It’s backyard BBQ season! If you’re hosting friends and family for weekend get-togethers, consider how you can reduce waste and choose food more responsibly. You’ll save money, and your guests will probably appreciate (or at least acknowledge) your efforts and might even adopt them too! But don’t stop reading if you think I’m going to tell you to use only reusables and buy organic hamburgers… There are lots of ways you can BBQ better without necessarily giving up paper plates. Read on for how to host a green(er) backyard party (and where to find the supplies).
Cutlery and Dishes
The thought of washing plates, cutlery, and glasses for even a small party can be daunting. So while going the reusable route is certainly admirable, if you’re going to use disposables, choose them wisely. Look for recycled paper plates without the prints and waxy coating. You can also get plant-based “plastic” cutlery and cups to avoid the chemicals and waste associated with plastics. It’s important to note that while there may be benefits in the manufacturing of plant-based products over plastic, ‘biodegradable’ and ‘compostable’ labels on cutlery and dishes may not actually be compostable – the City of Toronto’s Waste Wizard indicates that ‘compostable’ plastic cannot be recycled or composted and needs to go into the garbage.
Consider forgoing paper napkins, and use reusable cocktail napkins instead. If you do opt for paper, choose ones with recycled content and water or soy-based ink (or go really basic and use unbleached paper towel!). Some paper products can be composted, so check with your municipality or test out a few in your backyard compost.
Avoid single-serve drinks wherever possible. Make lemonade from concentrate (or scratch!) and serve out of a pitcher or buy drinks in larger sizes (if you know they’ll get used up) to reduce packaging waste. For alcoholic beverages, source local beer and wine when possible. There are great Canadian micro-brews and wineries that are worth giving a try. If you’re used to imports, ask for advice at the store to find something that’s good and in your price range.
I have never been to a party where the host has run out of food, or even come close. Never. And yet when we host, we always feel like we need so much more than we really do! Take a little time upfront to plan (realistic) quantities before you stock up. And if you’re worried about people showing up unannounced or eating more than you think they will, at least don’t put everything out all at once. Keep things in their packaging until they are really needed. That way you can return unused food to the store, keep it for your next bash, or freeze it for later. With a little up-front planning can help you save money by reducing waste.
This summer, make a statement with your backyard BBQs and show everyone how easy it can be to have fun, create a great party, and not create a mountain of waste doing so.
And as promised, here’s a quick list of where you can find eco-friendlier party supplies:
Party City has a section of their website devoted to “eco-friendly” party products (and while I think their environmentally-friendly claims tend to be exaggerated, they’re better than nothing).
Greenmunch.ca is an online retailer of green party supplies based out of Alberta. They focus on Canadian-made wherever possible.
Mountain View Coffee sells biodegradable cups, cutlery, and straws from their location at Finch and Dufferin in Toronto.
Susty Party makes responsible party supplies and are based out of New York. You can buy from amazon.ca or in-store at West Elm Market in Liberty Village, Toronto.
(I am not affiliated with any of these retailers, nor have I used them. Not all eco-friendly claims are equal, so be sure to do your research – or I can do it for you.)