By Kim Robson:
This is the perfect time of year for throwing a fun summer party for family and friends. The weather is perfect for hanging around outside in nature with food, drinks and loved ones. But how to do it with zero waste? Instead of relying on lots of overly prepackaged foods and plastic plates, glasses and cutlery that’ll just end up in the landfill, consider these tips.
Decorate with Nature
The best decorations are those found in nature. Dress the table by working with the seasons. Fill rustic tin pots with wildflowers and sprays of branches and leaves. Incorporate bundles of aromatic herbs like thyme, sage, or rosemary; twigs and bark; pinecones; live moss; gorgeous in-season fruits; or interesting produce like gourds, artichokes, dried chilis, pomegranates, or dramatic stalks of Brussels sprouts. Add a few candles and your table or buffet will look stunning.
Bonus: When the party’s over, your decorations can be returned to nature, composted or eaten.
Keep It Simple
Resist the temptation to do too much. Your friends and family are there to spend precious time together, so you shouldn’t be stuck in the kitchen the entire time. Buy just a few simple yet quality items and let the ingredients speak for themselves. A few ideas:
Cheese Board — Choose at least one each of cow, sheep and goat cheeses; and at least one each of a soft, firm and blue cheese. Brie is universally loved, as is good cheddar. Add any combination of dried or fresh fruits, sliced veggies, crusty bread, seedy crackers, nuts, pickles, salami slices, a variety of good olives, and/or a bowl of dried cranberries, and you’re good to go — with little to no packaging involved.
Fruit and Chocolate Plate— Opt for a variety of fresh in-season and dried fruits, and serve with a selection of gourmet free-trade chocolate squares or melted chocolate in a fondue pot:
For a real crowd-pleaser, consider renting one of those chocolate fountains:
Easy, Recyclable Drinks
Wine, beer and sodas are no-brainers, and they come in easily recyclable containers. Add one signature cocktail, and everyone’s happy. For economy of time, cocktails should be made in big batches and served in pitchers or a punch bowl. Try a refreshing packed with fresh fruit, or a sweet, fruity rum punch with a decorative ice ring floating in the middle (use a Bundt pan to make the ice ring and pack it with pretty berries and herbs).
Instead of buying single-use disposable plates, glasses, utensils and napkins from the party supply store, consider opting for the real thing: ceramic plates, glassware, stainless steel flatware and real . They just look so much more classy and elegant, and your guests will take better care of them. At my outdoor seaside wedding, our buffet tables were covered in vintage tablecloths, and they made all the difference in the world.
I know, it soundslike more work, but it’s really not. Clean up actually will be faster. Just make sure your dishwasher is empty and ready to go, and if you don’t have a dishwasher, enlist your guests’ help for a mini dishwashing party! Toss all the napkins and/or tablecloths into the laundry hamper, and you’re finished.
Worried about your good dishes getting broken? Consider buying glassware, flatware and ceramic plates (often available by the case) at your local dollar store. After the party’s over, wash them and donate the lot to Goodwill or a soup kitchen.
Zero-Waste Hostess Gifts
Not the party-throwing type? You’re likely to be invited to one this summer, so herearea few ideas for zero-waste hostess gifts that go beyond the usual boring scented candle:
Olive Oil and Vinegar— Baron’s Market has olive oil and vinegar bars where you can use little bits of bread to sample a stunning variety of flavored vinegars and extra-virgin olive oils. Decant your selections into provided bottles for a personalized gift. Find a location near you .
Wine— Always welcome, and the bottles are recyclable.
Flowers— Ditch the plastic wrapper and use old newspaper instead: zero waste and looks rustic chic.
Crusty Bread — While you’re at the market, pick up a loaf of freshly baked rustic bread and wrap it in a clean, reusable tea towel.
Live Plants— The natural gift that keeps on giving, and you can recycle the plastic pot from the nursery.