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Reduce Office-Party Waste

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This article has been excerpted from 101 Ways to Turn Your Business Green by , available from

Whether it's an end-of-the year holiday party or any other celebration throughout the year, it is still important to think green, and not only on St. Patrick's Day. Celebrations are wonderful times to bring your employees together and build teams, camaraderie and a sense of unity. All of this is important for morale, production, dedication and loyalty to the company, as well as providing some much needed time to blow off the steam that builds with the pressure of meeting deadlines, appeasing difficult customers, and working long hours.

Yet, even while--or especially while--celebrating, it's a good time to think green. Washable plates, cups, and utensils are better than plastic, but they also waste the needed to wash them. One solution is to purchase biodegradable goods for your party, made of sugarcane, corn or other vegetable starches that begin the biodegrading process within 24 hours.

You can also take a thrifty approach and see what you can utilize among the items already in your office for decorations. You'd be surprised at what you can come up with by using a little creativity. You can also start a party center in a corner of the break room where people put items they've come across during the year that might be usable at parties. Don't forget that plants can make better organic centerpieces that can go home with guests, rather than eco-unfriendly balloons or tinsel concoctions.

Also, remember to use recycled wrapping paper. If everyone simply opens gifts without totally destroying the paper, you can use the same wrapping paper several times over, make a joke out of it, and get into the habit of reusing the paper and bows again and again. If you really want to maintain a green theme, you can go with organic foods and beverages as well. You can find organic , made from 100 percent organically grown ingredients. Look at the labels and you'll find that organic domestic wines include the organic seal (the certifying agency must be listed). This means no sulfites are added, though it can contain naturally occurring sulfites. Many such wines have received very good reviews from wine enthusiasts.

After the party comes the fun of cleaning up. Here, too, you can think ecologically by going with reusable cleaning materials over paper towels, and cleaning products that are organic-based rather than those filled with the toxic chemicals we've all come to know so well. Also, make sure you have clearly marked bins, which should already be in your office.

Rich Mintzer is the author of 101 Ways to Turn Your Business Green, available from and all major bookstores. He writes on business, technology and environmental concerns.

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