Eco-Friendly Swaps for a Greener Restaurant

Eco-Friendly Swaps for a Greener Restaurant

Embrace Your Passion for Going Green

A few years ago, I hosted my husband’s 50th birthday party at our house. While I really wanted to throw a zero-waste party, I’ll admit I was a little self-conscious about being seen as the “crazy recycling lady.” Nowadays, I’m totally cool with it – in fact, I think people expect it from me. My point is, don’t feel bad about asking your guests to compost their food waste or reuse their plates and napkins all night. Embrace your passion for trying to live greener!

An easy way to make sure your guests are aware of your zero-waste party efforts is to post a few signs around the event. In the past, I’ve printed out a quick note, put it in an empty frame I had on hand, and placed it in a few key spots – on the food table, the drink table, and near the trash/recycling bins. This way, everyone knows what you’re going for, and they can do their part to help make it a success.

Ditch the Disposables

The heart of any party is the food, right? Whether you’re going all out with a full-on feast or just serving a few snacks, it’s easy to make zero-waste party choices. One of the goals when purchasing food for your party is to keep packaging waste to a minimum.

One way to do that is to buy in bulk versus small individual containers. Plus, if you stock up on bulk items, you can always save and/or freeze the extra for family dinners or your next party. I’m notorious for letting food go bad, so lately I’m loving my FoodSaver – it’s saved me from tossing so much food!

Purchasing foods produced or grown locally is another eco-friendly swap. Shopping at a local farmers market often means nothing is wrapped in plastic (no more shrink-wrapped veggies!), and meats may be simply wrapped in butcher paper. In addition, buying local helps reduce the distance products have to travel to get to you, conserving natural resources in the process.

If meat is on your party menu, aim for pasture and/or humanely raised options. These practices are not only better for the animals themselves, but they also use methods that are better for the environment, like skipping pesticides or antibiotics.

When it comes to drinks, go for larger beverage bottles instead of lots of single-serve options. Depending on what you’re serving, this may or may not be possible, but in general, it’s an easy swap that gets you one step closer to a zero-waste party. For example, if you’re serving soda, consider buying the large 2-liter bottles instead of mini plastic bottles. And if you’re serving water, offer a pitcher of ice water instead of individual plastic bottles.

For beer and wine, support breweries and wineries that prioritize sustainability. This can mean their processes reduce waste or protect the environment in some way. And again, supporting local businesses cuts down on the fuel costs to get their goods to you.

For example, I’ve tried Brooklyn Brewery’s Brooklyn Lager and thought it was great. They’re a New York-based company that supports their local community and the environment through a variety of green initiatives. I’ve also enjoyed Fat Tire from New Belgium Brewery, who are impressively transparent about all of their eco-friendly efforts on their website.

When it comes to serving ware, the key is to always be thinking about ways you can create less trash. Whether you’re serving a yummy cheese dip, a charcuterie platter, or chicken wings, opt for reusable plates and platters made of durable materials like wood or ceramic. This rustic serving tray would fit right in at the fanciest dinner party or a casual get-together.

And just like with serving trays and platters, the key to a zero-waste party when it comes to cups and glasses is to go with the real thing. However, if breaking out your normal drink glasses doesn’t work for you (or you don’t have more than a 12-piece set), there are lots of inexpensive glassware options you can purchase. For one of our parties, I picked up a few very affordable packs of glasses from Ikea.

If broken glass is a concern and you really feel more comfortable with plastic cups, there are lots of reusable, BPA-free versions on the market. I’m a big fan of the cups from Preserve – they’re made from 100% recycled plastic and are also 100% recyclable.

For plates and utensils, I suggest using the real thing, either your existing set or an inexpensive new one from Ikea, Target, or even a local thrift shop. Get creative with mixing and matching! And for napkins, I know it might sound crazy, but I recommend using all cloth napkins. Yes, you’ll have to do some laundry after the party, but you won’t create any trash.

Simplify Cleanup

To make cleanup a breeze, be sure to set up separate bins in at least one location at the party. And make sure guests know what goes into each with easy-to-read labels. For example, set up one bag for cloth napkins, another for recyclables, and one for trash. You should also create a designated area for guests to drop off their reusable plates, cups, and utensils – maybe a bin on the counter or next to the kitchen sink.

And for any trash that does end up in the landfill, consider using eco-friendly trash bags that aren’t made of plastic. I love these options from Hippo Sak.

Going Green Doesn’t Have to Be Hard

You are all set to throw a zero-waste party – or one that’s pretty darn close! Don’t feel like you have to make all the changes at once, though. Take on a few of them and see how it feels. Any steps you take toward a greener event are worth it.

By the way, if you’re hosting an event at El Bahia, a Moroccan restaurant in New York City, they’d be more than happy to work with you on eco-friendly options. Their team is committed to sustainability and would love to help you plan a party that’s easy on the planet.

So go forth and party on – guilt-free! Your guests (and Mother Nature) will thank you.

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