How to host a zero waste dinner party

You’ve heard of the slow-fashion movement, but have you heard of the slow dining movement? An increasing number of restaurants are supporting sustainability, dropping the quantity of plastic they use, and the number of non-recyclable goods they purchase.

But when you’re not dining out, you can still join the zero-waste movement by doing the same with dinner parties. From napkins to empty bottles and food leftovers, we need to rethink the way we host at home.

Take a look at our top tips for hosting a sustainable dinner party that not only considers the environment, but will totally impress your guests.


1. Planning is power

Whilst it may take more time, planning your dinner party ahead of time can have a huge environmental impact. Every element of a zero-waste party needs to be effectively planned, right down to the last bit of seasoning. You’ll need to consider the ingredients you’re going to buy, where you’re going to get them from – and most importantly, how much food you really need to buy to create zero-waste.

Consider which dishes you will be able to source the most sustainable ingredients for and how far you want to take the theme. Take a look at the foods in season and conjure up an exciting menu for your guests to see beforehand. Not only will they be impressed, but you’ll know you’re going to be serving up a meal that’s sourced from the best suppliers around.


2. Buy locally and organically

Seasonal dishes work best for zero-waste parties as they are easy to source locally. The source of the ingredients is vital as this is where the trail of waste starts.

Instead of nipping down to the local Tesco, why not take a Saturday morning trip to the farmer’s markets or local butchers? This way, you’ll  know the produce hasn’t travelled far.

If you do decide to head to the supermarket, consider what packaging you’re popping in the trolley, and avoid putting fresh fruit and veg in plastic bags – they will be washed before being used within the dish anyway.

Things to remember when shopping:

  • take your own Tupperware for meat and shopping bags for veg and other bits
  • avoid anything in excess packaging


3. Serving size

We all know how easy it is to buy and cook too much food when hosting a party. We fear that there won’t be enough to feed everyone, when in reality, a lot of food usually ends up going in the bin at the end of the night.

When planning your party, you need to find the balance of not buying too much of each ingredient and providing portion sizes that are the right size for your guests as this will result in less waste left on guests’ plates.

Having large plates is also a bad idea as you’ll feel the need to fill them up. Use smaller plates as a way to over face your guests and reduce waste.


4. Think and drink

Although the food is the most important part of any dinner party, a lot of drinks usually go to waste, too. Try sourcing beer and wine with re-usable bottles – for example many brewers or wine shops run bottle schemes where you can bring your bottles to be refilled rather than using new ones.

It is also better to use wine bottles that aren’t corked as the tops are recyclable. You can even make additional swaps when it comes to hot drinks such as using loose tea leaves in a large tea pot instead of using lots of individual tea bags.


5. Forget the foil

When cooking, it can be easy to go crazy with aluminium foil. If you have anything that needs to be covered or refrigerated, use a cloth instead of things like cling film and foil.

If you’re hosting a large party, or cooking up something new, there may be a few kitchen items you don’t have to hand. However, instead of buying new, many items are available to hire, or you could even ask to borrow some from friends, for example if you need an extra baking tray or two.


6. Spread the sustainable message

It’s seen as courtesy for guests to bring a gift to a dinner party, but instead of letting them create more waste by bringing that extra bottle of wine, why not ask them to bring that baking tray? Prior to the event, it’s best to inform guests of the theme of the evening, which will add to the overall fun and enjoyment of the evening as they may get into the spirit of zero-waste.


7. Create your own sustainable centre-piece

Firstly, you may want to embellish the table with centre pieces and decorative napkins, but there is no reason why these can’t be sustainable options. Get your craft head on and see if you can create your own centre pieces from upcycled materials such as kilner jars, fairy lights and fresh flowers.

If you’re guests know about the sustainable theme beforehand, they’ll be super impressed with your effort.


8. Waste not, want not

At the end of the evening, if there are any left overs, encourage your guests to take them home to enjoy the dish tomorrow. There are also different ways to get rid of leftovers, for example, you could take all your excess produce to a local charity that cares for the homeless.

Have a look to see if there are any similar services in your area who may appreciate them.