A successful company event can be great PR — a great way to build relationships with your clients and guests; an unsuccessful one can be, well, the opposite.

The difference between the two comes down to the details – get them right and your guests will not only remember your party fondly, they will look forward to the next one. And for a green event like yours, the eco-friendly elements of the affair will make at least as much of an impact as the effort and creativity put into food, music and atmosphere.

While some aspects of greening an event can undoubtedly cost more than their less eco-friendly counterparts, creative planning and reallocation of funds can easily compensate; money saved by buying reusable items, locally, and decreasing waste disposal (if done right, there won’t be much) can be put towards some of the pricier touches for the party (gifts, decor, etc) that will make a strong statement about your company’s commitment to sustainability and leave an indelible impression on your attendees, while staying within your budget.

Here are a list of the vital bases to cover for a successful green event:

Theme – No matter what the occasion (product launch, company anniversary party, fundraiser), your event should have a theme, a message or impression you want to give your guests. Your theme doesn’t have to scream “green,” but try and have one unabashedly green element to arouse your guests’ curiosity, so the event can also help raise awareness of environmental issues. Need ideas? Check out other green events and see what they’re doing or not doing, to create a great party.

These solar-powered LED string lights, from Future Home Design (futurehomedesign.com), provide elegant, energy-efficient ambient lighting.

Venue – Try and minimize guests’ travel time, emissions and expense by choosing a place that’s centrally located or close to public transportation. And if the venue itself is green in any way (energy-efficient lighting, LEED-certified), that extra detail will impress your guests and, of course, minimize the occasion’s carbon footprint.

Invitations – Use an online service such as Evite, Pingg or Cocodot. Or if you must send paper invitations, make sure they’re made from recycled or tree-free paper, or for an extra touch of green, make your invitations plantable – made from special handmade paper embedded with seeds that grow when the paper is planted in soil.

Food and drinks – If possible, plan the menu around what’s in season locally, hire an organic caterer or find local sustainable restaurants or food vendors to sponsor your event. If you’re providing coffee or tea, make sure it’s organic and/or fair trade. And of course, cutlery, napkins, plates, cups and trays should either be reusable or biodegradable; and be sure to minimize the amount of packaging.

Plantable cards, such as these made by Grace Graphics (http://www.etsy.com/shop/gracegraphics), are a beautiful, green alternative to traditional paper invitations.

Decor– There are more and more options available for reusable or otherwise eco-friendly party decorations:

    biodegradable garlands, lanterns and crepe streamers

  • LED lights and candles or 100% beeswax candles
  • biodegradable balloons (but make sure they don’t fly away – they can still wreak havoc on marine life)
  • organic cotton or hemp table linens
  • potted plants and flowers, branches and herbs – they add a beautiful, great-smelling touch and can be planted or composted later

A great source for green decoration ideas is GreenPartyGoods.com – all of their products are recycled, reuseable, biodegradable, sustainable, or organic.

Gifts – If you’re offering goodie bags for your guests, make them out of reusable fabric gift bags or recycled paper bags or boxes – and make sure the goodies themselves are reusable, edible or otherwise responsible.

Schwag – Another way to make sure your guests remember your party is to design unique, green promo products – T-shirts, mugs (either of which could also be used as goodie bags), keychains, etc – imprinted with your company logo and the event information. For maximum effectiveness, tailor the items to the type of event and to your guests.

Leftovers – While it’s always important to provide separate, clearly marked bins for trash, recycling and compost, look into options for donating leftover food to a local food bank, or to a local farm for animal feed.

Proceeds – Even if your event is not a benefit, donating some of the proceeds from the occasion to a local nonprofit or other deserving organization will always leave guests (and whoever you’re donating to) with a warm, fuzzy feeling. Another great way to share the wealth, and to help counter carbon emissions, is to plant a tree for every guest.

A fun, well-planned event can make a big difference for your organization, and keeping it as green as possible will create maximum impact with a minimum of cost and waste, which makes perfect business sense.

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About The Author

Scott Cooney

Scott Cooney (twitter: scottcooney) is an adjunct professor of Sustainability in the MBA program at the University of Hawai'i, green business startup coach, author of Build a Green Small Business: Profitable Ways to Become an Ecopreneur (McGraw-Hill), and developer of the sustainability board game GBO Hawai'i. Scott has started, grown and sold two mission-driven businesses, failed miserably at a third, and is currently in his fourth. Scott's current company has three divisions: a sustainability blog network that includes the world's biggest clean energy website and reached over 5 million readers in December 2013 alone; Pono Home, a turnkey and franchiseable green home consulting service that won entrance into the clean tech incubator known as Energy Excelerator; and Cost of Solar, a solar lead generation service to connect interested homeowners and solar contractors. In his spare time, Scott surfs, plays ultimate frisbee and enjoys a good, long bike ride. Find Scott on

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