Make Your Gatherings Planet-Friendly
Updated: Aug 3, 2020
With lockdowns cautiously easing-up around the world, we wanted to share some sustainable tips for those of you planning future gatherings. Plastic cups, meat-heavy dishes and endless taxis… be gone! Let’s reimagine how gatherings can be greener.
Communicate and be prepared
Sustainable options can rule themselves out in many last-minute scenarios, so it helps to plan ahead. These following tips work much better with two-way communication too! It helps adjust your guests’ expectations and makes them more inclined to support your efforts as the host! Avoid hard-selling if you can... remember that your attendees might be on a different phase of their environmental journey than you - it is not a personal failure on your part!
Try adding a green message to your invite, such as reminding guests to bring their reusable bottle. If each person at your 20-guest event brought a reusable water bottle, you would already be saving at least 20 plastic bottles, which is equivalent to driving a car for 9.2 miles. You could also leave prompts at the recycling corners that you have set up for the event. According to Harvard Business Review, recycling increased by 54% just by leaving prompts near recycling bins in one study.
Invites: Go digital
Make technology work to your advantage by sending e-invites instead of physical cards. There are already plenty of amazing designs online that make the process quick and enjoyable, such as Canva or Paperless Post. You could also consider adding google forms or QR codes to your e-invites to collate RSVPs and dietary preferences more efficiently. This will allow you to quickly scope out how your guests might feel about alternative dietary options at the event, which brings us to …
Food: Cooked or Catered
Deciding on sustainable dietary options for a group can be a little tricky, especially considering the diversity of dietary preferences that might span across the party. Yet, if done right, you can avoid food waste and expose your guests to some interesting dietary alternatives to reduce their ecological footprints.
Food waste is one of the most pressing environmental problems today. According to the FAO, the carbon footprint of food waste is estimated to cause 3.3. billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent gases being released per year. Try to order just enough to reduce food waste – this may take some value judgement and experience, the deeper your understanding of your guests’ dietary capacities and preferences, the better. Remember to get people to RSVP early and make full use of your RSVP forms as a guideline resource!
If the party is small enough, home-made foods can certainly add a homely touch to the gathering, giving you a chance to try some plant-based or meatless recipes hand-on, some of which you can check out here. Don’t forget sustainable savings; cutting meat, avoiding food waste, or cooking your own food could save you up to 30% of your food budget! As with the case of all-you-can-eat buffets, bulk catering arrangements for large groups of people tend to generate loads of food waste as it is hard for the guests themselves to gauge the quantity of food to provide, often resulting in either lots of leftovers or mismatched dietary preferences.
For larger congregations that require catering, try to source locally to reduce transport emissions. You can also opt for greener diets along the spectrum of possibility, from no-beef all the way to entirely plant-based catering. Generally, the more plant-based, the better! One kilogram of beef consumes up to 15,400 litres of water, more than 120 times that required for an apple. For a quick crash course on the ecological footprint of food, do check out this video. If you are looking for an all-rounded alternative, don’t forget up-and-coming alternatives like Impossible meat, which is increasingly popular as a common ground between some vegans (not all) and meat-lovers.
Venue and transport
The transport sector is one of the biggest contributors to climate change - about 14% of annual greenhouse gas emissions and around a quarter of CO2 emissions from burning fossil fuels. By encouraging your guests to shift from private to public transport, you can save between 65% to 95% of their travel-based carbon emissions, according to the Australian Bureau of Infrastructure.
Choose a location that is ideally central to most of your guests, so both travelling time and transport emissions can be minimized with a shorter travel distance. Consider accessibility as well; choosing venues more accessible via public transport reduces the likelihood of your guests taking private transport. Ride-share apps with private vehicles do not count as public transport; recent studies found that they emit nearly 50% more carbon dioxide than one passenger in a private vehicle and also constitute almost half of the total ride duration. For larger corporate functions, you might instead consider ordering a shuttle to pick your guests up from a single location - which can also save them the hassle of finding your venue! Don’t forget to suggest Capture to your guests to help them track CO2 emissions from journeys ;)
Find somewhere outdoors if weather conditions are optimal. That way, you and your party can not only spend more time in nature, but also rule out air-conditioning. The Guardian’s article on the rising pace of air-conditioning in an increasingly warming globe has stated that air-conditioning will consume about 13% of all electricity world-wide and produce 2 billion tonnes of CO2 a year.
If indoor venues are still your preferred option, you might want to factor in the environmental impact of the building into your search criterion. Simply asking the venue owner if they use renewable energy, have any sustainability certifications, or come with any other notable green features should already be able to give you a good idea of the building’s commitment to sustainability. Check out this article to find out some stellar examples as well as what green features to look out for in a venue.
Sourcing your party essentials
Try to go minimalistic and consume only what you need. As a general guideline, look out for biodegradable, sustainably-sourced products with minimal packaging. Decorations could be a chance for you to get creative and resourceful; look around your house to see what can be reused or repurposed! For more tips on sourcing for eco-friendly party supplies, go here. For drinks, try opting for paper-packaged instead of plastic-bottled drinks as parties tend to excessive plastic bottle waste rather quickly. As with food, you may consider opting for reusable home cutlery as well as serving home-made beverages in your own glass pitchers for a more both a more cosy and eco-friendly direction.
An example of sustainable packaging - look out for the FSC certification!
(Source: Lulu hypermarket and Forest Stewardship Council)
Dealing with waste post-event
At the end of the day, you might be a little exhausted from hosting, so here some simple tips to get you through the last phase: dealing with waste or excess resources. Try giving away leftover food, beverages and decorations informally to your guests before they leave. You may discover a guest who is extra crafty or might want a second serving to take home! Alternatively, you can try asking around in your community for food rescue groups like this one here.
Remember, going green can sometimes be a luxury option; whether by time, effort or money, so do not feel bad if you can’t do everything. Social gatherings can be tricky - the payoff, however, of using a gathering to weave greener lifestyle habits into the lives of those around you may be much higher than doing it just for yourself. A positive group experience might just be the push needed for translating thought into action for those already considering a more sustainable lifestyle! Good luck and enjoy planning your green gathering!