As the festive season approaches, many workplaces are gearing up for the annual tradition of hosting parties for staff, clients, and partners. Festive gatherings are an excellent opportunity for employees to unwind, build camaraderie, and celebrate a year of hard work.
However, like any event, it’s also an opportunity for sustainability professionals to consider the environmental impact of these events, explore ways to make them more eco-friendly, and highlight ways to live more sustainably.
What can be the environmental impact of a work party?
Employee parties can have a surprisingly significant carbon footprint. In lockdowns, we got creative, switching to online and virtual, significantly reducing emissions and consumption. As the world re-opened, what became apparent for many was the importance of in-person interactions to celebrate and connect, with food and drink at their heart.
Knowing where your event carbon footprint comes from is a great start to understanding how you can reduce it, without reducing the fun or the opportunity to keep your colleagues engaged and motivated:
- Travel and transport
Employees often commute to the party venue, especially with many hired on hybrid or remote contracts. Travel and transport can increase carbon emissions, especially if people drive individually. This is particularly a consideration if your event is within areas with limited public transportation options.
- Waste generation and unwanted gifts
From disposable decorations to leftover food, not forgetting the classic ‘Secret Santa’, Christmas parties can generate a substantial amount of waste. Much of this waste ends up in landfills.
- Food and Beverage Choices
The menu at Christmas parties often features meat-heavy dishes, or other foods with higher carbon footprints due to production and transportation. Having ‘lots to eat’ also means ‘lots of waste’.
Ideas to reduce the carbon footprint of your office party or event
- Sustainable travel plan
Encourage employees to use public transport to the office or party venue. You could offer incentives for those who choose eco-friendly transportation options or carshare. You could help your teams by choosing a venue location that has great transport options.
If you’re working for the planet at an advanced level, you could choose a location where you’ve worked out the carbon footprint is least for all your colleagues to get there by train or bus!
- Eco-friendly party decorations
Choose reusable or recyclable decorations. Avoid single-use plastics and consider using natural, locally sourced items like potted plants and recyclable paper ornaments.
- Plant-based and planet-friendly party food menu
Choosing a plant-based menu is a real winner. People will enjoy trying something new, and there are many options available. You can partner with caterers or a venue that specialises in zero-waste, plant-based or sustainable catering and choose seasonal and locally sourced ingredients with typically lower carbon footprints.
- Reduce food waste
Plan the menu carefully to minimise food waste, avoid buffets, and ask people to pre-order. Offer a variety of portion sizes to accommodate different appetites, and you could donate any excess food to local shelters or organisations or event take home any extras in goody bags to share with friends and family.
- Sustainable Secret Santa
A bit of a misnomer, is there such a thing? You could do everyone a favour and ditch this one tradition. If you would like to gift, there are some ideas such as asking people what they’d like first, keeping the receipt so they can return if you get it wrong, or getting some inspiration from Giki’s sustainable gift ideas.
- Engage and educate your teams in sustainability
Use the party to educate and engage employees on sustainability and the importance of reducing their carbon footprint. Share what you’ve done to make their party more environmental and tips and resources to help them make climate-friendly choices in their daily lives. You’ll be able to commit and complete some Giki steps together!
By taking a proactive approach to reducing the carbon footprint of your work party, event organisers can ensure that your festive celebrations align with your company’s commitment to environmental responsibility and your employees’ sentiments about being more responsible.
A green(er) Christmas party can set a positive example and inspire sustainable choices throughout the year, but remember, it’s also a time for fun, celebration, and coming together, so don’t be too hard on yourself or your colleagues.
If you’d like help to embed sustainable behaviours and employee engagement as part of your sustainability strategy, get in touch.