Net Impact Bristol event #5 – Zero Waste Christmas Party

This write-up has been taken from the Sustainable Sidekicks blog. Sustainable Sidekicks is sustainable events consultancy that helped us with developing the event. 


Last week we assisted Net Impact Bristol, a network of sustainable professionals, host a ‘zero waste’ party. We thought we’d share some of the great elements that made this a really memorable evening, where new friendships were struck and great advice exchanged.

These ideas can be used for parties, work events and meetings alike!

Choose a sustainable venue with good ethical credentials

We chose Co-exist at Hamilton House in Stokes Croft Bristol. Hamilton House was a disused office space that has transformed into a community space that ‘empowers members of the community on Stokes Croft to lead its development and has incubated new creative projects and social businesses from conception to sustainability’. Co-exist’s ethos fits perfectly with Net Impact as it’s a social enterprise, founded as a community interest company based on a philosophy of open hearted and active engagement.

Upcycle household items

A limited budget and the zero waste theme gave us the licence to get creative!  The team came up with lots of ingenious ideas to create a festive theme, without purchasing anything new and with no tinsel in sight!

  • Table lights – Jars and cans make great candle holders
  • Drinking vessels – Jars and bottles can be used for this too
  • The bar – The Co-exist bar is actually made from old pallets
  • The tree – A branch placed in a whisky bottle garnished with dried oranges created an original festive feel. 

Find refillable drink options

We were able to run our own bar so had planned to buy a large reusable barrel of cider. However, it was more practical for mulled cider to get it in reusable containers. So we went to the local cider shop and bought cider by the litre in reusable containers.20141217_191219

Other reusable options:

  • If we had wanted beer we could have also got swing bottles filled at a local micro-brewery.
  • Reusable barrels of cider can be returned to shops or breweries.  

Minimise washing up & single-use waste

For drinks, we asked guests to bring a vessel for their mulled cider. This minimised our washing up and need for disposable items.

For food, we ordered finger food that was served on platters in the middle of the tables. There were no plates or cutlery, just napkins. Sharing platters around the table added to the networking, sharing and party atmosphere (even though people only knew one or two people in the room).

Seek out local food suppliers

Our 80 % vegetarian buffet was supplied by the Surplus Supper Club, part of Fareshare SouthWest that diverts surplus food from being wasted by the food industry. 20141217_123430

This was completely on theme and gave us a chance to briefly highlight and discuss the food waste debate. However, it did mean we had items that came in lots of packaging (though better in our bellies than in the bin in packaging).

People took leftover food home with them so there was minimal food waste at the end.

Other zero-waste catering ideas:

  • Ask all guests to bring a homemade item
  • Buy all olives, cheese and meat from local suppliers taking your own reusable containers along
  • Prepare seasonal salads and vegetable based dishes from vegetables from a local grocer, farm shop or veg box
  • Make your own popcorn from popping corn
  • Only order 80% of food required. Caterers generally over cater for buffets!
  • Minimise your carbon footprint by going vegetarian or mostly meat-free
  • Tell guests to bring a sandwich box for leftovers.

Presence NOT presents

Since consumerism is on over-drive at Christmas time, we were keen to create a safe haven that valued the gift of sharing knowledge and advice rather than a silly secret Santa.

So we asked guests to share one piece of advice they had received this year. The quotes were placed on our advice tree.20141217_190229

Some of the quotes included:

  • People won’t remember what you said, they won’t remember what you did; they will remember how you made them FEEL.
  • To succeed in life you need three things: a wishbone, a backbone, and a funny bone.
  • The WHY is bigger than the HOW. Know WHY, and it will happen.
  • When giving a talk to (for example) 40 people for 1 hour, remember you are responsible for 40 human hours. Use them wisely!
  • Find something you love, then do all that you can to do this as your job.

Reduce and reuse paper waste

This was a ticketed event but we turned off all the print notifications on Eventbrite and specifically reminded guests not to print tickets. Instead, we used an ipad to sign people in when they arrived.

We re-used scrap paper for drink vouchers and tags for the advice tree.

Rather than printing out any new materials for the advice tree we cut out quotes from magazines and reused a collection of postcards.

Inspire your guests

People really bought into the zero waste theme with 2/3rds of guests bringing their own vessels. What’s more people actually cheered about the lack of cutlery!

Our pre-dinner speaker was a thought-provoking change maker, Melinda Watson from Raw Foundation, who highlighted her journey from packaging designer to anti- plastic campaigner, as well as the perils of plastic for the environment and health.

Be the change you want to see – practical actions will serve to inspire your guests to think about their waste footprint.

Take action

So if you have a party coming up why don’t you take steps to go zero-waste. Look for ethical, sustainable venues and collaborators; choose refillable, reusable options; get creative and upcycle and finally inspire your guests to get involved.

Follow @netimpactbris to stay up-to-date with our latest news and events.

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