How to Throw a Trash-Free Barbecue

We all know that barbecues produce a whole lot of garbage — a lot of laughter, connection, and full bellies, of course, but a lot of garbage all the same. Seeing those stacks of paper plates, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and piles of disposable cutlery going into the trash bin can make even the most blissfully unaware of us uneasy.

It doesn’t have to be this way! There are so many creative ways to enjoy a cookout with friends without creating three enormous bags of garbage. Simply embrace the package-free, the homemade, the reusable, and the compostable, then let your imagination do its work.

How to Host a Zero-Waste Barbecue


1. Prepare in advance.

As soon as you know you’re hosting the gig, plan out your menu. Consider the list: what can you make ahead of time? Think you can whip up some burger buns? Why not spend a lazy weekend afternoon mixing up some vegan mayo? Many favorite condiments and toppings can be made at home, no problem.

2. Greenify your shopping trip.

When you shop for ingredients for your black bean burgers, plus all the summery sides you can imagine, work to avoid any excessive, non-recyclable packaging. Look for fresh, non-deli options like watermelon and blueberries, buy snacks in bulk, and bring your own reusable bags to the store. In addition, it’s a great idea to ask guests to bring their own reusable containers for leftovers at the end of the event!

3. Eliminate single-use items.

Plastic cups, paper plates, and disposable napkins should be a thing of the past — they’re such a waste of cash! Instead, put out a nice pile of cloth napkins or bandanas, a collection of reusable cups, mason jars, and plates, and various silverware. Host events like this often? Consider investing in a cohesive set that you really like. Otherwise, thrift your stash and roll with the eclectic vibe!

4. Avoid single-serve beverages.

Rather than buying a large selection of canned and bottled beverages, consider making something at volume yourself (we especially love iced tea and fresh lemonade). Still want to offer additional choices? Purchase those you know can be recycled locally — say, drinks in glass or aluminum.

5. Simplify clean-up for yourself and others.

For informal events, request that your guests scrape food scraps into the compost bin (don’t forget it!) and bring their dishes and cloth napkins inside for washing. For larger or more formal events, put out bins for dirty dishes, napkins, compost, and recyclables. Just make sure they’re clearly marked to avoid confusion!




Marie W
Marie W1 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Elizabeth M
Past Member 6 months ago

many thanks

Elizabeth M
Past Member 6 months ago

many thanks

Chad A
Chad Anderson7 months ago

Thank you.

Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago


Sheila Miller
Sheila Miller7 months ago

Thank you for these suggestions. The less trash anytime you are entertaining the better!

Renata B
Renata B7 months ago


Richard A
Richard A7 months ago

Thank you for this article.

Julia S
Julia S7 months ago

Thank you!

Sandra Vito
Sandra Vito7 months ago