In this article, Scott Hawthorne from waste management specialists Skip and Bins shares his tips for keeping waste low when planning a relaxing brunch.
As lockdown lifts and summer approaches, you're no doubt excited to start making plans with a few of your closest friends for a long-overdue brunch. But, if you're one of the millions of Brits who have been making steps to reduce their waste and live more sustainably, you might be concerned about the amount of waste a brunch can produce.
In the UK alone, we throw away 6.6 million tonnes of household food waste every year (WRAP), as well as 2.2 million tonnes of plastic packaging waste (WRAP), a lot of which could have been avoided. Even small steps can make all the difference, so it’s important we all do our bit to cut back on our waste and help the environment.
Fortunately, with just a few simple swaps and some careful planning, you can put together the perfect low-waste brunch that is sure to delight your guests while ensuring you're doing your bit to protect the planet. Below, I'll share five of the best tips for pulling it off.
Send out environmentally friendly invites
The key to a good party is preparation and sending out invites to your brunch can really add to the sense of occasion. But, instead of using paper invitations, why not opt for an eco-friendly option and send them via email instead? You can still make them look beautiful by using an online graphic design tool, or by using a pre-made template.
Sending out electronic invites also provides a great opportunity to explain why you chose to forgo the paper. You can even offer some tips for how your guests can help you keep things low waste, for example by skipping gifts or bringing their own containers to take leftovers home.
Choose eco-conscious food and drink
One of the main focusses of brunch is all that tasty food, so it's good to know that you don't have to sacrifice any of your favourites to limit the amount of waste you produce. Instead, you just need to make a few conscious swaps, like opting for loose-leaf tea rather than bagged and coffee from UK-based roasters.
Zero-waste shops are good places to source nibbles like dried fruit, nuts, and cereals — you simply take your own containers and fill them up, then pay by weight. It's also a good idea to look for locally grown ingredients and try to provide lots of veggie options to cater to all tastes, to ensure that plenty gets eaten.
When deciding where to source food for your low-waste brunch, I'd recommend choosing somewhere local to keep carbon emissions low. Look for shops, greengrocers, butchers, and bakeries that are within walking distance of your home, especially if they make their produce on site or source it from local farmers. If there's nowhere nearby, try to choose a store that is easily accessible by public transport so you can leave your car at home for the day.
Make use of what you already have
Instead of buying extra tableware and crockery for your low-waste brunch, why not make use of what you already have and get out your prettiest tableware for the occasion? If you don't have enough plates, teacups, and serving platters, you could ask your friends to bring their own along so you don't need to buy anything extra.
If you do buy more, make sure you're investing in a set that you're going to use for years to come. It's worth paying a little bit extra up-front for high-quality pieces that are less susceptible to breaking or chipping, as you won't have to throw them away and replace them as often.
Look for low-waste decorations
Party decorations can really set the scene for your brunch get-together, but they are often cheaply made from flimsy materials. If you look for centrepieces and garlands made from naturally sturdy materials like wood and metal, you can re-use them as many times as you like and limit what you throw away — plus they'll add a more luxe feel to your décor than paper or plastic.
Of course, flowers make great decorations as they're organic, natural materials, so they're completely compostable. Another option to consider includes seashells for a beach-themed event, as they can either be glued into an attractive wreath or threaded onto string, with accompanying glass bottles filled with coloured sand. This is your chance to get creative!
Reduce what you throw away
Making more conscious choices with your party supplies means you should have very little waste to throw away at the end of your brunch, so your main focus after the event will be deciding what to do with any leftover food. You could consider supplying some tubs or food bags so your guests can take away a selection of leftovers with them as a party favour, or assess what's left and see if anything can be repurposed into another meal.
Most food scraps are compostable so anything you can't eat can be added to your compost bin so you can use them to feed the plants in your garden instead.
Brunch with your friends is definitely something to look forward to as lockdown lifts. But if you're worried about making your get-together as sustainable as possible, the tips in this guide can help you take a more low-waste approach.