Whether you’re planning a large family reunion or you need breakfast for the entire department, we know that it’s important to you to find sustainable catering. However, there’s more to being a green caterer than just saying you’re committed to eco-friendly initiatives. Here are 15 things that your catering company can do to stay green (and 15 sustainable things you can do when planning your next dinner party).

1. Choose Reusable Items When Possible

It’s no secret that disposable plates, cups, and cutlery are bad for the environment. You use the items once, throw them away, and then they end up in a landfill. Reusable flatware and dishes are not only better for the environment, but they also bring a sense of elegance to your event. Disposable plates may be easier on the cleanup part of the event, but they don’t add a lot of style and contribute to more waste.

2. Use Compostable Cups, Napkins, and Cutlery When Necessary

Compostable Plates Napkins

If your event doesn’t have a dishwasher or big enough facilities to wash dishes, you still have the option to choose compostable cups, napkins, and cutlery. Many compostable dinnerware items can be re-composted or recycled, but be sure to check city recycling guidelines.

3. Order Items in Bulk

Not only does ordering items in bulk save you money in the long run, but it’s also a great way to reduce waste. Additionally, ordering things in bulk means fewer trips to the store, which also equals less energy used.

4. Provide Bins for Compost and Recycling

When you’re hosting a large event with catering, a great way to be eco friendly is to provide bins for compost and recycling for your guests. Mark the bins clearly and give your guests some instructions for what goes in each bin in case they don’t have experience composting.

5. Compost All Food Scraps

Did you know that 40 percent of food in the US goes uneaten? While we can’t tackle food waste in our society in a single day, we can make sure that party guests compost their uneaten food so that it can later be used as plant fertilizer.

6. Donate Leftover Food to Charity

Food Bank

Another great way to be eco-friendly at your next event is to have your caterer donate the leftover food to charity. Just because you were overly prepared doesn’t mean that you should let the food go to waste. Call local organizations like food pantries and other nonprofits ahead of your event to ensure they would be willing to accept catering leftovers.

7. Use Fair Trade Coffee and Tea

When you want to provide your dinner guests with coffee or tea, make sure your caterer is serving fair trade. Fair trade (in addition to making sure that workers are fairly compensated and treated humanely) means that the organization or company makes an effort to be green by reducing energy consumption, buying locally, and is trying to make the least amount of impact on the environment as they can.

8. Choose Locally Grown, Seasonal, Regional and Sustainably Grown and Raised Products

If at all possible, you can have even more of a sustainable catering service if you request that they choose locally grown, seasonal, regional and sustainably grown and raised menu items. Talk to your caterer about where they source their food from and find out if they’re committed to these practices.

9. Choose Organic/ Free-Range Meats

Much of our grain crops go to feed the livestock that we later consume, which essentially means that a lot of energy is spent producing food for our food. When livestock are free range, they’re not eating corn or grains but are grazing on the land, which saves energy and makes the animals happier. Caterers committed to sourcing organic and free-range meat offer more sustainable catering services.

10. Choose Best Sustainable Seafood Choices

If you’re serving seafood at your catered event, make sure that the caterer is choosing sustainable seafood. A large percentage of the fish that we eat is caught or farmed in ways that are harmful to the environment. Ensuring that the fish you serve at your party is sustainably caught is a great way to go green.

11. Choose Local and Sustainably Produced Beer and Wine

Local Beer and Wine

As we all know, local products are always going to be more environmentally friendly because it takes less gas to package and deliver items. Not only is it more eco-friendly, but local beer and wine in Santa Barbara is also abundant—and not to mention excellent.

12. Provide Menu Signage/ Menu Cards Indicating Sustainably Sourced Foods

A great way to be more sustainable is to let others know that you are committed to being friendly to the environment. Let your guests know that all the food being served was locally sourced or grass fed. There’s never a bad time to spread the word about going green.

13. Use Sustainable Event Décor

When you’re planning an event you, of course want to ensure that it’s decorated beautifully. However, many paper products and other decorative items can be very wasteful. Look for biodegradable balloons or decorate with items from your own home that can be re-used.

14. Select Healthy Menu Items that are Low in Sugar, Fat, and Salt

Choosing menu items that are low in sugar, fat, and salt will undoubtedly make your guests feel better (and not cause them to have a sugar crash) and can be a more sustainable food choice. Healthier food choices typically consist of more vegetables and less sugar, salt, and fat, and are more likely to have been produced in an eco-friendly way.

15. Provide Vegan and Vegetarian Menu Items

Producing meat for consumption is one of the biggest contributors to global warming. It takes a ton of energy to produce food and water for the livestock, and cutting down on meat is a great way to be more environmentally friendly (and not to mention healthier). To combat this, consider serving a vegetarian or vegan menu—or have more veggie options if you’re not ready to completely give up being a carnivore