A Zero Waste Dinner Party

A Zero Waste Dinner Party

In this household, inviting friends over for dinner is a regular occurrence. There's no better feeling for me than eating and drinking with the loved ones I've invited into my home. I don't think entertaining gets any more difficult when you're trying to live a zero waste lifestyle. Waste can certainly add up if you're not careful though; a little pre-planning will help swerve convenience foods and disposables with simple changes that can help reduce waste and save money.


A beautiful table is impressive but it doesn't have to be overly fussy or difficult to achieve. There's a beauty in the simplicity of a minimal dinner table with reusable and sustainable items. A table cloth, place mats, and napkins; salad bowl, serving dishes, plates or bowls (depending on the menu), and enough cutlery for each guest is all you really need. The rest is all styling.

Place cards are old-fashioned; let your guests sit where they want. If you simply must tell people where to sit, opt for recyclable cards or name tags to help usher people to their seats. If your guests insist on bringing something to the dinner party, suggest consumables like oil, wine, olives, loose tea or coffee. There are plenty of zero waste gift ideas that come in handy when entertaining.

Most of my dinnerware are props from my partner's photography shoots. It's only recently we got a matching set and while it's thrilling to finally have one, we managed up until now just fine without. The higgledy-piggledy look of an unmatched dinnerware is lovely so don't be afraid of making do with what you have; we use our salad bowl for serving dinner as well as storing fruit. If you don't host guests regularly, there's little point in buying more plates and cutlery than you need. Borrow from friends, family, or a kind neighbour, and extra cutlery and glasses can be sought out in charity shops.

Before now I've supplied guests with an assortment of napkins, cloths, and re-purposed fabric; anything to avoid the disposable paper kind. Now I keep a stack of simple linen napkins reserved specifically for dinner guests. Linen is one of the most sustainable textiles because it's very strong and durable; it softens up and develops a beautiful crumpled appearance over time that show they're well-loved and well-used.

A Zero Waste Dinner Party A Zero Waste Dinner Party

Food and Drink

My guide to zero waste shopping will help you to minimum your waste and give you tips for shopping plastic-free at your local supermarket if you don't live near a bulk store. Try to avoid special ingredients you'll only use once or else only buy the exact quantity you need. You don't have to cook up something fancy to impress your dinner guests; often the simplest dishes, cooked well, are the most memorable.

A plant-based menu is what you want to be opting for if reducing waste is your goal. A whole food plant-based diet is the most sustainable and reduces waste on a greater scale that goes beyond your personal kitchen. If you're looking for inspiration, my go-to websites and cookbooks include the Feed Feed, Thug Kitchen (this is good, so is this), and BBC goodfood (try the lemon cake); LEON Fast Vegan and the Mama Eats Plants cookbook has lots of tasty wholesome recipes.

Try to control portions as much as you can. You want enough food so guests are well fed but not so much you'll be eating leftovers all week (unless you want to!) If you do over provide on the food, freeze what you can and eat up all the rest. I've been known to send guests home with another dinner and slices of cake. Any scraps from the cooking can be turned into veggie stock or composted.

Dinner parties are a great chance to use up the bottles of alcohol and soft drinks you've accumulated over the years. Offer them up to guests or mix up some cocktails, alcoholic or otherwise. If you need to buy alcohol or other beverages, choose glass bottles or aluminium cans so they can be easily recycled. You could also flavour tap water using cucumber or lemon, serve homemade elderflower cordial, or make cold brew iced tea with loose leaves.


I've found simple objects provide the most effective decorations that are both welcoming and memorable. Keeping decor low key saves space (essential if you have a tiny dinner table like me) and create an unfussy appearance that's as easy to set-up as it is to clear away.

A few ideas for decorating you dinner table: fresh flowers from your garden popped in a glass jar, a houseplant moved to the center of the table, lightly scented pillar candles, or a foraged wreath for the centerpiece. A sweet way to decorate place settings is to cut a few wild flowers or herb sprigs and place or tie them onto each napkin.

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A Zero Waste Dinner Party A Zero Waste Dinner Party