You’ve worked hard all year to make your business more eco-friendly and it’s paying off. Time to celebrate! The holidays offer abundant opportunities to not only creatively reduce environmental impacts in the office, but also engage employees and inspire more sustainable traditions at home.
If you’re planning to host a company celebration, demonstrate your continuing commitment to sustainability by including your green team early. Here we’ve offered a few tips to get you started. No doubt you and your team will come up with even more energy and resource saving ideas to ensure that your holiday event is as green as it can be.
- Choose a venue that requires less fossil fuel. Instead of hosting a holiday gathering at some distant location, consider keeping the event onsite or reasonably nearby. If it’s off-site, encourage carpooling, public transportation, or arrange minivan transportation (electric or hybrid if available) so people don’t have to drive individually.
- Send E-vites, not paper invitations. Paperless party invitations are easy to create and send. If you feel the need for more “retro” holiday greetings, only use cards made of recycled materials.
- Go natural with decorations. Skip the manufactured holiday decorations and go natural instead. Use leaves, branches, berries, pinecones, and fresh fruits, like oranges and pomegranates, to create festive centerpieces. Not feeling the creative spark? Enlist others with a contest for the best decorations made only from the natural environment. Then, when the party’s over, be sure to compost!
- Avoid plastic utensils and serving dishes. Paper bowls, plates and cups are preferable to plastic, since they can be composted. Rather than rely on plastic utensils, use silverware that’s normally kept on hand in the office break-room or ask employees to bring their own cutlery. For a more elegant option, rent glassware and dishes. If plastic utensils are your only viable option, be sure to recycle everything after the party’s over.
- Deck the halls with LED lights. What would Christmas be without holiday lighting? This year, go with LED holiday lights and ornaments, available at most retail outlets. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, LED holiday lights last longer and consume 70 percent less energy than conventional incandescent light strands. Keeping a 6-foot tree lit 12 hours a day for 40 days with LEDs costs only $0.27 compared to $10 for incandescent lights.
LED holiday lights offer these additional benefits:
- They are cooler than incandescent lighting, lessening the threat of combustion or singed fingertips.
- They’re harder to break, being made of epoxy lenses rather than glass.
- As many as 25 strings of LEDs can be linked end-to-end without the danger of overloading a wall socket.
- Get a live, potted tree. Here’s an opportunity to inspire employees with a living example of environment-friendly holiday tradition. Decorate the office with a live, potted plant that, with proper watering, can survive a month or more indoors. After the holidays, transplant the tree outside or donate it to a neighborhood park or community center.
- Avoid giftwrapping discards. What’s more important—how you wrap a holiday present or the gift inside? If employees exchange gifts, encourage them to find creative wrapping alternatives such as baskets, reusable tins or reusable fabric shopping bags. At the same time, get people thinking about alternative holiday gift-giving practices (see #8.)
- Gift ideas? Think experience, rather than things. Most of us have enough “things” already, so why add to the environmental burden by handing out more? As part of the office holiday season, invite employees (or if you’re giving out client gifts) to exchange gifts of “things to do,” such as:
- Gift certificates to a fitness or yoga class
- Guest passes to the movies, a theater or museum
- Membership in a local zoo or nature center
- Discount on a massage or spa visit
When people start thinking about experiences as gifts, there’s a whole range of environmentally friendly possibilities.
- Engage in sustainable post-party protocol. During the planning stages, do some research on local green cleaning services for the post-party clean-up. Make sure they use green cleaning products (no toxins or chemicals) and properly dispose of recyclables and food waste.
By taking a sustainable approach to holiday celebrations, your organization won’t just be saving energy and resources. You’ll be creating and encouraging new traditions that will engage your team, build a flourishing enterprise, and spread even greater holiday cheer.