Public Works and Environmental Services

Fairfax County, Virginia

CONTACT INFORMATION: Our administrative offices are open to the public by appointment only at this time. Please call or email 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Monday - Friday

TTY 711

12000 Government Center Parkway
Suite 448 Fairfax, VA 22035

Sharon North,
Public Information Officer

Holiday Tips for a Waste-free Party

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Provide alternatives to bottled water


It is that time of year again! Black Friday and Cyber Monday have come and gone and now it is time to spread some holiday cheer in the form of work parties, family gatherings, and the promise of a happy New Year! And while consumerism typically reigns during the holidays, there are some great strategies for reducing waste you can apply when planning your next event.

Food and Meal Planning

Keep it simple. Most people will be attending multiple parties and will not be expecting a full-blown meal in most cases. Light appetizers made from fresh, local ingredients will typically eliminate a majority of packaging that you would otherwise generate.

In 2016, six million turkeys, a value of roughly $293 million, ended up in the trash, according to the National Resource Defense Council.

If you are planning a dinner party, plan ahead to determine the amount of food you will need to prepare by using the new online application, “Guest-imator,” developed by the Ad Council and the Natural Resources Defense Council, via their Save the Food public service campaign.

This new calculator will help you plan the menu and avoid too many leftovers. The tool takes into account the number of guests, the various types of main and side dishes, and if they are considered heavy or light. The Guestimator will also update the amount food required if the host adds or subtracts the number of guests or types of dishes served. But, if you do end up with leftovers, find ways to transform them into casseroles, soups, pies, or sandwiches by searching for creative recipes online. 


Buy liquor, wine, and beer in bulk. Some stores sell super-sized bottles of spirits and wine, and many local craft beers come in growlers, or air-tight, reusable jugs typically made from glass, ceramic, or stainless steel. Growlers can also be used to preserve any remaining beer if you buy a keg and have some left over.

For non-alcoholic beverages, consider mixing up large batches of punch, eggnog, cider, or cocoa and put them in a fun seasonal dispenser. Be sure to ditch plastic cups and use reusable glasses or mugs, otherwise you are defeating the purpose of purchasing beverages in bulk. If you want individual containers for beverages, buy a mix of sparkling water and soda in large plastic bottles, paper cartons, or preferably aluminum cans, that can be recycled.

Decorations and Gifts

Most holiday decorations can be reused from year to year, but if you have a theme or you want to generally spruce things up, consider making and giving away party decorations. Turn cookie cutters into ornaments buy adding a colorful piece of string, a sleigh bell, or decorative background. You can typically find cookie cutters at your local secondhand store, and leftover scraps of wrapping paper and ribbon are perfect for this project. Making these ornaments could not be easier, and you can tell guests to take a couple on their way out the door as a parting gift.

Consider a cookie exchange. Ask guests to make and bring their favorite cookies for others to enjoy during the party and to take home with them afterwards. Have reusable cookie tins available for guests to select and take them home for a sweet holiday treat to share with their family and friends.       

Fairfax Virtual Assistant