This time of year can be stressful as is, so planning a holiday party that’s fun AND sustainable might seem overwhelming. 

The key to green party planning? Keep the five R’s (refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, and recycle—in that order) top of mind. And remember: Any sustainable swaps you make are a reason to be proud. Don’t panic if every aspect of your party isn’t the very greenest it can be. 

We promise that with some planning and creativity, you can throw a delightful, festive gathering that’s kinder to the earth. 

  1. Invites

Opt for digital invitations to reduce waste and cut down on the carbon footprint of your shindig. Bonus: They’re quick to create and send, and you won’t have to worry about them arriving late. Do a Google search for “e-vites,” and you’ll find a wealth of free and paid options. 

Yes, email invitations still have a small carbon footprint, but it’s only a fraction of that of a paper, snail-mail invite. A standard email has a footprint of 4 g CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent), compared to a posted letter at 29 g CO2e. (Although, keep in mind that the larger the email, and the more attachments, the greater the CO2e.)

You could opt for a Facebook event instead of or in addition to your e-vite, to make sure you reach those friends who don’t check their inboxes often. 

There are so many e-vite design options out there, whether you want fun or fancy. But if you can’t get behind the idea of an e-vite, consider setting up an event website to elevate the aesthetic of your party.

If your heart is set on physical invites, you can still go greener. Search for a vendor that offsets carbon and uses recycled and natural materials.  

In your invite, you can set the expectation that your party will have a sustainable focus. Let guests know what they can expect, but take a gentle approach. Say that working to be more green is your personal conviction, and you’ll make it easy at your party, but that your guests don’t need to focus on anything but FUN.

  1. Decor

We’re all about festive decor, and there are plenty of ways to dress up your party spaces with sustainability in mind. 

First things first: Reuse what you can, and don’t feel like you need to go out and get anything special. If you already have some decorations up for the holidays, you’re probably good to go. 

If you’d like to enhance the ambiance, reach out to friends to see if they have items you can borrow. Why buy a dozen candlesticks if you’ll only use them once or twice a year? Save money, reduce your consumption, and keep storage space freed up. If your friends don’t have the decor you’re looking for, search for party supply rental companies near you. 

The next best option is to go for natural or recyclable decor like flower bouquets, leaf confetti, dried citrus garland, or tissue paper balls. Avoid classics like balloons or glitter, which are single-use and dangerous to the environment.

Always keep reusability in mind when purchasing new decor. A white tablecloth can be used for parties year-round, unlike the one patterned with snowflakes. (I mean, we wouldn’t stop you if snowflakes are your thing.) Keep a party box with staples you can use not only holiday-after-holiday but party-after-party. 

  1. Tableware

If you can help it, don’t go with disposable dinnerware. If you have enough plates and silverware on hand, just use what you have. Or borrow or rent, like with decor. If you must buy, buy it well and buy it once. There’s no need for different table sets for different times of the year if you go with a neutral design and color. 

Sustainable disposables are your next best bet after reusables. Avoid styrofoam or plastic tableware, which is most often unrecyclable through your curbside recycling service. Look for compostable materials like bagasse or bamboo. But pay close attention to product labels. Many “compostable” or “biodegradable” items must be industrially composted (you can’t just throw them on your compost pile). 

Opt for cloth napkins in a color or pattern that hides stains. Reuse again and again!

If you’re working with tableware you can’t throw on the compost heap or into your recycling bin, you can keep a Dining Disposables and Party Supplies – Zero Waste Box™ on hand to make sure the items will be recycled into something new. 

  1. Dress Code

We’ve all been there: searching our closet the week before a party and concluding that we have absolutely nothing to wear. We simply must go out and buy something new. 

Why not keep your dress code casual and outright encourage guests to wear something they already have in their wardrobe? Not only does this cut down on consumerism, but it will reduce stress for guests. Win-win. 

  1. Menu

The food! One of the most important (the most important?) aspects of any party. Eating sustainably is complex and means different things to different people. One simple way you can be sure to cut down on the carbon footprint of your get-together is by choosing more plant-based dishes. The climate impact of plant-based foods is 10 to 50 times smaller than that of animal products

Buy locally-produced food when possible to reduce CO2 emissions from transport. If you’re in an area where the farmer’s market is still open during the holidays, try to do all or most of your shopping there to reduce your carbon footprint, support local vendors, and avoid packaging waste.

It’s also important to plan the right amount of food for the number of guests you will have. Running out of food is a fear for any party-planner, but don’t pad the menu too much, or you’ll end up with a lot of food waste on your hands. Consider telling invitees to bring reusable containers with them so they can take leftovers home. 

  1. Garbage

Garbage typically isn’t a focus when planning events, but sustainable waste management is key to greening your get-together. 

Plan ahead for how you will dispose of dishes or other party waste. Keep a recycling bin front and center for items that are locally recyclable, and a Zero Waste Box for items that aren’t. Make sure your guests are aware of your compost bin, if you have one, and what can go in it. 

Some people will feel intimidated by having to choose between bin options, so it’s a great idea to put signs above each bin with a list of the items that can be thrown in.

  1. Gifts & Favors

Have you committed to a no-gift holiday? Make it clear in your party invite that gifts are not expected (while thanking invitees kindly for the thought). 

Gifting is a love language, so for friends who simply MUST give gifts, encourage donations to your favorite non-profit. 

If you are anticipating gifts or holding a gift exchange, encourage green gifting and sustainable wrapping methods.

Don’t feel the need to hand out party favors.  Favors can feel like an expectation, but they are absolutely not necessary. You’re already feeding people and showing them a good time! 

Remember: people don’t need extra stuff anyway.

If gift-giving is a joy for you, however, you can gift green. Consider mason jars filled with treats, drink mixes, or small plants. Or, send guests home with flowers you’ve used for party decor. 

We salute you for your commitment to throwing more sustainable parties! Drop a comment below to let us know how your eco-friendly event goes, or to share your favorite green party planning tips. 

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