How to host a sustainable event?

Whether you are a regular person, an event coordinator, or a diehard environmentalist like me, you want to be able to host a sustainable party. We all know why we need to do it. The list is long: climate change, issues with waste management, general environmental health, and much more. However, it is extremely difficult to do so. The need for sustainable parties has risen. People expect sustainability at parties. You may have heard these statements at a restaurant or an event, “Do you have a paper straw?” or “why do you still use plastic water bottles?” Needless to say, the time has come to be more environmentally conscious. This article will give you the tips to help you host, plan, and prepare for a sustainable event.


The first thing you need to consider is waste. Do you have a recycling bin or a compost bin? You will need to find out if vendors or your city have composting services. The city’s waste management can help you if the event is big enough. If your city has these services, the next step is to acquire 3 bins for trash, recycling, and compost.

If you have a fancy event, I would recommend these bins: 69 Gal. Slim Jim Recycling Station Kit, 3-Stream Landfill/Mixed Recycling ~ $307 (pictured below, left). They are reusable, decently sturdy, and moderately priced bins that come with signage. If you have a slightly bigger budget and want a more seamless look, check out Recycle Box Bin Triple Recycling Bin - Large Capacity (25 gal. per Bin), All Plastic, Light-Weight, with Changeable Label System - $399 (pictured below, right). 

If you are looking for affordable solutions, here are some of my favorites below. These bins are an inexpensive alternative to heavy duty bins.

If you have a low budget event and don’t have a city that provides composting services, you can either put biodegradables into a composter like the ECOgardeneror ($69, pictured below, right) or the IM4000 Dual Chamber Tumbling Composter (Black) ($81, pictured below, left). Alternatively, you can just put short term biodegradables in the yard waste bin (check with your city first if it is allowed).

  • If you need help making a recycle or compost sign, here are some helpful websites. 
  1. Stopwaste: This is the easiest to use.
  2. Canva: This website has a lot more customizability and can be used for designing any sort of promotional material for free.


Plates, Cutlery, and Bowls

The second aspect you need to think about is plates, cutlery, and bowls. The most sustainable thing you can do is rent real cutlery and plates. However, that can be expensive. Each item can cost $1 or more. If you have the budget, do it. These services are generally provided by local party rental companies. Search your local craigslist page to find vendors near you. If you want to be sustainable and can’t spend that much, consider buying biodegradable material. One additional thing you need to understand is the difference between biodegradable and compostable. 


Biodegradable means that you can throw the product in the dirt and after a month or two, it will start to break down or decompose. Any minerals or nutrients will be absorbed into the soil. There are a lot of fake claims, check the product to see how long it takes to biodegrade. If it says it can only be composted in a commercial facility, it is not short term biodegradable.


Compostable means that it is still technically biodegradable, but it needs some action to be taken. It needs to go through an industrial composting machine or put into a garden composter. Both of those options either use heat, worms, or bacteria to break the material down faster than just throwing it in the dirt.

The brand that I like to use for plates, cutlery, and bowls is Raj Unique Collections, specifically their Eco - Friendly Palm Leaf Dinnerware. There are a few reasons why I like this brand over others. 

  • (1) First of all, it is sturdy and doesn’t leak liquids. It is not flimsy. Sometimes you will find plates made of paper, but they are lined with harmful Polyethylene (PE), which is a petroleum-based coating. This is done to prevent leaking. The raj plates and bowls are all strong enough to prevent leaks without needing to add chemical liners. The way they make that possible is by using palm leaf, which is extremely durable and can weather intense storms. An added bonus is that they are microwave and dishwasher safe. Imagine how sturdy these materials need to be in order to go through a dishwasher.
  • (2) The second reason is their sustainability, they are harvested from the Areca palm leaves that have fallen to the ground naturally. The tree is not cut in the process, which is a big deal. Do you remember when I mentioned biodegradability? These organic leaf products will biodegrade in 60 days. This is definitely a winning feature for me. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, it takes 20-30 years for the polyethylene lined paper plates to decompose. This is just to give you an idea of the difference between these two products (paper plates vs Raj palm dinnerware). If you don’t want to dispose of these plates, you can burn them. I would only recommend burning them if you are at a campfire and the area allows fires. 
  • (3) The third reason is that they look spectacular. Each plate is made by hand so each plate may have a uniquely different texture. They look classy and have a rustic vibe to them, amazing for outdoor parties and camping. When I was planning my wedding, it was so difficult to find something fancy and sustainable – absurdly difficult. Here is the link for cutlery, plates, and bowls


As for disposable cups, I would recommend using biodegradable cups and placing sharpies on the table so that guests can write their names on their cups. By doing this, they intentionally hold on to their cups instead of grabbing new ones. One really useful hack, which is underappreciated, is to make an announcement at the beginning of the party. You can tell your guests that you are trying to make this event as sustainable as possible, and that you have given them a cup and sharpies so that they can write their names on it for reuse. 

There aren’t too many biodegradable cup options, but many compostable choices. My favorite choice for compostable cups is Repurpose Compostable Plant-Based Clear Cold Cup, 16 Ounce Party Cups, 50 Cups - $16.99 (pictured below, left). They are derived from plants like corn and sugarcane, not plastics. Alternatively, I have found one biodegradable cup that is made of sugarcane, it does not have any plastic in it as well. It is affordable. The only issue I found with this is that they can be hard to pull apart. You may lose a few trying, but that is a small price to pay for sustainability. Check them out: Sugarcane Cup (Case of 50), PacknWood - Compostable and Biodegradable Party Cups (8 oz, 3.15" Tall) PK210GPU8 - $18.36 (pictured below, right)


Decor is the one of the most wasted parts of parties because just like plates, they are generally disposable. The most sustainable thing to do is to find pieces that you can reuse. Additionally, decor is an in-demand commodity, places like Goodwill will gladly take them off your hands after an event. As for flowers, consider buying real flowers as opposed to fake flowers unless you plan on reusing them again. I would recommend against the use of balloons. The following are great sustainable alternatives: Pinwheels, Bubbles, Flags, Steamers, ribbon dancers, blunting/banners, and kites. 


Electronic Invites

Another really great tip for a green event that is still very classy is an electronic invite as opposed to a paper invite. Evites are very inexpensive. The key to the fancy element with Evites is intricate design. I recommend again for designing your invites. It's very simple and easy to use. It has made photoshop level functionality available now for everyone.

If you want to increase attendance at your event, I suggest you connect your electronic Evite to Google Calendar. If the event is on somebody's Google Calendar, they are significantly more likely to come to this event.


Carpool Sheet for transportation

This is an easy win. It is extremely easy to organize. What I have done in the past and it works well for me is that I create a simple google spreadsheet with the following columns: Person’s Name, Type of Vehicle (Car, SUV),  How many people they can take with them, their contact information ,and Where they're coming from. People can then sign up on the google sheet. You can also add a column for splitting gas, which everyone is a fan of. (see example below)

I hope this guide has helped you plan, prep, and host a truly magnificent sustainable party/event. Share this article with friends that are struggling to host environmentally conscious parties.

Qusai Bhaijeewala is an environmental professional with a master’s degree in Environmental Science & Management. He has done multiple projects in sustainability and renewable energy in Los Angeles, Nicaragua, and Nepal. Additionally, Qusai has a degree from both UC Berkeley and UC Santa Barbara, where he also conducted research on sustainability and Oil Spill Response.

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