Sustainable events at home

Learn how to host low-waste and eco-friendly events yourself!

From family picnics and birthday BBQs to potluck dinners and house parties, follow these tips to lower the environmental impact of the next event you host.

1. Choose reusable tableware

If you don’t have enough plates, bowls or glasses for all party guests, there’s no harm in asking them to bring their own! Otherwise, you can head to your nearest op shop to find some cheap new additions. This prevents you having to buy brand new crockery and cutlery that you’ll rarely use, as well as nasty disposable plates and cups that will go straight to landfill.

2. Invest in reusable or plant-based decorations

If you’re a regular party host and want to make your party something special, there are a heap of DIY or second-hand decoration options. Find second-hand jars to place candles in for a dinner party and decorate the table with flowers or small branches from fallen trees. A pretty tablecloth or picnic rug is a great choice with plenty to be found at op shops while scraps from fabric stores also have great potential. Say goodbye to balloons with reusable bunting that’s easy to string up and make yourself from fabric scraps. Lastly, solar powered fairy lights are perfect for setting the mood at a night-time picnic, backyard BBQ or house party.

Close up of round glass jar with stems of lavender arranged in it. The jar is sitting on a white doily.

Image above: Pick some flowers from the garden and place in jars to make your table setting feel warm and inviting.

3. Prepare vegetarian and locally-sourced food

Making dishes from vegetarian, local, and in-season ingredients will reduce the overall carbon footprint of your party, through eliminating emissions from livestock and lowering emissions associated with transport. An even better option is to try a recipe with home-grown veggies and herbs from your garden, from your neighbour, or to use up those ingredients from the back of the pantry.

4. Avoid over catering

For a stress-free party, ask your guests to bring a plate of homemade food themselves, allocating each person to a dish so there are no double-ups. If you’re the type to prepare a full menu yourself, make sure your guests know not to bring a thing, so you don’t end up with a dinner fit for twice as many people (and twice as much food waste).

A skewer of glistening mushroom pieces cooking on a round barbeque with an overgrown garden in the background

Image above: Can you believe that kebab is 100% mushroom? This recipe was tested out as an action in the Green Impact toolkit.

5. Bin it right

Write or print out signs of bin ‘dos and don’ts’ to remind your guests what can and can’t go in the recycling, landfill and green bins. Cans and glass bottles – recycling, lids, serviettes and any food packaging with grease or food residue – landfill, and food scraps – green bin or compost. Check your local council’s website to remind yourself what can and can’t go in each bin. You can download and print out the University's Recycling and Landfill signs if your council follows the same rules.

6. Eat your leftovers!

Store food and drinks correctly during and after your event so you can safely enjoy leftovers over the next few days. If there’s a large amount of food leftover, make sure all guests take home some leftovers so everything gets eaten and nothing is wasted. A handy tip is to bring dishes in reusable containers so they’re just as easy to take home again and avoid plastic cling wrap by using beeswax food wraps instead.

7. Be gift wrap-smart

For birthday celebrations, if you have a present you want to wrap, reuse old wrapping, newspaper, or even Who Gives a Crap toilet paper if you buy it. Fabric tied up with string or ribbon, gift boxes and gift bags are great as they can be reused by the receiver. If you still feel as though you need to use traditional wrapping paper, buy recycled paper that is also recyclable.

Birds eye view of three small square presents stacked on top of each other on a dark wooden table. They are each wrapped in blue, pink and purple patterned paper with white string.

Image above: Does this wrapping paper look familiar? These presents were wrapped with reused toilet paper roll wrapping from Who Gives a Crap.

8. Keep up the momentum!

Learn more about all the ways you can host more sustainable events by downloading our Sustainable Events Guide. The guide provides more examples of sustainable catering options, ways to reduce waste, sustainable gift ideas, and how to transfer your learnings to running University events on campus.