How to... have a green office Christmas party offers some top tips on how to make sure the annual office festivities prove memorable for all the right reasons

Christmas may well be a few weeks off yet, but the party season is already upon us with offices up and down the country putting the finishing touches to their annual festive knees up. But just because everyone is poised to lose their inhibitions and do unhygenic things to the photocopier there is no reason for companies to lose track of their environmental policies. In fact, there are more reasons than ever to make sure your office party adheres to your green office principles.

According to a recent survey of more than 1,000 firms by the Institute of Directors, many businesses are set to make some serious cuts, with 27 per cent admitting they have had to decrease their entertainment budget, including the Christmas party fund. Meanwhile, research by Croner found that 63 per cent of workers would prefer not to go to their office party.

The good news amidst this absence of seasonal cheer is that extending a green office policy to include the annual Christmas shin dig can address both of these challenges. By planning a more environmentally friendly party you can simultaneously reduce costs and draw people in with your inventive, climate-conscious approach.

When trying to throw a green party the first decision to be made is that of location.

To deliver the greatest cost savings and control over waste and energy it may be best to host the gathering within the office building. It might not be universally popular with staff hoping for an evening out but having the party on-site will eliminate any travel-related emissions, plus those who loathe the annual office outing will be more likely to attend if it's in the building.

However, if you feel staff deserve a break from the office then the same rules apply as for any green event: ask the venue the right questions about their sustainability policies, encourage party-goers to use pubic transport or share lifts, and do your best to minimise waste.

You can easily promote the party's environmental theme through another time-honoured tradition - the Secret Santa gift swap. By keeping this consumerism a light shade of green, and setting ground rules that participants can only spend up to £5 on a gift that is either Fairtrade, organic or recycled, you can quickly establish the party as part of a wider green office initiative.

Green lights

Now it's time to get creatively green with decorations, snacks and bubbly.

Every year some killjoys do their bit to reinforce stereotypes about environmentalists being hairshirted fundamentalists by pointing out that Christmas lights waste a huge amount of energy.

Axing all fairy lights from your building is unlikely to go down well, so instead why not consider some green alternatives.

You can now buy solar powered fairy lights - they have eight different functions such as continuous, flashing, burst, and pulse apparently - as well as solar powered rope lights, which when fully charged will sparkle for up to three days without the need for more sunlight.

Fairtrade candles may give health and safety palpitations, but they also offer a green alternative to traditional festive lights and can help to create an intimate ambience to help Dean from sales and Fiona from accounts becoem the subject of office gossip the next day.

Christmas crackers are another festive party staple that have been given a green makeover in recent years. Biome Lifestyle offers an eco-cracker that instead of providing party goers with landfill-ready tat gives them an eco-tip and a green gift, ranging from a charitable donation to a Fairtrade key ring. Moreover, the exterior of the cracker is formed from handmade paper embedded with seeds - plant it, don't bin it, and you'll be rewarded with wildflowers.

There is also a growing range of green and fairtrade decorations available, including garlands made from sustainable materials, ornaments made from old computer components and model reindeer made from Indian factory waste.

Feeding and watering

Before you splash out on Champagne for your celebration, you should know that English sparkling wine has been beating the French stuff in respected competitions recently, and buying local bubbly will reduce transport-related carbon emissions.

The climate of southern England and the chalky soil create similar conditions to that of the Champagne region and a few award-winning English sparkling wines worth investigating for your party are those from the Nyetimber, Chapel Down and Ridgeview vineyards.

If you're planning to serve food resist the urge to order packs of paper plates and Styrofoam cups, and look for some greener alternatives.

For example, Nigel's Eco Store sells plates and bowls made from fallen palm leaves, which are 100 per cent bio-degradable and home compostable, plus they are so strong you can even use them in the microwave and in the oven.

When it comes to the food it is simply a case of applying the same rules you would for any green event and trying to seek out local, sustainable and fair trade products where possible. There are plenty of options out there and while they may come at a premium they will fit into the overall theme of the party.

If you consider that the whole point of an office Christmas party is to try and boost morale and let staff know their employer values about them then it really is the perfect forum in which to highlight the fact the company values and cares about the environment too.

Any company with a green office strategy should undoubtedly seize this annual opportunity to promote it and try and encourage eco-friendly behaviour that will hopefully last long after the hang overs have passed.

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