How to Host a Zero Waste Business Shower + Anniversary Party

A Drop in the Ocean Shop: How to Host a Zero Waste Business Shower
Listen to the audio of this post here:

 This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on May 08, 2023.

Hey friend! I am SO excited for today’s blog post. I’ve actually been meaning to write it for two months now and somehow it keeps getting away from me…

But we’re finally making it happen and part of the reason I’m so pumped is because this week’s blog is in partnership with the absolutely uh-mazing platform Shine Registry.

You may already be familiar with Shine Registry if you’ve been around here for a minute, but if you’re not, Shine Registry is a platform for small business owners to create a gift registry for their business. 

I’m a bit obsessed with their quote, “If you can ask for a gravy boat when you’re getting married, you should be able to ask for stuff when you’re starting a business too.”

Ain’t that the truth.

It’s 2023, fam. We’re not just celebrating women getting married and having babies anymore.

From Shine Registry founder Emily’s TEDx talk…

“Are we showing up for people in our lives at the moments that really matter to them?”

“Are we using the tools that traditions give us to the best of our ability?”

“What does it look like when we show up for people at their professional milestones the same way we show up for them at their personal milestones?”

A Drop in the Ocean joined Shine Registry just a couple of months after we opened our virtual doors, back in early 2019, and when we hosted our 4-year anniversary party in February, Shine Registry’s tools were a total game-changer.

And on top of all of the amazing resources from Shine Registry, we were able to keep the party nearly 100% zero waste 🥳🥳🥳

So for today’s blog, I wanna share everything we did to host a totally zero waste business anniversary party.

Planning the Party

Shine Registry’s Business Shower Guide

I had wanted an anniversary party for A Drop in the Ocean since our first anniversary, but, alas, we planned to announce our one-year anniversary party on February 20th, 2020.

Yeeeeeahh, the world had other plans

So this year I was PUMPED to finally be able to party with our EcoWarriors, and coincidentally, around the same time, Shine Registry released their Guide to Hosting a Business Shower, full of tips and resources for throwing a business shower for yourself or a friend.

I reached out to Emily and asked if the guide would be beneficial for planning my anniversary party or if it was built for brand new businesses, and to my delight she told me that it would be great for an established business, too 💃

So I snagged a copy of the guide and friend, it. was. GOLD.

The 30-page guide helped me outline my goals for the party, revamp ADITO’s Shine Registry profile, figure out the party activities and raffle, and just all-around feel 1000% prepared for the party.

The Location: Union Club Tacoma

Of course, deciding where to host the party was step numero uno. But, luckily, I already knew I wanted to bring everyone together at the beautiful Union Club Tacoma

The views overlooking Mt. Rainier and Puget Sound are unbeatable, and the space itself is just gorgeous 😍

Union Club is part of the Surge Coworking community, which has been A Drop in the Ocean’s homebase since the very beginning. I personally work out of Surge Tacoma, but Union Club’s event spaces are *chef’s kiss.*

Having the party at a coworking space like Union Club was an extra lil’ touch for hosting a zero waste event, too.

Being first and foremost a coworking space, the building is being used nearly all times of the day, rather than being solely an event space that’s sitting empty 80% of the time.

So not only did I get to feature Surge’s community that’s been so central to A Drop in the Ocean with our anniversary party, but it also meant that the party was just that much more eco-focused.

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop View from Union Club

The Menu: Food

I haven’t shied away from the fact that I’m not vegan, although I do intentionally try to limit my meat consumption

However, for a zero waste party, ya just gotta have vegan and vegetarian food options.

I’m not one for black-and-white thinking, but there was no way I wasn’t going to serve vegan foods for the anniversary party.

But I also knew I needed to keep packaging to an absolute minimum.

Even if each thing was minimally packaged, serving 40 people meant minimal packaging was going to add up - and FAST. 

So I took to Pinterest and my kitchen binder of recipes and curated a menu of vegan (and filling!) food options, plus a vegetarian dessert.

  • Loaded Vegan Veggie Wraps from Food with Feeling with homemade hummus from Love & Lemons
  • Veggie Tray with homemade hummus and vegan ranch veggie dip from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken
  • Cowboy Caviar (bean dip made with black beans, pinto beans, black-eyed peas, corn, bell peppers, tomatoes, and onions with a vinaigrette-style dressing)
  • Fresh tortilla chips purchased from Matador, a local Mexican restaurant one block from the party, packaged in paper bags
  • Lemon Sugar Cookies from Deliciously Sprinkled

With all of this, the only unrecyclable and non-compostable packaging was the plastic bags the wraps came in. Everything else was either unpackaged, canned, purchased from the bulk section of the grocery store, or already on-hand at home.

And it was all SO DELICIOUS. I mean, it’s been two months since the party and I’m still proud of this menu.

Delicious and zero waste party menu? ✅ Check.

The Menu: Drinks

For the drink options, I wanted to keep things simple. 

I purchased mixed-packs of cider from Incline Cider here in Tacoma, a few bottles of bubbly (champagne and sparkling grape juice), and set up a water station.

The ciders were in cans, which were rinsed and recycled at the end of the night, the champagne and sparkling juice were in glass bottles which were also rinsed and recycled, and the water was in a glass dispenser with ice fresh from the ice maker, so no plastic bags of ice or bottles of water necessary.

Keeping the Party Zero Waste

So I’ve already touched on a few ways we kept our anniversary party / business shower zero waste…

  • Hosted the party at a coworking space
  • Vegan and vegetarian food options made from fresh ingredients
  • Drinks in aluminum cans, glass bottles, and a water dispenser

…but there were sooo many more small details that really kept the party zero waste through-and-through.

Borrowed Servingware

Obviously there was no way I was going to have disposable servingware at our zero waste party. So I had to get creative!

I knew I needed serving trays, plates, glasses, and a beverage dispenser - and enough of all of these things for 40 people.

I have a pretty minimalist kitchen - my set of four plates wasn’t gonna cut it.

So I reached out to this community via our Facebook group, The EcoWarrior Pod, and asked if anyone had these things to share for the party.

I didn’t need them all to match, so I was open to getting a few here and there from a bunch of different people.

But then, one of our EcoWarriors, Meredith, reached out to me. 

Meredith is the owner of Craft Theory in Lakewood - a creative community studio to bring together all types of artists and creatives. 

Lo and behold, Craft Theory had just been gifted dozens of vintage plates from an estate sale. Their fate will ultimately be of the artistic nature (breaking them apart and creating mosaics), but in the meantime, they were just sitting at Craft Theory waiting to be used.

The plates were the PERFECT size for this party, and got sooo many compliments from all of our EcoWarriors. They were so stinkin’ cute 🥰

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Borrowed Servingware

Meredith also had some serving trays for me to borrow, and one of our other EcoWarriors, Barb, lent me a whole bunch of pint-size mason jars to use as glasses for the party, too.

And as for the beverage dispenser, I asked my local Buy Nothing Group if anyone had one to borrow, and sure enough, one of my neighbors had a beautiful glass beverage dispenser for me.

After the party, everything was loaded back up into my car, unpacked at home, run through the dishwasher (of course using our eco-friendly dishwasher pods), and returned to their rightful homes.

“Ugly” Napkins

I dunno about you, but no matter how many times I ask for no napkins with food deliveries, they somehow still accumulate in my kitchen drawers.

I had a large stash of paper napkins sitting in my kitchen that have been collecting for years now, and while I use them around the house for some “grosser” messes I don’t want to use my unpaper towels or Swedish dishcloths for, there’s always more napkins than messes.

So for the anniversary party, instead of borrowing 40 reusable napkins, I instead opted to use this stash of paper napkins.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what our EcoWarriors would have to say about it. 

It’s a party for a zero waste store…why would we have disposable napkins??

But this is what I love about this community so dang much.

Not only did our EcoWarriors understand why we had these disposable napkins, they actually APPRECIATED it.

The core of zero waste is using what we have first. “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” 

So this hodge podge of branded, paper, disposable napkins, was kinda the ultimate zero waste move. And everyone at that party knew it.

Zero waste isn’t always pretty. But that’s part of the fun, right?

Use What You Have

And on that same note, there were a few things at the party that required physical, printed papers.

First, we had BINGO cards! This was one of the ideas from Shine Registry’s Business Shower Guide, and I absolutely loved it. Each BINGO card had different ways to support A Drop in the Ocean, ranging from leaving us a Google review to buying a gift card for a friend to finding another EcoWarrior with the same favorite product as you.

And, yeah, maybe I could have figured out a way to do that virtually, but there’s something so much better about a physical BINGO card.

So I created some BINGO cards in Canva, and printed them on some blue and grey pieces of cardstock I’ve had in my closet for a literal decade. 

You know…one of those things that just keeps moving with you from place to place even though you don’t actually have a use for it.

Each of those completed BINGO squares also correlated with a number of entries into the raffle, and I wanted to make each of those things as easy peasy as possible so all of our EcoWarriors could truly enjoy the party.

QR codes felt like the easiest way to do that.

So I created QR codes for every possible thing our EcoWarriors could need for that BINGO card and the raffle entries - including our Facebook group, Instagram profile, Google review page, Ocean Archetype quiz, Shine Registry profile, and more.

And then I put all of those QR codes on one page, and I printed them on the back of a misprinted page of soap labels ✌️ 

I could have recycled that piece of paper when it misprinted, but instead I held onto it, and I’m so glad I did. 

I cut out each QR code and taped them to the chalkboard in the party room with some washi tape.

Again, totally zero waste and using up what I already had on hand.

And even the “menu” for the pop-up shop at the party was printed on the back of used shipping label sheets. I already use these sheets for packing materials, but it makes me so happy to get even more life out of something that would normally be considered trash.

Buy Nothing Group for Everything Else

You probably already know by now that I adore my Buy Nothing Group. I actually have a whole post on how much I love Buy Nothing Groups because they’re such a key piece of my zero waste life.

So like I mentioned above, the water dispenser we used at the anniversary party was borrowed from a neighbor in my Buy Nothing Group, but I even got about half a stack of blue Post-It Notes from my BN Group for this event.

It may seem like a small thing (it literally is 😅), but it really demonstrates the “Rethink” piece of the 6 Rs of Zero Waste.

One of the suggested activities from the Shine Registry Business Shower Guide was a “pep talk wall.” 

Entrepreneurship can be super lonely and frustrating at times, so a pep talk wall is a place for party guests to leave a little note for the founder. Maybe some words of motivation or something they appreciate about the business.

And I thought about just using the chalkboard in the event space for this, but I also really wanted something physical that I could take home with me.

Post-It Notes seemed like the obvious solution.

And, of course, I wanted blue ones. Because #branding. But I didn’t have blue Post-It Notes at home and I wasn’t about to go out and buy a whole pack of Post-Its just for one event.

So I hopped in my BN Group and asked if anyone had some laying around, and sure enough, the next day I picked up a half stack of blue Post-It Notes from my neighbor to use at the party 🥳

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Union Club

Lessons Learned

A Drop in the Ocean’s 4-year anniversary party was an absolutely incredible experience and I could not be happier with how it all turned out.

I am so grateful to every person who showed up - whether in person or virtually - to party with us and celebrate this little shop of mine.

But with anything in life, there are always lessons to be learned.

So I would be remiss if I neglected to include these lessons in this post, for anyone who may be considering throwing a zero waste party or zero waste business shower.

Make ~30% less food than you think you need

This is one I’ve for sure heard before, but never really needed to apply in real life, and after the party realized it’s true for two reasons:

First, although I did have an RSVP system before the party so I would know how many attendees to expect and plan for, about 30% of the EcoWarriors that RSVP’d ended up not coming to the party.

And second, even if everyone had shown up, there’s no way to know what they’ve already eaten that day or if they have plans to go out for dinner afterwards.

Ultimately, due to time constraints the week of the party, I only actually made about half the amount of food I was planning to, and still had some left over afterwards. I can’t even imagine how much I’d have had leftover if I had made everything 😯

So general rule of thumb, make about 30% less than you think you’ll need.

Have an agenda, but be flexible

Using the guidelines from the Shine Registry Business Shower Guide, I created an agenda for the party, and even sent it out to all of the attendees the day before, so everyone would know we would be starting very shortly after doors opened.

But ultimately, we had to be flexible with the schedule. 

For example, I planned to start the toast around 5:20pm, but there were some key attendees who I wanted to be there for the toast that weren’t able to arrive until about 6pm, so we moved some things around and actually ended up with more time to chat, mingle, and snack, which was actually very lovely.

Don’t try to do too much

This has never been my strong suit. I always want to do more than I have to, and then I stress myself out about it.

For this party, since we have EcoWarriors all over the country, I wanted to make sure everyone got to participate however they wanted to.

So we didn’t just have an in-person party. We also had not one, but TWO online parties - one via Facebook and one via email for EcoWarriors who aren’t on Facebook.

In my ideal world, there were going to be two livestreams from the in-person party to the Facebook party, but because we had to be flexible with the schedule, we were only able to do one livestream and it got pushed back significantly.

I’m SO glad we were able to include EcoWarriors from all over the country, and it really did all work out in the end, but the planning and preparing and co-hosting multiple events at one time was a lot, and I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re running a one-person show 😅

Have a right-hand person

And on that note, don’t try to do it all yourself.

In fairness, I really did try to do it all myself, but luckily I have an amazing partner who jumped in and basically worked behind the bar and managed the food the whole night and helped relay messages from me to the rest of the guests while I was running the A Drop in the Ocean pop-up shop outside the party room.

For future anniversary parties, I’ll be planning to have someone running the pop-up and someone manning the food so I can be more present in the party itself.

Phew. I honestly didn’t realize I had so much to share about our zero waste anniversary party and business shower, but it was truly such an incredible experience that I can’t help but gush about it, even two months later 🥰😍

Thank you again SO much to everyone who came out to celebrate, whether virtually or in-person, and if you’re planning to host a zero waste event sometime, please do let me know how it goes! 

And check out our other post on 5 tips for throwing a zero waste party for some more ideas, too, and definitely check out Shine Registry's How to Host a Business Shower Guide if you're planning a shower for your own business!

Have a great week, friend 💙

Reflecting on 2 Years of A Drop in the Ocean

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