So you like playing Martha Stewart for the holidays? There’s nothing wrong with that, just as long as it doesn’t lead to a lot of unnecessary waste—paper plates, single-use plastic cutlery, extra food that will never get eaten. You can throw an unforgettable bash without creating more garbage for the local landfill if you follow these seven simple tips for a sustainable holiday party:

Send invitations digitally. Sure, printed invitations lend a touch of formality and elegance to any occasion, but let’s face it: No matter how pretty they are, most of them will eventually end up in a trash can. Paperless invitations get the message across in an eco-friendly way, and digital companies and apps like Canva and Punchbowl let you get wildly creative, incorporating animation, music, video and photos into your invites while allowing guests to RSVP online.

Related: This sustainable restaurant will top its pizzas with rejected veggies to combat food waste

Say no to plastics. If you’re serving food and drinks, plastic appears to be the cheap and easy option, but plastic’s cost to the environment is incalculable. If you don’t have enough real dishes, silverware, glassware, tablecloths and cloth napkins for your sustainable holiday party, consider renting or borrowing these essentials rather than resorting to disposable items. Better yet, serve finger foods so guests don’t even need those plastic forks and spoons and buy plates or bowls made from bamboo or palm leaf—they can be reused several times and then composted.

Play Sustainable Santa. Instead of the usual Secret Santa gift exchange, which merely encourages consumption and more waste, throw a Sustainable Santa party. Ask all of your guests to bring a recycled or upcycled gift or homemade items like sauces and sweets.

this photo shows a type of tree decoration for a sustainable holiday party

For your sustainable holiday party or just for your seasonal decorations, handmade keepsake ornaments are both better for the environment – because they’ll be reused again and again – and have lasting sentimental value.

Avoid processed, packaged food. Yes, we all love Doritos – dang, they taste good. But piling guests’ plates with chips and crackers and cookies from the grocery store means a trash can loaded with plastic packaging. For a truly sustainable holiday party, serve real food made in your own kitchen (or a co-host’s or willing friend’s), including homemade dips, platters of fresh veggies and fruits, soups, etc. If you know cookies will be craved, bake them yourself from scratch!

Have a plan for the leftovers. The best plan is to make sure you don’t prepare more foods than you need, but that’s easier said than done. Let your guests take home some of the excess food, preferably in glass jars or beeswax wrapping.

Related: Is your used pizza box recyclable? Here’s how to find out!

Make your own decorations. Again, you’re aiming for zero waste here, so that means you want to avoid the party section at Walmart. If you’ve got a talent for crafts, make your own decorations using materials you already have around the house. If you have no such talent, ask a friend or purchase high-quality decorations that can be reused again and again rather than thrown away once the party’s over.

Don’t forget the recycling and compost bins. Place them in obvious areas and make sure they’re clearly marked. Set them up in advance—you don’t want to have to sort through all that garbage at the end of the night. You can even provide multiple recycling bins for plastics, cans and bottles, wet food leftovers and dry compostables.


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