Tips for Better Holiday Gatherings

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   Holiday gatherings can be some of the most wasteful events of the year. Make yours better by using reusable place settings and natural décor.

Holiday gatherings can be some of the most wasteful events of the year. Make yours better by using reusable place settings and natural décor.

With Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings just around the bend I’ve been looking for ways to make each dinner, lunch, and party better for guests and the planet. To make a social gathering extra special requires some pre-planning on behalf of the host. But, when the planning results in a gathering that is less wasteful and more memorable, it’s totally worth it. Here are some of my favorite tips so far to make your next holiday gathering even better.


Decorate with natural elements instead of store bought, non-recyclable decorations. For a natural centerpiece gather pinecones, acorns, small pebbles, and large multi colored leaves from your yard and place them in a clear glass bowl or a ceramic dish. Small gourds or a small pumpkin added to the middle will make for a beautiful, natural, and eco-friendly focal point at the dinner table.


Color pumpkin seeds with food coloring and sprinkle them across the table. They’ll look like tiny fall leaves. Greet visitors at the door with a beautiful fall wreath made a collection of pinecones, leaves, acorns, and berries. Use a wire hanger shaped in a circle, or cut a circular shape from a section of a cardboard box. Hold it all together with help from a hot glue gun.


Choose reusable table settings instead of disposable ones to waste less. For example, instead of single-use cutlery, plates, and cups that are going to be thrown away after the meal choose the more durable reusable versions of each. Stainless steel cutlery, ceramic plates, and glass drinking cups can be washed and reused for years. Reusable cloth napkins, table cloths, and napkin rings are others items that can replace disposables.


During the holidays the amount of waste thrown out increases by 25%. One of the largest areas of waste is food. Let’s feed people, not landfills, by making smarter choices about food when planning holiday gatherings. An easy way to start is to choose a recipe based on the number of guests you’re expecting and purchasing only the ingredients you’ll need to avoid throwing away leftovers. 


Encourage guests to bring their own plastic bins to take leftovers home. The reusable bins can take the place of aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and plastic sandwich bags that will likely be thrown away after only one use. If you do have leftovers, use the food as soon as possible as part of another meal. Leftover turkey could be used to make a breakfast hash with eggs or chili.


Disposable roasting pans for turkey, ham, and other festive meals are very convenient – after all, they are disposable. However, if everyone in the US used a disposable roasting pan to cook their Thanksgiving meal, there would be 46 million tinfoil pans being thrown out every year. Investing in a good quality ceramic or glass roasting pan that can be reused for a lifetime will have a better environmental impact in the long run. Visit for other kitchen tools and cookware that will last.


When shopping for ingredients take extra care to choose products that are packaged in material that can be recycled after the holiday. Our community accepts paperboard boxes, glass bottles and jars, plastic bottles and jugs, bi-metal food cans, and aluminum beverage cans for recycling. Keep paper products clean free from food residues, break down and flatten boxes, and rinse out food containers before recycling.


During your gathering remind guests to recycle and provide them with a recycling bin labeled with the items that can go in the bin. Trash cans and recycling bins should be next to each other in an easy to access area so that all the materials get to the right place. Customize your recycling bin signs by having your kids make them.


Consider cutting back on traveling during the holidays to lower emissions, air pollution, and waste less fuel. If you do have to travel out of town, reduce your emissions by making sure your vehicle tires are properly inflated and that the vehicle is running well. Help reduce the number of cars on the road by carpooling with those going to the same area. If you’re flying, consider purchasing carbon credits when you book your flight to offset the emissions generated by your flight.