What can be better than getting together on Neighbors’ Night Out for a pot-luck? The event already includes camaraderie, good food and fun…Why not challenge yourselves to go for zero waste?

You can look up a full list of suggestions at https://www.cooldavis.org/resources/zero-waste/, but here are a few tips to get you warmed up. Even just a few conscious decisions can make a big difference.

Of course, the most successful way to reduce your waste is to avoid producing it in the first place.  Announce your intentions to achieve zero waste when you send your email invitations, skipping the paper and saving the trees. No waste so far.

Carbon footprint of the food. Ask your guests to trace the carbon footprint of the dish they bring. Suggest choosing locally grown produce from their gardens or a farmers market and shop for the remaining ingredients in the bulk section.

As guests arrive, reward them if they remembered to shop with their own reusable shopping bags and jars. Determine the guest who created the meal with the lowest carbon footprint or no-waste packaging. Prizes can be treats from Farmers Market, fruits and vegetables from your garden, veggie bags from Cool Davis, or the promise of neighborly services.

Beverages. Serve healthful beverages that eliminate or minimize packaging. A pitcher of tap water with slices of fruit is festive and thirst-quenching with no waste. Recycling wastes an enormous amount of energy, but if it’s unavoidable, aluminum recycles more efficiently than glass, and glass recycles better and with less harmful effects to the environment than plastic.

[…aluminum recycles more efficiently than glass, and glass recycles better and with less harmful effects to the environment than plastic.]

Dishware can be solved easily for a larger group by asking your guests to bring their own place setting including a cloth napkin, utensils, a plate, glass or cup, and dessert plate or bowl. If you have enough porcelain dishes for the group, use them and put out labeled bins for scraping scraps into compost and landfill (meat & dairy products)..

If you need lightweight dishware because the event is outside, consider a one-time investment in a set of reusable plates, cups, and utensils made from recycled plastic which can be affordable, attractive, and sustainable when you wash and reuse them.

Avoid compostable plates and utensils as they take years to break down. Of course stay away from one use dishes and utensils. While uncoated paper plates can be composted, they are still a paper product (i.e. ultimately derived from living trees), so it’s better to choose something reusable.

Cloth napkins are preferable, but at least choose compostable napkins such as Seventh Generation 100% recycled napkins sold at the Davis Food Coop.

Clear signage helps well-intentioned people sort out what goes where.


Signage. A wide range of ready-to-print signs with words and pictures for recycling paper, metal, plastic and glass, compost, trash, and more are available at the city of Davis facebook page

Clean-up. When it comes to clean-up, a dishwasher saves water and energy if you run it full and turn it off to let the dishes air dry. Without a dishwasher, use three tubs: the first for soapy water, the second for rinse water with a drop of bleach, and the last for the final rinse.

Reflection. At the evening’s discussion, assess the waste produced for the evening. Take a few minutes to review what worked and how you all feel about the efforts you put in to ensure a low carbon footprint for your gathering. Go round robin to learn what each household is taking home to get closer to zero waste in daily living. Check with neighbors the next time you gather to compare your progress.