As the holidays roll in, offices and work teams across the nation (and for that matter the world) will begin the annual tradition of office holiday parties. We’re obviously pro-party. Work friends become your work family and it’s always nice to celebrate with friends, family and even that co-worker you can’t stand. But just because you’re in charge of the office holiday party this year, it doesn’t mean that you can’t change up the same old, same old routines and make some choices that bring people together for seasonal cheer (and get you all out of an afternoon of work) while still keeping the planet’s health and the consumer gears of holiday season in mind. How can you make your office holiday party friendlier to Earth and less friendly to marketers and advertisers? Here are our favorite tips.

Change Up the Secret Santa – Or Get Rid of It Altogether

We’re going to let you in on a surprisingly little secret – most people absolutely hate office Secret Santa games and will be in no way disappointed if you get rid of them altogether. But in the event that you want to hold fast to that classic office tradition, there are ways to change it up. Instead of everybody exchanging gifts, enter everybody into a raffle with prizes that aren’t “stuff” but do matter to employees. Things like a free pass to come in late one day, or a preferred cube or office space. Alternatively, keep the Secret Santa exchange but put some limits on it. For example, it can’t be anything bought new. Or instead of gifts it’s charitable donations in people’s names. There are plenty of alternatives to traditional stuff-based Secret Santa. We have a feeling that if you’re in charge of your office party then you’re creative and smart enough to figure out a good one!

Be Careful with Catering Choices!

Think about what happens any time your office gets anything catered, which if you’re like most offices is many times per month. Food arrives. It’s in plastic containers that are then inside plastic containers or bags again. We don’t think that we need to tell you that if you want to make more eco-friendly choices you’ll need to think about catering and food options. One option is to stick with your standard catering and simply be responsible about making sure that all of the plastic packaging that can be recycled is recycled. While it’s not the singular most eco-friendly option out there, it does have benefits in terms of ensuring food freshness and quality and making your party attendees feel like they’re getting a treat. We’re not evaluating you if you opt to get take-out for your party, we’re just encouraging you to be mindful about it. A second option, though, is to have your office party be a potluck instead. While there will still be people who bring things in plastic containers, most of them won’t be single-use and thrown away. The downside, of course, is that people will have to cook and there’s always a chance of bad food! Whichever option you go with, also take some time to be mindful about what your party goers will be eating and drinking out of and how you can minimize that wastefulness as well!

Make Decorations Annual, No Single-Use

At home, do you buy new disposable holiday decorations every single year? Of course not! But surprisingly many offices do. What’s even more surprising is that few offices don’t have the storage space required to just store holiday decorations year-to-year. In an ideal world, as an advocate for your holiday party and the planet, you’ll be able to convince your business or bosses to invest in some reusable decorations that can be brought out for the holiday party every single year. But let’s say you can’t quite get that far, there are still other options. Create a contest for the workers who will be joining your party. Have them bring in decorations and then vote on who brought the most fun adornment and give a prize, just make sure the rule is that the decorations have to be reusable or recycled! In a worst case scenario, if you have to buy new decorations annually, opt for ones made from postconsumer materials or, better yet, live plants.

Go Electronic for Invites (and Company Holiday Cards!)

We just dedicated an entire article to why digital holiday cards and invitations are absolutely the way to go, so we won’t make you hear our pitch again in case you read it (we’ll just point you in that direction if you haven’t read it yet). Here’s what you need to know: opting for a digital holiday company card or party invite will do two important things. The first is it will reduce your company party or holiday budget, so you’ll be an office star for improving returns on investments. The second thing is that it is absolutely more likely to get noticed. Increasingly, paper mail, particularly in office environments, gets set aside. If your boss is resistant to going digital for these items, point out the two benefits above and then also remind him or her that it will in no way make you look bad to any clients who receive them.  Digital is expected in this day and age.

Order Food Appropriately

We actually give this advice for any type of party planning. Food waste in America is staggering. There is an estimated 70 BILLION pounds of food wasted in America each year. Much of this happens during the holidays when every event is anticipated to be a feast. You obviously don’t want your guests feeling hungry or as though there wasn’t enough food, but order your catering appropriately and make sure that as many people as possible take food home. You don’t need to provide food for fifty people if only twenty are showing up – even if they’re hungry at lunch!

Office parties aren’t all that different from normal parties. The only real difference (other than that you may not ever invite some of these people to a personal party) is that you often don’t have final say about the budget. That doesn’t mean you can’t advocate for wise use of budgets! And if you do, you’ll likely end up with a smarter, cheaper and more eco-friendly holiday office party!

Did we miss a way to make your office party more eco-friendly? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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