How to green your office holiday party
They say it’s a “no-frills holiday season” this year — with the economy hitting the skids, many companies are putting the brakes on lavish holiday-party spending, and some are nixing their parties altogether. But just because you have to cancel the fireworks show doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. If your company is celebrating the holidays this year, consider this a memo on how to plan a lean, green, and still-enough-fun-that-you-regret-it-the-next-day occasion.
Here’s where to start. Got more ideas, or examples of stuff your company is doing? Let us know.
The Baby Steps
Make yours a paperless office. As frequently noted, society hasn’t done so well with that “paperless office” prediction. But when it comes to holiday cards and invites, that’s the way to go. Send an electronic invite, send a plain old e-mail, or heck, stand up and shout your invite through the cube farm. If you must print on paper, look for a company that uses recycled stock. (See Resources for a few to get you started.)
But load the copier with used or recycled paper. Hey, if people are gonna get drunk and photocopy their asses, you don’t want them wasting perfectly good sheets.
The Next Steps
Work the pretty. When it comes to decorations, keep it simple. Buy a few plants, gather up some others from around the office — yeah, even the half-dead ones — and cluster them for an outside-in décor (just be sure you know whose desk they go back to). Ask staffers to contribute a favorite holiday item or their kids’ artwork to brighten up the scene (just be sure you know whose kid they go back to). Or use food as decoration — it’s pretty, it’s colorful, and when it all gets eaten, your Decorations Clean-Up Subcommittee will be happy. For lighting, try LED strings or candles (the non-yucky kind) — or have your party in the daytime so lights aren’t necessary.
Eat and greet. The best thing about a holiday party should be the food. If your affair is catered, ask about local and organic options. Request linens and silverware instead of disposables. If you’re planning to have your shindig at a nearby establishment, support a local business instead of a faceless chain. And if you’re inclined to raise the bar, consider biodynamic wines, organic beers, or your own occasion-specific organic cocktails. Provide recycling bins, and either compost leftover food or donate it to a local organization.
Cut the crap. Don’t give out pewter pens or umbrellas stamped with your company logo to every staffer — it creates waste and inspires frustration. Instead, if you have that money to spare, put it into the next paycheck or a gift card. If staffers are pushing to uphold gift-giving traditions, consider a white-elephant exchange, and make it the kind where you bring an item from home, not purchase something new. And if custom dictates that you absolutely must give something to your (greedy, planet-fucking) clients, look into green options geared toward corporations (see Resources, below).
The Big Step
Call the whole thing off. Follow the lead of companies like Viacom, which is giving employees extra paid days off this year instead of splurging on a holiday bash. Or look into a “Big Little Holiday Party” — these collaborative events, catching on around the country, bring small groups together for one whopper of a good, impact-sharing time. Or hold your holiday party in January — after the frenzy of the holiday season is over, when people need a diversion, and when food and facility costs aren’t jacked up beyond all reason.
Whatever you do and however crunched your finances may be, be sure to show your employees the love. After all, where would you be without them?