Green Your Holiday Party

By Jess Krager

December 22, 2015

How to green your holiday party

Photo by iStock/5PH

Green Your Drink

Studies suggest that warm drinks promote good feelings, so turn up the cheer with homemade eggnog or vegan eggnog.

Give premixed hot chocolate with fair trade cocoa powder and marshmallows in mason jars as a party favor.

Recipes: Festive Cocktails

Lemon Ginger Maple ToddyWith the weather getting colder and holiday parties in full swing, sometimes the best way to warm up is to fix yourself a cocktail. Now you can always go to the tried-and-true eggnog or brandy, but maybe you’re feeling like something a bit more creative this year. While cocktail recipes can get a little complex sometimes, here are a couple of drinks that can be made with your favorite eco-spirits and some common ingredients out of the cupboard.

Merry Margarita

6 shots tequila
1 medium sized lemon
6 tablespoons pure maple syrup
cinnamon, sugar, and nutmeg

Combine the tequila and maple syrup in a blender with a tray full of ice (add more later if this is not enough) and mix. Add two dashes of nutmeg and a 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla then pulse. Set aside. Combine a tablespoon of sugar, nutmeg, and cinnamon in a saucer. Wet the rim of your margarita glasses with a little water or vanilla, then dip and swirl each glass in the mixture until the rim are coated. Pour your margaritas in the each glass and enjoy!

If tequila isn’t necessarily your drink of choice, or if you’re looking for something hot to warm your hands and belly, try the following recipe using some of the same ingredients in a whole new way.

Nice and Naughty Toddy

1 shot of whiskey
1 cup of ginger tea
A slice of lemon
1 tablespoon of pure maple syrup

In a small pot, boil water for your tea. We used ginger tea for our toddy, however if ginger isn’t your favorite flavor you can always experiment with your favorite holiday blend. Once you’ve brought your water to a boil steep the tea for 1-2 minutes, or until you’ve reached the desired strength. Once your tea is set, add in your whiskey, syrup, and lemon and you’ve got yourself a toasty toddy to warm you up. The recipe above is for an individual serving, but if you’re making toddies for a group of friends and family add an extra shot, slice of lemon, or spoonful of syrup per cup of tea brewed.


Tip: Buy local, organic food for your holiday party. Now that you’ve got the decorations and partyware green themed, the food is the next essential ingredient to an eco-friendly party. Whether you decide to make the food yourself, have a potluck, or go with a caterer here are some tips for a spread that will keep your impact to a minimum.

Organic: Organic food isn’t just about putting the cleanest food into your own body; it’s about the entire process it went through before getting to you. By using organic food at your festivities, you’re helping to keep chemicals out of your body, but in the process you are keeping the environment and the workers who harvest your food chemical-free as well. While you may not be able to afford to make your whole spread organic, buying organic fruits and veggies is a great place to start.

Local: Not only is it helpful to your own community to buy local, it is also helpful to the environment in general. By buying local in the winter, your food will generally be fresher because it was harvested more recently before making it to your dinner table. This also cuts back on climate-change impacts on the environment because your food isn’t traveling thousands of miles before reaching the table. The best places to look for local foods would be at a farmers' market or even through local CSA’s (community supported agriculture), so make sure you do your research before the party.

Compost: Don't forget to use those recycling and compost bins that you've set out for the party. By composting what you don't eat, you are helping that next batch of holiday food to be grown. This way instead of your leftovers going to a landfill, they will go back into the soil to aid new crops to grow or livestock to eat well themselves.

Party Ware

Holiday parties can easily end up leaving a carbon footprint. Between paper cups, napkins, plates and cutlery, there can be a lot left over that ends up in the trash when it shouldn't. We've got some tips that will make your shindig both fun and sustainable when it comes to the party supplies.

First of all, if you're throwing an office party take stock of all the supplies you may already have. If you have party supplies left over from the last event, utilize that or bring in things from around your own home. It's also important to note that if you are going to buy supplies, make sure you have more than just a trash can for the night's discards. Set up recycle and compost bins around the party aside those trash bins and you'll be one step closer to an eco-friendly gathering.

Drinkware: For your office party, instead of going out an buying a bunch of disposable cups, pool together amongst your co-workers and gather up those mugs you have lying around the office. Maybe they won't fit in with the rest of your deco, but if you're embracing the green theme these mismatched mugs can add a little shabby-chic to the party. And if you just can't get behind that mismatched look, gather up as many mason jars as you can (ask coworkers to donate what they have and gather up as many as you can from your own home) and tie festive colored ribbons around the middle of the glass. Simple, classic, and it reusable.

One way to avoid the waste of disposable cups and plates is to use small, removable labels for glassware. Many hosts go through three or four times the number of disposable cups as they have guests, and this is a good way to not only conserve resources, but to inspire your guests to do the same.

Napkins: So much of the party waste stems from napkins that barely get used then tossed in the trash. You can cut down the waste by bringing in reusable napkins. Don't have enough? Try gathering up those old handkerchiefs. Use them plain with some creative napkin holders, or use stencils and paint to add a simple, festive monogram it. If you don't have time to create something, check out these reusable paper towels by Bambooee. Made of organic bamboo material, these towels are machine washable and one roll of these towels replaces 60 rolls of your average paper towels.

Plates: Again, if you're willing to embrace the mismatched theme, tell your co-workers to bring in plates that loosely match your chosen color palette for the evening. You may end up with striped, polka-dotted or plaid prints, but it'll add character to your deco. If that look isn't for you, buy compostable materials for your evening. Bamboo, sugarcane, even tapioca plates can make for compostable alternatives for your party table.

Utensils: If you're planning on having more than finger foods at your party, either bring in some silverware from home or invest in some eco-friendly cutlery for the night. Whether you go with wood, bamboo, or even palm husks, make sure to pick something that will land in the compost bin instead of the trash can at the end of the night.

Give Green Party Favors

Whether you choose to do party favors or a gift exchange, a party always has more pizzazz if the guests don’t go home empty-handed. You could prepare a small token or give them the tools to make their own favors, but setting up a little something extra will go a long way toward making your guests feel appreciated.

Party favors can be a great little takeaway for your holiday party. Depending on your time limit and budget, there are a couple different ways to go.

Get crafty: Sometimes something handmade will impress your guests more than spending some cash. If you have spare time, you could individual gifts. A cute idea for individually made treasures are creating homemade ornaments out of items around your house. Clothespins make great reindeer or toy soldier ornatments; and lightbulbs are perfect for Santas or penguins. Grab some paint and any extra bits of flair your can think of and craft something special for your coworkers.

If you're short on time, set up a "photo booth" at your holiday party. Use old gift wrapping paper to create the backdrop. Next, use old boxes and paint/markers to make designs such as antlers, beards, santa hats, holiday scarves, elf hats, etc. Stick the cardboard to some wooden skewers and you have props for slightly cheesing yet memorable photos. Have a designated photographer for the evening and at the end of the party, upload them to a website, email them to guests, or print them out yourself if you have the materials.

Purchase eco-friendly: For a gift that keeps on giving, your guests will love the unique gift of adopting a wild animal. Not only does the money from this gift go toward protecting wildlife and wildlands, your friends, family, or coworkers will receive a cute toy animal symbolic of the area that they're protecting. Not only is it a gift that is unique, it's a gift that warms the heart as well.

Scrap the gift wrap entirely and give gifts in reusable tote bags.