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Holiday Entertaining

Click here to return to the Sustainable Holiday Greening Guide.


Whether you are preparing a home-cooked holiday meal or hosting a holiday party, these tips will help to make your meals more environmentally friendly. For sustainable food practices, consider the food itself, the transportation of the food, and the waste produced by food packaging. Sustainable food practices include:

  • Grocery shopping at stores or hiring caterers who commit to using locally grown and organic food. This greatly reduces the distance the food had to travel to your home or event, making it fresher, and reducing the environmental impact of that transportation process.
  • Using reusable china plates and utensils whenever possible, especially when hosting a large event, to reduce the waste of disposables.  Several local companies who offer these products for rental include:
  • If disposables must be used, here are some choices, recommended in order of least environmental impact: 1) paper products with a high recycled content (i.e. paper cups or napkins made with recycled paper), 2) bioware that is made of corn, potatoes, etc. that is biodegradable or compostable, or 3) recyclable plastic ware.
  • Eliminate excess packaging by serving food in large containers instead of single-servings. Provide bulk water, coffee and drink dispensers instead of individually packaged products.
  • Serve bite-sized or finger foods to minimize plate and utensil use.
  • Get an accurate count of attendance before the event to eliminate excess food waste.
  • Donate excess food to food banks, if possible. Make sure you call ahead to learn holiday hours of operation:


Did you know that the meat production industry is resource intensive, consuming fossil fuels, water, and land; and creating pollution and greenhouse gas emissions? The production of chicken and turkey has considerably less impact on the environment than other meats, such as beef and lamb.

  • Seek free-range and/or locally raised meat for your holiday celebrations.
  • Consider serving or eating less meat this year and serving vegetarian- and/or vegan-friendly alternatives to turkey or ham at your holiday celebrations. Several options include:
    • Field Roast’s Celebration Roast and Gardein Stuffed Turk’y Roast are great vegetarian-friendly options that are stuffed with fruits and vegetables and seasoned with savory spices.
    • Tofurky Roasts are available in many grocery stores and at VU’s Turkey Toss.
    • Lentil loafs are another great option to traditional meat dishes.
  • Consider serving hearty vegetable dishes, such as stuffed winter squashes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, brussel sprouts, carrots, broccoli, swiss chard, mushrooms, and more! The recipes are endless!
  •,, and all publish numerous ideas and recipes for celebrating the holidays with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free menu options.


  • Publicize your event via email and the internet by sending online invitations. You will save trees, save greenhouse gas emissions created during the transportation of the invitations, save pollution from the printing process, and even save some money!
  • If you do use printed materials, make sure invitations are printed on paper with post-consumer recycled content with vegetable-based inks.
  • Decorate using items you already have or ones that you can borrow from friends. Also consider decorations that can be reused and enjoyed after your event, such as whole fruit, small plants, or herbs.


  • Request recycling bins for your holiday event here at Vanderbilt:
    • For events held on Vanderbilt’s campus, include a request for recycling on your work order to Plant Operations. If you don’t have a work order for your party, you can contact Vanderbilt’s recycling coordinator at 615-34EARTH or
    • If you are not serviced by Plant Operations, you can specify within your catering contract that the caterer provide recycling containers and remove the recycling when they leave.
  • Provide separate containers for recycling aluminum/tin and plastic.
  • Place recycling containers next to trash bins for easy access.
  • Announce to guests what and where to recycle.
  • Kids love to recycle so put them in charge of collecting recyclables at family events.
  • Click here or visit your local community’s website to find locations where you can take recyclables.
  • When hosting a party, lower the thermostat. More people in an area means more body warmth.

Click here to return to the Sustainable Holiday Greening Guide.