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How to Throw a Plastic-Free Party for Any Occasion

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I’ll take a party, but hold the plastic, please!

I love hosting parties, large and small, but have never bought into the idea that hosting has to be complicated, overwhelming, or wasteful. As you can probably guess, I apply minimalist principles to my party planning (clarify what’s important, ditch the rest), and I’m sharing my top tips below so you can take the stress out of your next event while prioritizing sustainability.

Easy Entertaining with Year & Day by Shira Gill Home

Food First

When planning any kind of party or event, I always decide on the menu first. I’m not much of a chef, so this often means chatting with my husband about what I want him to cook (ha!), ordering food from a local restaurant or catering company, or just buying a selection of snacks and treats (nuts, dried fruit, chocolates) from the bulk bins. Pro tip: bring your own cloth bags and reusable containers to the supermarket bulk bins and produce and skip the plastic and packaging all together.

When we throw larger parties we make sure to put out lots of food that we don’t have to worry about refilling or reheating. My favorites are huge platters of cheese, fruit, charcuterie, and crudités, coupled with sweet bites like merengues, mini cookies, chocolate almonds, and kettle corn. We also order pizza from our favorite local bakery, and cut the pies into small squares, sprinkle with Italian parsley and a drizzle of olive oil, and display on large wooden boards. So easy and such a crowd pleaser!

Decor, Simplified

No surprise here, but I don’t get too fancy when it comes to decor. During the winter holidays I put up a pretty white snowflake garland coupled with some white votive candles, and large bouquets of fresh-cut greenery. The rest of the year, I just do a few bouquets of seasonal flowers, and maybe a festive felt garland and some paper confetti for birthday celebrations. Pro tip: You can make your own DIY confetti with a hole punch and some leaves, construction paper, or tissue paper. I don’t know who has time for this but it seems like a charming thing to do!

Easy Entertaining with Year & Day by Shira Gill Home

Set the Mood

In my opinion, music and lighting change everything. Have you ever been to a party where all the lights are on and there’s no music? (a solid recipe for human awkwardness at its finest). Are you even at a party? For evening parties and gatherings, I keep the lighting dim and the music low, so people can chat. I always love eating by candlelight, and we don’t get fancy with tablescapes or elaborate decor. Just consider the mood you want to create for your guests, and add a few thoughtful details.

Waste Not, Want Not

Parties can create a lot of waste, so we’ve made a few simple changes to be more sustainable. Essentially we just use what we already own. We use our existing plates, bowls, and serving platters for party food, and focus on non-fussy finger foods and casual bites. I invested in a couple dozen small glass tumblers that can be used for wine, water, or cocktails, that we store year round in our dining room cabinets. For much larger parties, and kid-centered events, we skip the plastic and opt for compostable plates, forks, and napkins. I also make sure to set out a few oversized baskets lined with compostable paper bags so at the end of the party we can just toss everything into our green bin. Zero waste and zero plastic!

Easy Entertaining with Year & Day by Shira Gill Home

Skip the Favors

Do your guests and the environment a favor, and skip the favors! If you simply can’t bear the thought of sending your guests home empty handed, opt for something consumable like warm chocolate chip  cookies in a kraft paper bag. Then opt to invite me to your party because I love warm cookies.

Keep It Simple

The truth is that the best parties I’ve been to aren’t the most fancy or elaborate, they’re just the most thoughtful. As long as you make sure your guests feel welcomed in your home, and provide something good to eat, drink and chat about, your gathering will be a success. And music. Always music. No one actually cares if your home is a little messy, or if you ordered food or labored over a hot stove for hours. Kettle corn, potato chips, some bubbly, and good conversation go a long way in my book. So, kick that inner perfectionist to the curb, and let’s party.

Got any eco-friendly, or just plain useful, party tips to share? Please post in the comments below.

Easy Entertaining with Year & Day by Shira Gill Home

Photography Credit: Vivian Johnson

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