Green Your School Events and Holidays
Whether it’s Valentine's Day, a holiday party, board meeting, graduation ceremony, or school picnic, use these tips, resources and checklist to easily plan and create greener events. From location, to invitations, to the food you serve and what you serve it on, you can reduce the carbon footprint by reducing waste and conserving resources -- all while modeling sustainable behavior for the kids. Have fun and track your progress -- Consider working with students to estimate how much carbon or garbage was avoided by greening your event.
Invitations and Programs:
- Save money and reduce paper
waste by using Paperless Post, Evite, Sendomatic, or a similar online invitation
- Print programs on recycled content paper, or have students make invitations using materials recycled in the classroom.
- Choose daytime outdoor events -- often doable even in the winter in California. They typically use less energy than indoor evening events.
- Make sure your location is easily accessible, and encourage attendees to carpool, bike or walk.
- Provide information about public transportation options.
- Decorations: Avoid plastic tablecloths -- use paper or cloth. Consider natural decorations (interesting succulents, flowering plants, colorful fruits, stones, bare branches decorated with ornaments or ribbon, etc.) that are biodegradable or reusable.
- Party favors can be eco-friendly and reusable – a t-shirt, a stainless steel water bottle, potted herbs, fair trade chocolates.
- For elegant and creative décor, gifts and food ideas, see San Francisco’s Temple Emanu El Green Celebrations guide (pdf). Also see Green Party Goods for other ideas.
Avoid plastics and non-recyclables: Skip individual plastic water bottles and juice boxes (not recyclable). Drinks in aluminum, glass or plastic containers are recyclable. Or large reusable water dispensers can be used for water or to mix frozen juices.
- Serve local and organic food when possible, and offer a vegetarian option.
- To avoid waste, be careful not to overbuy.
- Arrange with a local food bank to pick up leftovers at the end of the event.
- Use reusable serving dishes, plates, cups, and utensils – it’s the greenest option. Reusable foodware may be purchased by the school, the Parent Association and/or rented or brought from home.
- Create a "Zero Waste Party Basket" that can be checked out for classroom parties. Ask families for donations of plates, cups, and utensils for a free, eclectic mismatched set, or got to Goodwill or yard sales. The borrowing family washes everything and returns the basket.
- Get students and parents involved in clean up – this should not become a teacher responsibility. Engage several classes in making the event green: separating recyclables correctly, helping clean up, washing dishes.
- If using disposable foodware, buy compostable foodware (then make sure it goes in the compost!) and/or foodware with recycled content, like paper plates made from recycled paper. Our Green Schools Buying Guide has a downloadable directory of sources for compostable and biodegradable foodware. Vendors of compostable foodware include:
Have recycling and compost bins clearly marked and accessible - Recycling, Compost, and Landfill/Garbage. Download and print signs, adapt these, or make your own.
Schoolkids love to express their love -- to classmates, teachers and family. Consider these simple, greener approaches to Valentines this year:
Related Articles & Resources:
- INFORM's Tips for a Cleaner, Greener Holiday Season
- Kokua Hawaii Foundation's Green Holiday Resources
- Ecology Center's Tips for an Eco-Friendlier Holiday Season
- City of Denver's excellent Green Event Checklist (pdf) (created for the 2008 Democratic National Convention)
- A Happy Green Halloween
- Green Fundraising