Christmas is a time of indulgence, and it’s almost guaranteed that someone will be bringing some classic Christmas music into the office. Once you hear the jolly sound of Rudolph the red nose reindeer, or Frosty the Snowman, you know it’s time to set the scene for the office Christmas party!
Taking into consideration the piles of plastic plates, cups, and party hats that end up being discarded after just one social gathering, Christmas parties can be particularly wasteful events.
Letting loose for a few weeks each December is an age-old trick to brighten those cold dark days of mid winter, but whilst your mood is brightened and spirits are lifted, we’re creating an unfortunate and unnecessary amount of waste. Each year in the UK we discard 83 square km of wrapping paper – if Santa could fit an island in his sleigh, this would be enough to gift-wrap the entire Isle of Guernsey!
We’re also guilty of chucking out 125,000 tonnes of plastic packaging every Christmas, with bin collections rising by up to 30% to meet demands.
So, if you’re planning to cut back on the festive waste this year, I hope you’ll find these 8 tips handy when planning your #ZeroWaste Christmas Office Party!
1- Give out digital invitations
If you’re not careful, waste can begin to accumulate before the party has even begun. How do you make people aware of the party in the first place? Scratch paper invitations off the list and send out digital invites instead. You get the assurance of knowing the invite has been received, it is instant, and the only bin these invites will be going into is your digital trash folder.
Paper invites have been made redundant by email and social media. Granted, an email or social media invitation does typically lack the visual appeal and the personal touch of a traditional paper invitation, but if you’re concerned about invite aesthetics then why not design your own using Photoshop or another CAD program, then email it out as a PDF?
2- Re-use decorations
The next step of preparing for the party is getting decorations in place and will probably be next on your pre-Christmas party to do list. Let’s start with the tree. Real trees are preferable to plastic posers. A standard sized Christmas tree typically takes the best part of a year to grow, and during that time saplings absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and provide homes for wildlife. If you want the reassurance of knowing the tree has been grown sustainably, then look out for the FSC-certification logo.
If you opt for potted tree, even better. A potted tree can be used then kept until it’s ready for use again in subsequent years. If for whatever reason a real tree doesn’t take your fancy, you might want to consider buying a faux reusable wooden tree, or even a nice dry fallen branch to hang your decorations from.
Now you’ll probably want to decorate the tree right? For eco-friendly decoration options, look for those from glass, wood, metals or natural, degradable materials. If you fancy creating some of your own using recycled materials – why not try tying a length of string to an old toy? Dried slices of citrus fruits also make for good decorations. They look nice, they’re reusable, they give off a sweet scent, and when you’ve had enough of them, you can chuck them in the compost. Pinterest has plenty of Christmas inspiration; here’s a tip: Pinecones and holly make for great looking natural decorations too.
3- Ditch disposable food ware
Unless your workplace is suddenly planning on cancelling any and all future parties, why choose disposable when you can have permanent party essentials around at any given time. Yes, paper plates and plastic cutlery are cheap, and convenient, but they’re synonymous with wastefulness. If your office is planning on tucking into a Christmas meal, then it’s time to stock up on cutlery and plates.
Christmas dinner is one of the most keenly anticipated meals of the year. So doesn’t this special dish deserve more than being served on a paper tray flanked by two pieces of plastic? The added benefit of ditching the disposable and choosing long-term is that you will forever be ready for the next office birthday party, or any other events to follow.
4- Bring home-cooked snacks
Maybe the office is planning on ordering buffet and party food selections – this means lots of ready bought snacks and lots of disposable plastic trays and cellophane wrapping. Why not make it a time for everyone to divide and conquer? Get your colleagues to bring in some homemade snacks to share and cut down on the waste, it’s a great way to give everyone the opportunity to show off their culinary finesse too.
5- Eco crackers
Now that the planning is well underway, it’s time to think about the crackers. Christmas and crackers are like Easter and eggs. It’s difficult to imagine one without the other. Unfortunately, the majority of crackers come packaged with a sheet of transparent throw away plastic, and the prize hidden inside is a cheap plastic prize that often becomes part of the leftovers that remain on the dinner table.
Eco-friendly crackers are a little costlier, but they are available, and often made from recycled materials, so keep an eye out for them!
6- Re-use wrapping paper
What’s a Christmas party without presents from your favourite Secret Santa? If you’re buying presents for your colleagues, do away with disposable wrapping paper. Instead, make second use of old newspapers, or buy sturdier reusable wrapping paper.
If your colleague is just as eco-conscious, they’ll appreciate reusable wrapping, and fabric makes for great reusable wrapping that can be saved for the next year. If you’re nifty with a needle and want fabric with a festive theme, try scouring your local charity shops for old Christmas jumpers and you’ll have a festive print in no time!
7- Recycle the rubbish
So, the party’s over and only the debris from the fun remain. Hopefully you’ve made sure that the presence of disposable plastic has been kept to a minimum and it’s now time to get sorting the rubbish for recycling. Beer cans, brandy bottles and even those odd unwanted abandoned presents should all be deposited into their appropriate recycling bins. And don’t forget the tree. Once it’s served its purpose, take your tree down to your local refuse site to be recycled into wood chippings.
8- End the night with an eco drive
Hopefully there should be little waste from the festive party, and as you and your colleagues say goodnight before heading home, take one more thing into consideration.
Save money on gas and cut down the carbon pollution; carpooling benefits everyone! Cut down on the amount of cars on the road and help lower the amount of pollution entering the air. It’s also one more excuse to play some Christmas tunes on the drive home for one last time.
You can reuse these tips for any party occasion! Parties in the office will never be the same again, and Juliet from accounting will probably enjoy eating her birthday cake off of a real plate without a plastic fork. With a little care and consideration, the waste produced by Christmas parties can be dramatically reduced.
So enjoy your Christmas office party and try to make it a #ZeroWaste one.
Have any more eco-friendly, zero waste tips to share? Let us know in the comment box below.