Hosting a zero waste event can be tricky. From the invitations to the table settings, from the water usage to the food waste, there are so many factors to consider.
Last week, we hosted the first of a new series of events called Zero Waste Dinner Parties. We tried our hand at keeping an event of this scale as sustainable as possible. It was challenging, and I can only begin to list the things we learned. But what a wonderful evening we spun!
Set on a roof top overlooking the Olympic Mountain range, golden hour spanned the appetizers and the main course, followed by a purple haze that streaked across the sky to grace our gathering. We heard from the produce and fish suppliers as well as the winery, to paint our guests a picture of where their food came from and why.
Here's what we learned from hosting this event, and how we pulled it off.
We looked at quite a few venues around the city, and settled on a beautiful roof deck setting in a LEED certified building. In fact, the Commons at Ballard is the first mixed use building to be LEED certified, before they even broke ground.
Rather than hanging posters and sending out invitations, we advertised our event online through our media platforms and Eventbrite. Our community is so connected online, which made it easy to get the word out.
We chose seafood as our main course for its sustainable qualities. Study after study has shown that most types of seafood have a much lower environmental impact than meat. It was also a seasonally appropriate choice... eating seasonally will be a theme throughout these gatherings.
We selected Algrano Fish in particular because it is sustainably focused, a direct supplier, and woman-owned. I met the owner, Jess, at a fundraiser for Global Ocean Health earlier this summer and was impressed by her knowledge about sustainable seafood.
Jess shared with us that frozen seafood is often a more sustainable choice than fresh, which was a surprise! The truth is, fresh fish usually has to arrive by plane to stay fresh, giving it a much larger carbon footprint and making it less, well, "fresh."
Because we chose frozen fish, the plastic vaccum seal bags were unavoidable. We weighed our options, and decided that using a larger portion of fish than most households and opting for frozen made this our most sustainable choice. We used her styrofoam cooler to transport it, which we returned to be reused for many distributions to come.
Planning our menu took longer than expected, and Algrano ended up selling out of one of the fish we wanted (cod), so we sourced the rest from a local vendor at Pike Place. Great thanks to Algrano Fish for the delectable main course and for all the education about what's truly sustainable when it comes to fish.
Our fruits and vegetables came from Imperfect Produce, a CSA style service that connects families and individuals with produce that was destined for the landfill due to grocery stores' strict cosmetic standards. They work with local farms to source good quality produce that is slightly miscolored or has an irregular shape or size, and rescue it to distribute at a reduced cost. We adore their mission, and it was an honor to partner with them.
We chose local produce for everything on our menu, from Washington and Oregon, with one item from California. Our appetizer featured avocado, mango, and limes, and our dinner featured beets, cherry tomatoes and greens.
Wine and cocktails:
In the course of our research, we discovered Wilridge Winery, which is Washington's oldest and greenest winery! Wilridge maintains a biodynamic vineyard, meaning their farm ecosystem is healthy, diverse and self sustaining. I can't wait to take one of their vineyard tours. They have tasting rooms in Seattle and best of all? They have a refillable house wine. Yep, you heard me. Refillable wine y'all. Mic drop.
Our cocktails were made by Infuse Herb, a local mixologist that prepared infusions from our leftover fruits and herbs. The drink of the night was a delicious tequila based drink called Diablo's Remedy: Basil raspberry infused honey solution, jalapeño and cucumber infused tequila Blanco, & fresh squeezed lime juice.
We offered a Vegan option alongside our seafood course, so as we welcomed each attendee, we gave some a Eucalyptus sprig to place on their plate to signify their choice of a Vegan dish (featuring beautiful summer squash).
We were pleased to find out we could use the venue's ice machine rather than buy packaged ice from the store. Another happy avoidance of single use plastic. At some point we ran out and had to grab a bag, so we’re researching Terracycle or other recycling options, and we’ll remember to make extra for the next event.
One of our favorite ways we kept this event zero waste was to buy our dessert package free. We served a variety of Mochi from the coolers at Whole Foods, and it may have melted a little in the heat but damn if it wasn't the most beautiful dessert we've ever seen!
It was a little difficult to keep our water usage low with a full event staff, but we hand washed the dishes and tried to conserve where we could. Luckily, with our venue, all the water gets reused as grey water!
On our table:
We borrowed reusable napkins from a local company and used a mix of glasses from the venue and secondhand ones we purchased from Goodwill, which we'll hold onto for future events. The plates and silverware were real, which gave it an added feeling of class as well as being aligned with our philosophy.
To give ambiance and a fresh summer fragrance, we added some strands of Eucalyptus as a center piece. They looked stunning on the live edge table, and we were able to purchase them plastic-free at a wholesale florist in Georgetown. Bulk euc transported in a reused paper box? We'll call that a win! Plus, we'll be offering the leftovers as eucalyptus wreaths for your shower. It has a myriad of wellness benefits, and a wonderfully fresh scent.
We sent each guest home with a reusable cedar plank that they could use to grill salmon or veggies - or better yet, this tasty portobello recipe! The fun part about the cedar planks we used for this event is that we purchased them from a local lumber company to keep costs down (untreated, of course!), which meant they cut them right there and the planks were never shrink wrapped! No plastic was used in the making ; ).
We wrapped the cedar planks up in a Furoshiki bandana, which could be used as a handkerchief, a bandana, a Furoshiki cloth for wrapping lunches or carrying everyday things, or even to wrap a gift for a friend.
What were OUR takeaways?
Next time, we'll work on the timing of the food, both in planning and preparation and continue our efforts to source everything locally and package-free. But all in all, the event was a huge success. We loved hosting you in this beautiful setting, and we can't wait for the next one.
This fall's Dinner will be all about foraging. It will be plant based, and there will be more seats available - meaning lower ticket costs!
Keep an eye on our events calendar, and sign up for our email list to stay in the know.