Memorial Day BBQs are a time-honored tradition for many Americans, and I personally can’t wait to throw on the flip-flops and celebrate the impending summer season.
As a sustainable product expert who has personally tested hundreds of eco-friendly products, I’ve challenged myself to throw an amazing party without all of the plastic waste.
I was shocked to learn that Americans generate an additional 40% of plastic waste between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It seems all of those summer parties add up to a not-so-festive amount of extra pollution — and with only 5% of plastic recycled, most of it ends up in our oceans and landfills.
The good news is, with a few simple steps, you can do your part to cut down on waste and still be a BBQ boss.
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Let’s start with the supplies…
When it comes to party prep, your first instinct might be to race through Target, tossing plastic cups, plates, and utensils into your cart. Slow your roll — one of the easiest ways to cut back on waste is to eliminate single-use dinnerware.
Instead, look for reusable options like plates and utensils made from bamboo, stainless steel, or recycled materials. I love these stylish Upcycled Bamboo Plates from World Market. They’re BPA-free, unbreakable, and dishwasher-safe.
When it comes to drinks, swap the red plastic cups for aluminum instead or ask your guests to B.Y.O.C. (bring their own cup). I stock aluminum Ball Cups, which can be resued and eventually recycled (infinitely), unlike plastic. To save money, I like to hand-wash these and save them for the next party. Single-use plastic water bottles can also be replaced with a self-serve pitcher of water or even canned water like Proud Source.
Lastly, skip the paper napkins and opt for basic reusable cloth napkins instead. (Bonus: You’ll be able to repurpose them for daily meals and cut down on pricey paper towels.) This might cost a little more upfront, but it will actually save you money in the long run.
How to shop smarter for food …
Another area where you can cut down on waste and save money is food. Try using a food-salvage app like Flashfood to save up to 50% on goods that local grocery stores have to get rid of, or Too Good To Go, which connects you to local restaurants so you can pick up delicious, extra goods at the end of the day at a steep discount (20 garlic knots for $3.99 sounds pretty great to me.)
Consider using locally sourced ingredients whenever possible to support local farmers and cut down on shipping, and aim to choose fruits and vegetables that are in season. They’re generally cheaper and have a smaller environmental impact.
When the party’s over …
What to do with trash that’s left after you fill up the recycling bin and store all of those delicious leftovers in the fridge?
Replace your single-use trash bags with biodegradable, plant-based trash bags like HoldOn or Repurpose. These bags will break down over time in the landfill, reducing the amount of forever-trash. Hopefully you’ll have to put very little in there!
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