Low-Waste Meals & Gatherings

During the holiday season, many of us gather around a table at least once to enjoy a meal with others. Whether you prepare a meal yourself, attend a potluck, or are hosted by a friend, it's relatively simple to reduce your footprint and waste.

Use Reusables

Use reusable dishes, cutlery, glasses, and napkins for your meal, rather than single-use paper, plastic, and aluminum dishes.

Think you don’t have enough reusables? You’ll be amazed at what you can thrift: plate sets, utensils, drinking glasses, pitchers, casseroles dishes, and even pie pans can be found at thrift stores. We love the idea of creating a party collection of reusables from thrifting fun dishes that you can use for years and years!


Fun thrift store finds from HouseBeautiful.com

dishes 2

Mismatched vintage dishes from My100YearOldHome.com

If you’re hosting a large gathering, consider a Bring-Your-Own-Plate request, which can extend to utensils, drinking glasses, and more. (This makes for a much easier cleanup, too!)

Shop Local + Bulk First

Shop at your local farmers’ market before heading to the grocery store. Locally grown produce travels wayyyyy fewer miles than most produce found in grocery stores (which means significantly less carbon emissions!), and it’s often grown using organic or low-pesticide practices.

Knoxville’s Market Square Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday December 2 - December 23 from 10 am to 2 pm. Check out Nourish Knoxville’s map of Farmers’ Markets in East Tennessee to find a market close to you (and be sure it’s open!).

knoxfill bulk bins

We have an assortment of Bulk Foods, Spices, and Teas at our store in South Knoxville

There are a variety of bulk options at our store, Three Rivers Market, Whole Foods, and Earthfare, which can help reduce single-use containers. Don't forget to bring your own containers!

Consider a Plant-Forward Menu

There's no doubt that meat and animal products have a big impact on our environment. However, everyone's body and sustainability choices are different! Even simply decreasing your meat consumption can make a difference.

Try a new tofu, lentil, or mushroom recipe to replace just a portion of the meat on your table this year. Or diversify your casserole portfolio with the hundreds of various casserole recipes out there – many holiday recipes are already vegetarian or can easily be made vegetarian.

If you’re ready to jump into a fully plant-based meal, it usually just takes a few simple swaps to turn those vegetarian recipes into vegan recipes: swap cow’s milk for alternative milk (see below for a comparison of milk options!), butter for dairy-free butter (paper-wrapped options available!), cream for coconut milk or coconut cream. Check out this list of plant-based egg alternatives (our favorites are ground flax seed, aquafaba, or Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer). Plant-based cheeses, whipped cream, sour cream, and even heavy whipping cream can be found in grocery stores.

Environmental footprints of dairy and plant-based milks by OurWorldInData.org

Be Mindful of Leftovers & Containers

We love leftovers, as long as they get eaten! Unfortunately, about one third of all food in the U.S. is wasted - and only about 4% of that food waste is composted, according to the EPA. When food (and other organic materials) ends up in the landfill, it produces methane gas, one of our top greenhouse gases. So... if you're a leftovers-lover, then be ready to finish off those leftovers! If leftovers aren’t your thing, try halving your recipes, or share your food with friends to make sure none is wasted.

Use returnable tupperware or dishes to avoid single-use containers. One of our favorite ideas for sharing food is to pack it in thrifted plates, bowls, and small casserole dishes – cover it with beeswax, and your friends will be thankful for the reusable party favor!

If your leftovers don’t make it to your belly in time, compost them in your home compost or at one of the City of Knoxville’s compost drop off locations. Make sure to compost your food scraps, too (or save the scraps to make vegetable broth and other fun scrap recipes)!

Get Creative with Decor

Instead of plastic decorations, opt for real and/or homemade decorations in your home, and focus on reusing what you have. Stores constantly push over-the-top seasonal decorations, but keeping it simple is beautiful.

Buy some garland from your local tree farm and nurseries (or reuse your artificial garland for years!), and add some berries or pinecones from your yard. Dried oranges, cardboard boxes, and old fabric can be used to make beautiful homemade decorations. And if DIY isn’t your thing, check out thrift stores to find adorable pre-loved holiday and table setting decorations!


Use these tips for any holiday, meal, or party coming up, and share your ideas with us, too!

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