Dinner parties don’t need to be wasteful. By now you probably already know this to be true: Lauren Singer has officially mastered the zero-waste lifestyle—from shopping, to traveling, to composting. Now, add hosting to that repertoire. We’re breaking down the essentials, straight from the master, on how to seamlessly host a zero-waste dinner party in three easy steps.
1. Plan Ahead
What You’ll Make
For a dinner party, it’s safe to assume that the food is probably the most important part. Much like you would for your own dinner, you’ll likely want to plan ahead of time what you’d like to serve your guests. When it comes to choosing menu options Lauren suggests considering a theme for your dinner party—seasonal perhaps? “Go to the farmers market and get what’s seasonal and cook in alignment with the seasons,” Lauren says.
For fall, think harvest vegetable-infused menu items like butternut squash soup, roasted corn, and pretty much anything with pumpkin. “It makes people feel nice,” Lauren explains, “and it even starts a narrative of like ‘yeah, I got everything [for dinner] from the farmers market so it’s seasonal, and super local.”
What You’ll Need
Like any shopping trip, knowing what you’ll need ahead of time eliminates buying excess of items you don’t need, and also helps you to not forget the things you do need. So, make a list!
Drinks sometimes require a little bit of planning, too. “If you want wine, you have to go bring corks back to a place like Whole Foods (which has a cork recycling program),” Lauren explains, “for beer, I recommend a growler just because you can have a lot,” and they’re easily refillable. Lauren says there are places that will refill wine bottles, too—you might just have to do a little research to find them.
Much to my surprise, you can still decorate—centerpieces and all—zero-waste. Lauren suggests keeping an eye out for items at the farmers market. She says, “If I see some beautiful vegetables or something at the market and it’s kind of matching with what I’m cooking, or the theme of the dinner, I’ll just buy extra and put them in the middle of the table.” They’ll serve a dual purpose—they’ll look great as your centerpiece for your dinner party, and taste great later in the week when you repurpose them for your own dinner!
One thing Lauren recommends not doing when it comes to decor? Using/buying cut flowers. “They’re just wasteful and they go right to compost,” she says, “the best kind of centerpiece is something you can keep growing in your own home… Like succulents, they’re so beautiful!”
2. Get Your Guests Involved
Make it a Potluck
Hosting a potluck is a fun way to get your guests involved. “You can’t tell everyone to be zero waste,” she explains, “but you can tell them: ‘If you’re going to bring something try to make it yourself, and bring it in a reusable container.'”
To make it a bit more fun, you can even pose it as a challenge. Lauren broaches the topic by saying something like “‘If you feel up to the challenge try making something zero waste, and buy the ingredients in bulk,'” to her guests. “That at least gets them thinking about the different aspects of waste and how to reduce it.”
Get a Cooking Buddy
Lauren suggests inviting friends over to cook with you—this gives them a chance to see how easy it really is! “A lot of my friends have never cooked before,” Lauren says. “I love making fresh pasta. To me that’s one of the best things to do for a dinner party. You can make the dough and then have your friends come over and roll it out. Everyone can even make their own potion of pasta. It’s a fun thing to do if you want to make it a little more interactive.”
Heading to the farmer’s market to pick up ingredients for dinner? Invite one of your friends to come along. It can become an educational experience! “One of my best friends had never shopped at a farmers market,” Lauren told me, “so, I took her with me and showed her how cost effective [and easy] it was to go to the farmers market, buy a few vegetables, make some pasta, and have that for the whole week.”
3. Clean up (…And Remember to Compost!)
Lauren has said (and knows from experience) that a potluck dinner party make for a really easy clean-up. “Everyone brings their own reusable container which you can just rinse and they can take with them. The only thing you’ll have to do is compost, wash the dishes, and put the napkins in the laundry.”
Composting is important, too, of course. If your friends don’t compost, but you do, have them bring their compost over to your house. Lauren says, “I’ve totally said ‘If you make compost and you were just going to throw it out I will take it!’ If it’s compostable but you don’t compost it, that’s horrible.”
Maggie Peikon is a New York native, writer, and sufferer of insatiable wanderlust. An avid endorphin seeker she has a constant need to be moving, seeking adventure in all she does. She is a lover of travel, daydreaming, fitness, thunderstorms, and her dog, Finley. Despite the fact that she has to take medication daily due to a thyroidectomy, Maggie still believes that laughter will always be the best medicine. Follow her musings on Instagram and Twitter.