lollipop sticks, etc.; we had our TerraCycle box for candy wrappers, plastic packaging, etc.; and we had a recycling can for aluminum cans and glass bottles. We had no paper products available, but made sure that if anyone brought anything on paper plates or wrapped with paper towels, that they were placed in our compost. If anyone brought anything in plastic baggies, we made sure they went into the TerraCycle box. We had a can for trash as well, but we kept it in a drawer hidden from view so no one would be encouraged to use it unless they really needed to and asked us where it was.
For activities for the kids, we had an egg hunt, because we were also celebrating Easter. I put some candy in a basket inside so it wouldn’t melt in the heat, and put pennies in some eggs to hide around our backyard. The candy was all vegan, and the wrappers are recyclable through TerraCycle. I did use plastic eggs, but I borrowed them from my mom, which is always a great way to avoid waste. We also borrowed coolers and folding tables and chairs to have enough space for everyone to sit and spread out.
As for setup, we had one counter in our kitchen designated to plates and cutlery, and everywhere else we spread out all of the food. We put out our Corelle dishes and bowls, all of our silverware, and washable cloth napkins for everyone to use. We did not need a ton of glasses due to the canned and bottled beverages, but we put out glasses as well for drinks. Since it was an Alliday party, I used a 12 Days of Christmas set of glasses for the party that each have a different day and picture on them so everyone would know which drink was theirs without having to label them.
Cleanup was super easy. When guests were done with their plates and cutlery, they piled them in our sink, and we just loaded and ran the dishwasher at the end of the night. We also collected all of the tablecloths, cloth napkins and rags we used for cleaning and threw them all right into the laundry. We usually hold onto the plastic containers from Chinese takeout, so we loaded those up with leftovers for everyone to take home.
When all was said and done, we only had 3 pieces of trash. Someone brought something that was tied together with ribbon, and we had a party sub show up with toothpicks that had saran wrap on the ends of them. Technically the toothpicks are compostable, so those plastic ends and the ribbon were the only non-recyclable items we ended up with. Not bad for our first zero waste party! Hopefully someday we will be able to throw a party with zero plastic whatsoever, but we are on our way and I am really proud of how well this went for our first big party in our new home.