Our Low Waste Baby Shower

I'm so excited to share all about our low waste baby shower! At first, I wasn't sure if I wanted one at all. Showers often result in an excess of waste from food, gifts, favors, decorations, etc., and that's obviously not how I roll.

When my lovely best friend offered to help throw me a shower, I kindly accepted as long as it was a low waste event. Because I had been casually pinning some ideas on Pinterest for a low/zero waste shower, I put these together along with other requests and handed them over so she could work her magic event planning skills.

We had a budget to stick to, so a few zero waste sacrifices were made, but all-in-all, less than a small paper grocery bag of landfill waste was created. Everything else was recycled or composted and it was the most wonderful celebration I could have imagined. My friend did an amazing job and was so supportive of my low waste ideas.

You're probably tired of me preaching this by now, but the zero or low waste lifestyle is not about perfection. I'll get into this a little bit more below, but sometimes the most practical and budget-friendly thing will result in some amount of waste. It's just how our economy is designed. I fully intend to be honest about the waste I create in order to encourage anyone and everyone to reduce where possible.

Hopefully, you'll find some useful information here when planning your next event, whether it's a baby shower, birthday party, or whatever you want to celebrate.

I somehow managed to take very little photos of everything, so bear with me!

Invitations

Invites come with so much paper waste and there's no guarantee guests will always remember to recycle the envelope and card. So we went with a free Evite. Such an easy way to manage guests and RSVPs and saves trees. Win-win. I LOVE the one my friend picked. So perfect.

Our Venue

Planning an event in Santa Monica, or anywhere in California for that matter, is absolutely not cheap. Venues near my home were way too much for the number of guests expected.

This was unfortunate because a restaurant or other event menu is likely to have catered food, serveware, tables, chairs, and linens, avoiding any disposables. However, we found a way to have it in the small courtyard space my community shares with almost none of that waste.

Our neighbor kindly allowed us to use a part of her front yard which extends into the communal space. This space is full of greenery and flowers, so that helped to cut down on the number of decorations needed.

Lesson learned: having an event at your home or someone elses'  typically comes with more planning, but does allow for more customization!


Rentals

To accommodate all of our guests, we rented large tables, chairs, and table cloths. This means we avoided buying anything new and we also got to support a local business (Enchanted Rentals) with super reasonable prices. Linens look much better than plastic tablecloths.

We also wanted to avoid disposable tableware, so anything we needed in large numbers and didn't have already, we rented from Sustain LA. Another locally and woman-owned business that offers many zero waste services along with their new refill shop.  We had a bunch of finger-foods planned which meant we only needed plates, forks, cups, and cloth napkins from them.

Any serveware needed was pulled together by my friends and family so those didn't have to be rented. I did go out and buy a set of secondhand coffee mugs and small plates for about $15 just in case we didn't have enough. I'll be re-gifting those soon.

Lesson-learned: it pays to skip the delivery fee and return things yourself all washed and ready to go! We did this for the tableware and then paid Enchanted rentals in cash upon the delivery for a discount :) You should absolutely ask about similar options when renting event stuff.

Food

I'd say food packaging is where the majority of the small amount of landfill waste came from. This waste consisted of food-soiled paper and food-soiled plastic film. Most of the food was bought in stores and made by us or by family.

My main concern was actual food waste and having just the right amount for everyone. Luckily, we were able to avoid throwing leftovers out minus a few casualties that sat out in the sun a bit too long. Food safety first!

We did grab a few dozen Sidecar Donuts (YUM) which came in recyclable cardboard boxes. I had to throw away the soiled tissue paper they put in there but was able to recycle the boxes. Most of these were eaten and I got to enjoy a few unhealthy snacks after the shower. Not sorry.

Costco was a huge lifesaver when it came to larger amounts of food. Larger boxes meant avoiding a bunch of smaller ones, and the portions were perfect for our amount of guests. To have something more substantial to offer other than donuts, my friend grabbed some quiche and these scrumptious mini pastry bites. We were able to easily bake those at my house the morning of.

We also got some cheese, crackers, deli meat, and apples from Whole Foods for a few cheeseboards. My husband's aunt made a bunch of cute cookies and a delicious fruit salad to go with our casual brunch.

All food scraps and a small amount of leftovers were composted in our city green-bin and we even directed guests to scrape their food scraps into a small collection bin. We took any remaining leftovers that were okay to eat.

Lesson learned: once guests are mostly done picking at the food table, move the food inside or to a shadier location if it's hot out. Also, making more foods from scratch will save you on packaging waste if you have the time, energy, and kitchen space to do that AND accommodate all of your guests. This was just not practical for us.

Again, I failed at taking pictures and these don't do the beautiful set up my friends arranged justice as guests already started at the food table.



Drinks

We ended up with some landfill waste and some recyclable waste with our drink selection, but there were no single-serving cans or bottles bought at all. Woot!

For water, we simply filled up a big drink dispenser (pictured above) with tap water and two charcoal filter sticks the night before. I already had the filters on hand because we use these in our Brita filter to avoid buying the plastic replacement filters. In the morning, we added some lemon slices, which were composted after the shower.

I knew folks would love some sweet-tea, so I decided to make some at home rather than buying a plastic jug(s) of it. To do this, I boiled some water in a big stockpot, then added some English breakfast tea bags I already had at home. Once it was steeped, I added in some sugar, let it cool, then added to a glass drink dispenser. We added lemons slices again for garnish and composted them after the shower.

Coffee was a tricky drink in terms of avoiding waste. I decided to order three carafes from my favorite local coffee shop. I'm so glad to support them and not Starbucks, but the cardboard carafes have a non-recyclable, plastic bladder inside. My husband's aunt also brought a large container of coffee in a dispenser, so we had plenty to go around.

I had every intention of making cashew milk for creamer, but ran out of time and ended up buying a carton of almond milk instead. I also bought a half-gallon of half and half since not everyone enjoys nut milk with their coffee. The coffee shop gave us a jug of whole milk as well.

We didn't have an electric juicer for orange juice and I wasn't about to let anyone juice 50 oranges by hand, so we bought a Costco amount of orange juice in plastic jugs. Surprisingly, we had a lot leftover but it doesn't expire for a while so it won't go to waste.

Since we had our event outside, we needed a lot of ice to keep all of the drinks cool. I filled some ziplock bags I already had with as much ice as possible beforehand but that went quick! We did have to buy two more bags of ice from the store which of course comes in plastic.

Lesson learned: make coffee ahead of time in reusable dispensers. Also, people like sweet-tea and coffee a whole lot more than orange juice. Finally, you'll always need more ice than you would expect.

Decorations

Most decorations were reused from a friend's engagement party and from our own collections of fall decor. Flowers weren't really needed because it was a beautiful setting to begin with and a small amount of eucalyptus went a long way. In Santa Monica, I'm able to recycle plastic bags and film so the eucalyptus packaging was recycled.

My friends made the most beautiful pumpkin and succulent centerpieces (pictured below) that doubled as game prizes later. I love them so much!

I already had some string and clothespins at home, so my friend printed some photos of my husband and me and strung them up. Our maternity photos came out just in time.

The gift table was decorated with a table cloth I own, a cute wooden letter 'B' from our friend, and a wooden letter board sign.

I kept the eucalyptus to dry out and reuse around my home or for future events.

Lesson learned: if you really want to avoid the plastic film from flower bouquets, try your local farmers market. Some flower vendors do sell flowers without plastic film. However, this does require you to plan just right so the flowers stay fresh before the event. And it also depends on what's available to you at your local market if you do have one.

Gifts

Our registry on Baby List was pretty limited as we already bought much of baby's clothes and other items secondhand. Babies also don't need as much as everyone thinks. I made sure to include local Etsy shops as much as possible rather than bigger stores.

The invite included a cute poem borrowed from Zero Waste Nerd which encouraged no gift wrap and secondhand or homemade gifts.

Our friends and family were so creative and respectful of this request and we ended up with very little wrapping paper or gift wrap. Most of it was reused gift wrap and I was able to give the bags and tissue paper to a member of my local Buy Nothing New group on Facebook.

Along with the registry gifts, we received various beautiful handmade gifts, and some childhood classic books with notes in them in place of cards. A few of the books were even secondhand!

Having gifts out for display unwrapped was way better than sitting through an hour of me unwrapping, in my opinion. 

Lesson learned: including your desire for a low waste and environmentally friendly shower in the invite helps avoid excess gifts and wrapping waste.


Games

Some people hate baby shower games but I love them! My friend put together three awesome, fun, and low waste games for everyone to enjoy.

Baby jeopardy was a big hit and my friend brought a whiteboard to display the categories to avoid paper waste. The winning team got to keep the pumpkin succulent centerpieces.

We used some jars I had at home to fill with candy for the candy-number guessing game. Paper scraps used to write down guesses were recycled.

And finally, my favorite game, involved waddling/jumping over to a jar with a ping-pong ball in between your legs and a ball under your shirt (pregnant belly). Then you have to try and drop the ball into the jar, go back and get more. The winner is the one with the most balls in their jar. This is supposed to represent a pregnant lady and I loved watching my friends improvise their pregnant lady waddles lol. The winner got a gift card.

Lesson learned: Repurposed prizes like my friend planned are a great way to avoid unnecessary waste.

Favors

Simple, there were none. To me, favors are super unnecessary, come with a lot of waste, and people end up throwing them out or not eating them. We saved money, avoided waste, and we all had a ton of fun, so I don't think anyone expected favors.

Thank yous

It's only been a few days, so these aren't done yet. Although paperless thank you notes can be sent through Evite, I've had a bunch of thank you stationery I've been trying to use up for years. So my guests will have handwritten cards instead. I'll draw a recycling symbol on the envelope and card, so hopefully, they'll notice...hint hint friends and family!



There you have it. Everything that went into our low waste and practical baby shower. Let me know if you have any questions or share some of your low waste event ideas in the comments below!

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