Southern Life, Sustainable Living

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate

It’s that time of year again: Tailgating season!! I’m really not a football person, but I love a good tailgate. And I love a sustainable tailgate even more!

It can be easy to produce a lot of unnecessary waste at your tailgate without even meaning to. Anytime you need portable, convenient food and food serving items, you can get carried away with lots of trash and plastic. But that need not be the case!

Here are some easy tips to keep your tailgate sustainable so that you can still have fun without trashing the earth!

1. Use compostable plates, utensils, and cups.

Repurpose compostable cups - How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate - sustainable tailgating tips! | Fairly Southern

Disposable plates, utensils, and cups can create a lot of unnecessary waste and are especially bad for the earth if they are made out of plastic, which usually is not biodegradable and piles up in landfills for hundreds or thousands of years. Instead, opt for compostable or biodegradable plates, utensils, and cups, which will break down in landfills or in your compost bin.

I buy compostable plates, utensils, and cups on Amazon! Gotta love that delivery straight to your door. I’ve linked some cups, plates, and utensils below to get you started, though there are tons of brands out there to choose from!


You can also compost plain white paper plates that you buy at the grocery store or Walmart, assuming they don’t have a waxy coating on them and are plain white (i.e. aren’t dyed a different color).

2. Take a recycling bag/bin. (And a compost bag/bin if you compost!)

Tailgate recycling bin - How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate - sustainable tailgating tips!  |  Fairly Southern

When you do use things like plastic cups, glass bottles, or metal cans at your tailgate, be sure to take a bag or bin that you can use to collect recycling. Clearly label it so that trash doesn’t get mixed in. It is super easy to bag up your recyclables and take them home to dump in your recycling bin after the game.

If you compost, you can also take a special bag/bin for your compost as well!

3. Choose sustainable food options.

Tailgates typically involve tons of meat. Burgers, chicken tenders, hot dogs, chicken wings…the list goes on. But, the meat industry isn’t kind to the environment. Trim back on the meat and go for more fruits, veggies, and non-meat proteins like beans, soy, and whole grains instead. (Chili! Veggie tray! Crockpot macaroni! Tacos! There are so many options.)

Another way to be more sustainable with your tailgate food is to buy it locally. Produce and meat that is raised locally doesn’t travel as far to make it onto your plate, resulting in a lower carbon footprint. And because it’s so fresh, it’s usually tastier, too!

4. Avoid unnecessary packaging.

As much as possible, avoid individually packaged food/beverage items and instead opt for bulk. Anytime you choose a food or beverage product that is individually wrapped, you are going to have more waste, because every person who wants to eat or drink that product will have a package to throw away. Case in point: beer. Instead of buying individual cans of beer for your tailgate, go buy a couple of growlers, and have everyone refill their cups from the growlers. Rather than having tons of cans to toss into the recycling bin (recycling is great, but still uses up resources!), you’ll just have empty growlers that you can take back to the brewery or grocery store to be reused. Much less wasteful!

Tailgate growler - How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate - sustainable tailgating tips!  |  Fairly Southern

You can also avoid unnecessary packaging by using your own containers for takeout/fast food rather than disposable packaging. It isn’t hard! When you go to place your order, just hand the restaurant or grocery store your own container and ask them to package the food in your container rather than in one of theirs.

And, when packaging up items at home to take to the tailgate, use reusable glass or plastic containers rather than disposable plastic bags or tin foil. That way you’ll have less waste!

5. Ask people to bring reusable water bottles.

Reusable water bottle - How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate - sustainable tailgating tips!  |  Fairly Southern

Even if you’re more of an alcohol drinker at tailgates, at some point you’ll need to take a break and drink some water. Rather than bringing a bunch of plastic water bottles for people to take and trash, ask everyone to bring their own reusable water bottles. You can provide a large dispenser of water (one large plastic container uses less plastic than many small ones!), or you can use the stadium’s water fountains or water bottle refilling stations.

My personal favorite water bottle for tailgating is Sip by S’well! It keeps drinks cool for hours and hours.

6. Encourage people to only take what they need.

Rather than handing everyone at the tailgate a fork, knife, and spoon, let people take just what they need. Don’t force napkins on people if they don’t actually need one. By simply encouraging people to only use what they need, rather than taking a bunch of extra stuff out of habit, you can cut down on waste.

7. Pack a cooler.

Don’t let your food sit out for hours and spoil after you abandon your tailgate to watch the big game. Instead, pack it all up in a cooler (with ice packs, of course) once you’re done so that you have leftovers to enjoy later. This is less wasteful and more economical, since you won’t have to buy food for another meal or two!

Do y’all have any other ideas for how to make tailgating more sustainable? Comment below. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

xoxo Laura

P.S. – This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission (at no cost to you) if you purchase a product using a link from this post. Read more here about my disclaimers/disclosures.

How to Have an Eco-Friendly Tailgate - sustainable tailgating tips! | Fairly Southern


  1. I bet a lot of people can’t imagine a meatless tailgate but you make it sound so easy and delicious! I love using these items for every kind of outing, I never thought about tailgating, but thankfully you did 🙂

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