Celebrations. Just one word can elicit many feelings in us. Joy, excitement, anxiety, and many others. As people exchange well wishes over the celebrants, we can sometimes get carried by the felicity and pageantry of the occasion. Amid the festivities, you can go overboard with the decors and other event planning aspects. And the danger of it all is that your efforts will result in a lot of waste. Waste of time, money, and resources that can damage the environment.
Honestly, the pandemic and quarantine have really got people thinking about less waste in their homes. We’ve had a lot of time to consider what we’re surrounded with and where it all goes!
Also, in the midst of a crisis that crippled our social lives, we realize that the most important parts of getting together are not the elaborate decors or the overly abundant buffets. Rather it’s the way we interact and share moments with each other, in the few gatherings that we can spare time for, and the love and togetherness we celebrate.
But given that we are already accostumed to relating celebrations with elaborate, even over the top planning, we need to rethink our ways.
I asked lifestyle bloggers, organizing experts, home industry insiders, realty experts, minimalists, interior designers, and environmental experts on how to spruce up and plan for celebrations with less waste. Learn from their insights and get inspired to commit to conducting zero waste celebrations.
Why is sustainability important in celebrations and event planning?
According to Youmna Rab of Sustainably-Yours.com, single-use decors and plastic wares are commonly used in celebrations, but the trash generated once the event is over, would not be recycled but will end up in landfills and oceans instead. This highlights the need for sustainability in events.
Holidays or special occasions are usually annual events people don’t think twice about reusing the items at an event. We carelessly throw out things only to have to buy them again in the future. We can prevent all that trash from ending up in landfills and oceans if we were a bit more proactive with our planning.
Though such practice is highly encouraged, the Chief Marketing Officer of avXperten, Simon Elkjær stated that practicing sustainability is a challenge since majority of the people are often tempted to opt for big and lavish decorations.
But it all the more necessary. Making sure that you practice sustainability even during celebrations and events will only make it easier for you to dedicate yourself to the lifestyle even more. Not only that, but it’s also a great way for you to positively influence others and show that sustainable celebrations are possible and just as festive.
And, despite challenges such as traditions and societal norms, doing zero waste celebrations is not impossible to achieve; and more importantly, practicing it can positively impact the environment. Planning celebrations and events –especially in this pandemic era, urges us to go for less waste and focus more on sustainability. Not only are we cutting costs, but we are also alleviating the planet’s problem of pollution, which is detrimental to our well-being as well.
New York wedding planner Katharine Phillips says, “I think it’s a beautiful thing to begin being more intentional with events and our impact on the world around us since they could have lasting repercussions. My experience is that some individuals feel intimidated by sustainability, but there are very simple ways to begin taking steps into incorporating it into even our most memorable celebrations.”
With this, the essence of the experience is more magnified, because the focus is no longer on impressing guests with lavish decorations but rather on the bonds shared by people.
What should you avoid buying?
For Jennifer Porter of Satsuma Designs LLC, in sustainable event planning, people should avoid buying serving wares that will soon end up in landfills. Instead, it is highly encouraged that you utilize your own ceramics from the cupboards and tying in the design theme with recyclable printed details such as fun paper drink stirrers, cup wraps, and layered plate elements.
Commonly, in big celebrations, says Youmna Rab, sparklers, balloons, confetti, and whistles are used but only end up in trash bins. But when practicing sustainability, such things should be avoided. Instead, opt for giving guests something meaningful that will last, and in the end, the costs of such items will not be in vain.
It is also a good practice to avoid using or purchasing single-use items. YouTube vlogger Rebecca Sisson said that the most zero waste thing we can all do is purchase less; so the more longevity and different uses an item has the better.
Another thing that you should avoid is buying foreign goods. So instead of ordering materials online from stores far from you (say, Amazon), you should support local businesses, which can ease the carbon footprint you make in your events. Sourcing foreign goods require a lot of time and carbon emissions in transportation, says Katharine Phillips. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box visiting your local second hand or consignment shops for centerpiece vases or unique decor items.
DIY decors or favors
DIY favors are more memorable since it shows the efforts put in organizing the particular event. In fact, according to Elizabeth Preble of Lavenderhomefront.com, the best decor is made from upcycled or natural decorations. Pinecones, wildflowers, acorns, wood accents, etc. are all minimalistic and pretty ways to decorate. These products can be added to a range of decor from modern to rustic. Upcycled vases, jars, home decor, and linens can be purchased at thrift stores and cleaned/used in a vintage themed celebration.
Katharine Phillips’ chic DIY: incorporating pressed flowers into decors such as table numbers or escort cards.
Youmna Rab’s DIY Favor ideas:
- 1. Homemade snacks – like cookies, biscuits or brownies – everyone loves snacks!
- 2. DIY bath salts – these are so easy to make and will last a long time.
- 3. Homemade candles – they are so easy to make and you can customize the scents for each guest! Plus you can upcycle old candle jars or glass jars to give it a more zero waste style.
Jennifer Porter’s low-cost and no-waste décor and favor ideas:
- Whip up your family’s favorite dessert or snack mix and wrap it beautifully in a reusable container such as a mason jar.
- Snipping flowers and greenery from the garden to make easy garlands and centerpieces;
- Crafting easy and festive fabric, felt or paper banners to string on mantles and in dining rooms;
- using twinkle lights to add sparkle to the atmosphere.
Compostables in DIY (Rebecca Sisson):
“Using items that can be composted in any backyard compost or eaten! Using food as part of your DIY decor is a great way to decorate more sustainably. I love drying citrus to make garlands, which can even be saved to use for any event”
Zero waste items to buy for any event
When it comes to utilizing zero waste items, DIY projects are one of the go-to’s in sustainable celebrations. This may also mean that looking around for materials that can be of good use – things that nature itself freely provides. Then getting multifunctional items to make magic with nature’s bounty.
For Andrew Taylor of Net Lawman, hole-punched leaves can also be used as confetti, and the cost would only be a few fun-filled hours of youngsters punching hole in leaves. Moreover, you can buy the punchers of different designs in your local craft or department stores, and it would actually be less costly compared to buying bags and boxes of confetti.
Rebecca Sisson encourages us to try to think about items you could purchase and use for any event or that have a multifunctional use. For instance, you could purchase mason jars, decorate them with a glass pen or liquid marker for your event and use them as drinking glasses for your guests. You could then wash off the marker and reuse them for daily drinking glasses, storage, future events or the myriad of other handy uses mason jars are good for!
Jennifer Porter also states that besides the item itself, packaging waste must also come into consideration. Try to avoid plastic-wrapped items!
In addition, there are still multiple ways to achieve a zero-waste event, as proven by the services offered by Suzanne Birnbaum, the Founder and Lead Planner of Toasted Events.
a.) gowns in sustainable fabrics and dissuading from practices such as fake tiers on a wedding cake made from styrofoam.
b.) sourcing as much locally as possible is so important. Flowers that are sourced from foreign countries can take several flights from market to auction back to the market – a huge environmental footprint indeed!
c.) assistance in cutting down on waste post-event by hiring services to come to claim flowers for donation and leftover food for donation.
However, the logistics of donating all these items are complicated (many events end late at night so storage and transport is a factor), so allowing room in the budget to pay for one of these services is a huge service to the community but does require a commitment by the hosts of an event.
Tips on celebrating zero waste celebrations
If you feel overwhelmed with trying to fight waste in your celebrations, don’t worry. We have some tips that can help plan and organize zero waste events all the time.
Know what you need so you can get reusable alternatives instead of having to run last minute to grab a disposable one.
Do research to avoid greenwashing
If you need something for an event but aren’t sure if there is a reusable alternative, google it! You might find some great DIY ideas or some businesses that sell that item.
Andrew Taylor says, “It’s important to embrace what we can when it comes to sustainability because if we all just take the easy road, no change will ever be made. Buy products that make an effort towards recycling. They tend to broadcast it loud and clear on packaging. However, a word of caution here: read the fine print and understand what you’re buying. There is a lot of trickery about.”
Let your guests know you want a zero waste celebration
Guests often will bring a gift for the host or dessert. Let them know you want a
zero waste celebration so they can stick to that rule as well
Use what you have or borrow
Family members with barely used fine china or silverware sitting in their cabinets? Bring it all out to set each table uniquely! Borrow what people already have to create a true zero-waste celebration.
Zoom celebrations are on the rise and that means just one fun décor room, nice food that is consumed, and virtual experiences that leave no waste.
When it comes to celebrations, let us not get lost in the frenzy of preparations, in the sparkle and the splendor of favors and decors. Rather, let us remember the point of the celebration – feasting to send salutations to achievements, to life and for the love of camaraderie. Time together is the real gift!
Above all, we should not neglect the environment during the celebration. It is our duty to ensure that future generations can enjoy and celebrate in our world. We should not let nature suffer from our wasteful practices when we can honor it by celebrating with respect and care.