We all know how easy it is to go overboard this holiday season. Whether you’re preparing for the holidays at home or at work, here are some eco friendly ideas to help you do everything you love during the holidays, while consciously reducing your environmental impact.
- Use LED Christmas lights. LED (light emitting diode) Christmas lights use 10 percent of the energy of typical incandescent Christmas lights and are safer than typical lights because they do not generate heat. They are also inexpensive and beautiful, and using LED lights to decorate the office or a display window could save a business up to 90 percent on holiday lighting costs. And don’t forget to put them on a timer! Keep those electricity bills as low as possibly by only having the lights on from nightfall until midnight.
- Send E-cards and party invitations. Postage is so expensive, time consuming and resource heavy. Save paper and money by e-mailing holiday cards and Christmas party invitations. There are a ton of sites that offer a variety of free, eye-catching card and invitation choices.
- Reduce waste by planning your party right. Think about what you’re going to serve and provide to guests. Serve food that doesn’t need wrappers or plates if possible. Use reusable, napkins, plates and glasses to reduce waste and save money. Use reusable decorations that you can store and bring out year after year. And try to find a way to compost all left over food waste.
- Recycle. Increasing what you recycle is the easiest way to reduce your waste removal costs, which can rise as much as 25 percent during the holidays (or more with all the gift wrapping and packaging). Choose gifts and supplies that either don’t produce waste or can be recycled (no cellophaneor big plastic bows in favour of paper wrap with pinecone decorations and reusable bags/cloth wrapping).
- Buy recycled products. If you must use disposable products, buy items that have been made with recycled material. Recycling is a great first step, but buying recycled products increases demand for recycled goods and goes one step further to help the environment.
- Donate leftover holiday party food. If food is being served in abundance, refresh trays rather than putting all of it out at once to prevent spoilage. Any food that has not been put out at the end of the party can be donated to a local shelter or food bank. Not only will this reduce waste, but will enhance the spirit of Christmas giving to those in need. Call ahead for details on what the shelter can use and how to deliver to it.
- Green employee gift ideas. If you draw names, put a ‘local only’ stipulation on Secret Santa. When thinking of gift ideas, think local first, and wrap them in reusable bags, cloth or recycled material. For corporate ideas, reusable coffee cups or travel mugs can also be purchased with company logos. Companies such as envirotote.inc and ecobags.com custom-make reusable bags and travel mugs for any business. Not only will these gifts encourage recipients to reduce their use of disposable products, they are an excellent marketing technique that elevates your company’s profile every time they are used.
- Carbon neutral shipping. When delivering gifts or other business items, consider carbon neutral shipping, an option now offered by UPS and several retail stores, which allows you to buy carbon offsets to cancel out the shipment emissions.
- Carpool to Christmas parties. If the party is after hours or off-site, encourage employees to carpool. This can be as simple as posting a ride-share board so people can match themselves. Other incentives used by businesses include valet parking or prizes for those who arrive with three or more passengers in a vehicle.
- Offer “going green” bonuses for employees. If you want to go all-out green, a business holiday party can feature games that challenge employees to think of ways to save energy and reduce waste, with prizes as an added bonus for winning ideas. This is a fun way to raise awareness and get people thinking about changes that can make the company greener in the New Year.
List adapted from Missouri Business Development Program