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Ah, the holiday office party. Whether your workplace is large or small, local or corporate, this yearly tradition has a special place in our hearts.
Whether you go for the food, the revelry, or the embarrassing stories your boss tells after her third glass of eggnog, the office holiday party is a classic. We at Cloud Paper are all for having fun in the workplace, but we couldn’t help offering a word of caution.
We’re not going to tell you to take it easy on the cookies and cakes. You get enough of that from the fitness coaches on your IG feed…
But we do want to point out that your bathroom scale isn’t the only thing feeling that “holiday weight.” Our landfills get bloated by the holidays, too.
Single-use decorations, disposable plates and cutlery, gift wrapping and packaging, plus food waste make up a large portion of the extra jumbo size trash bags sent to the landfill this time of year. And parties are notoriously gluttonous for all of them.
So whether you’re on the planning committee, single-handedly party-prepping (bless you!), or simply an eco-conscious employee willing to drop a friendly note to your boss, here are our top recommendations for how to throw an eco-friendly party.
What’s step one of any sustainable holiday party? Choosing an eco-friendly venue of course!
You can lower the carbon footprint of your party just by choosing a venue that is centrally located for the majority of your employees. Think about how your attendees will get there. Is there public transit to this place?
While a winery in the country might sound classy and elegant, it also means your coworkers are likely to drive individually to the venue.
Encourage public transit or carpooling in your invitation. You can even make a game of it by offering bonus raffle tickets or another creative incentive to those who choose a planet-friendly transportation method!
A LEED certification (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) means your venue was built with sustainable materials and operates with an energy efficient design.
When you think you have a few viable options, don’t be afraid to call them and ask questions for clarification. Here are a few important things to consider:
One easy way to save a few trees (because you know we love to #SavetheTrees here at Cloud Paper) is to send e-invites rather than paper ones. Plus, you’ll save a pretty penny on the stamps, too! Try adding a video to your email for a fun, personal touch.
And don’t forget to set up an RSVP system! Getting a good estimate on the number of attendees is essential for organizing your sustainable holiday party and ordering the right amount of food and beverages.
Speaking of food…
Did you know the average produce travels 1,500 miles from the farm to your plate? That’s a lot of transportation emissions.2
Locally-grown food cuts down on travel emissions, and meatless dishes have a much lower carbon footprint because it takes a lot of resources to raise and process animal protein.
Remember, your party doesn’t have to be perfect. If you can’t find a farm-to-table caterer in your area, maybe make an effort to slim down the meat options. If your food will need condiments, try for bulk dispensers rather than individually packaged sauces. Everything helps.
Whenever possible, use reusable dishes and silverware. If you absolutely must use disposable plates and cutlery, look for biodegradable and highly renewable options like bamboo. (You know we love bamboo 😏).
And once you’ve finished your plate…
Did you know in the US alone we waste about 30-40% of our food3?
Food waste is a big deal because when biodegradables end up in the landfill, they create methane — a particularly potent greenhouse gas. But when food and plant waste is composted, the process of decomposition is much more eco-friendly!
If you’ve set up a compost collection bin for your party, be sure to include some instructions for your guests — Remember, not everyone knows the do’s and don’ts of composting. It’s helpful to even tape up examples of which plates, cups, and utensils can be recycled, composted, or which ones are trash.
Buffets are convenient for parties, but they are notoriously bad for food waste. So if you’re going to have a buffet consider a few of these eco-friendly options:
Don’t forget about beverages! If you’re providing alcohol, consider getting a keg and supporting a local brewery rather than cases and cases of cans or bottles. And then don’t forget to recycle!
Though we’re all for ignoring the mistletoe (*awkward*), we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. No sustainable holiday party is complete without decorations.
Luckily, there are ways to keep it festive and protect our planet.
To go eco-chic consider utilizing natural decorations and forgo wasteful plastic like balloons and confetti. Depending on your style, plenty of these decorations are sustainable options for your party:
When it comes to decorations, less is more. Before you buy, think about what will happen to the decoration when the party's over and try to stick to reusables.
Finally, for a truly well-rounded sustainable holiday party don’t forget about the behind the scenes items and cleanup.
Consider using tree-free toilet paper and paper towels in your bathrooms, and opt for all-natural cleaning products to wrap up the night. Reuse or repurpose your decorations or list them on an online marketplace for someone else to enjoy.
With the right knowledge and planning you can easily make your office gathering a sustainable holiday party.