Bring in the New Year in true sustainable style with a plastic-free party, low-waste food and some socially conscious spirits. Sustainable lifestyle writer Jil Carrara shares her tips for throwing a party that won’t hurt the planet.
As the end of the year (and decade) approaches, people everywhere are busy planning what they are going to wear, what parties to attend and who to celebrate midnight with. This year, you might have decided that you want to throw your own party, and to do so as you intend to live the next decade – sustainably.
Once you’ve sent the evite (no trees were harmed in the making) what comes next? Traditionally, New Year’s parties are filled with glossy silver and gold party poppers, balloons, confetti and a myriad of plastic hats and glasses with the date of the new year written across them. It’s safe to say it’s not the most planet-friendly of celebrations. With this in mind, there are definitely a few things you can do to make your own party less wasteful and still be the hostess with the (eco) mostess.
To decorate your place, re-use some Christmas decorations such as fairy lights and hang them over the table, or add them into jars to make some pretty light displays. For the table you can lay out some silver and gold glass baubles, candles, DIY some cardboard stars and paint them as well as a paper banner saying ‘Happy New Year’ (you can re-use these next year too).
You could also make some cookies and ice them New Year’s Eve-themed to lay out on the table – they’re guaranteed to be gone by end of night! For a touch of nature, collect some nice pine branches or pretty leaves that you can assort into small glass vases on the table. In addition, you could ask your friends if they still have any leftover decorations you could reuse. This might go without saying, but avoid setting the table with any single-use plastic plates, cutlery and straws. No one likes doing the dishes on January 1st, but you will wake up feeling a lot better knowing that you haven’t added any plastic waste to the planet.
When it comes to drinks, there are a few brands out there making sustainable spirits. One of my favourites is Foxhole Spirits, who make their gin from surplus grapes from the supermarket supply chain that would have otherwise gone to waste, and reclaimed English-grown grape skins. For a non-alcoholic option, you have Senser Spirits, who make apoptogenic plant-based drinks that are super rich in flavour and absolutely delicious. When the clock strikes midnight, it’s all about toasting with something sparkly and for that there is the plant-based and organic Artigianale, which is also made using 100% renewable resources.
For the dinner menu, thinking ahead and buying locally and, if possible, organically would be ideal. Make sure to prepare a good old-fashioned shopping list with the exact amounts needed for the recipes, so you don’t end up panic buying too much.
The holiday season is known to produce high amounts of food waste, only adding to the 70,000 tonnes of food wasted in the UK each year. With any dinner parties, having leftovers is almost a given, because what’s worse than having your guests leave your party hungry and drive to the nearest fast food chain afterwards? Have a few clean tupperwares at the ready to store leftovers in for the next days, and you can even hand them out to some of your guests as sustainable party favours. In terms of desert, I’ve always found that having a small treat for each guest works out better than having one huge three-layered cake which will be delicious no doubt, but will inevitably be left over after the scrumptious meal you have prepared.
What to wear
Wear something old to ring in the New Year. If you don’t have anything that will fit the bill then borrow from a friend that has an especially sparkly closet, or even better, rent something! There are so many options that can help you make a more sustainable and even last-minute decision when it comes to the dress, before you panic buy a single-use outfit on the high street. While being the preferred New Year’s Eve style staple, sequins are usually made from plastic which, at the end of their lifecycle, often end up in landfills or in oceans where they get mistaken for food by marine life. If you really are in need of something new, buying something you can cherish and re-wear often and looking for a non-sequined option could be a good compromise.
When the clock strikes midnight
In London, popular celebrations such as Diwali and Guy Fawkes Night have often led to elevated levels of air pollution because of fireworks which are full of contaminants such as metal compounds and other chemicals designed to give you the most ‘wow’ effect. While some more eco-friendly options have started to surface, they are still not completely pollution free, so the best thing to do is watch organised displays. If you really love fireworks or can’t get to a display, you could also talk to your neighbours and all pitch in for a couple of the greener fireworks so you can watch them together, which will be better for the planet than if each household were to buy their own set.