Nov. 22, 2019

How to plan a holiday gathering where everyone feels welcome

Nov. 27 workshop focuses on planning more inclusive and sustainable holiday parties
Want to spice up your holiday party? Plan a party where everyone feels welcome.
Alex Howard, Elyse Brazel and William Yimbo will share how to organize inclusive holiday parties. Riley Brandt, UCalgary

The holiday season is creeping up on us and if you have questions about how to balance inclusivity and sustainability in the party planning process, you’re not alone. That’s why UCalgary’s Sustainability Resource Centre, the Faith and Spirituality Centre, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure are teaming up to create dialogue and exchange ideas on how to plan more sustainable, inclusive holiday parties.

“Sustainability is a holistic concept,” says Alex Howard, staff engagement co-ordinator in UCalgary’s Office of Sustainability. “We often think sustainability means protecting the environment, but to build a sustainable workplace culture, we also need to identify what meaningful inclusion looks like for all of our colleagues and take action to realize it. At the Sustainability Resource Centre, we encourage students, faculty and staff to consider accessibility and inclusion as core features of successful holiday party planning.”

Howard, along with Elyse Brazel, education co-ordinator, Faith and Spirituality Centre, and William Yimbo, education specialist, Office of Diversity, Equity and Protected Disclosure, are hosting an Inclusive and Sustainable Holiday Parties workshop on Nov. 27 from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. to help you plan holiday events that are inclusive, sustainable and responsive to diverse religious and cultural considerations.

One of the reasons we plan gatherings around this time of year is to help bring people together to build community. 

“The best way to do this is to make sure that everyone can take part in the fun and feel included in the festivities," says Brazel. "This workshop will cover common inclusive event planning mistakes, such as scheduling events that conflict with religious observances, as well as not taking into consideration religious dietary considerations such as halal, kosher and vegetarianism.”

While religious inclusivity will be one topic discussed at the workshop, Howard will also share ways to incorporate low-carbon travel choices into holiday planning, and Yimbo will discuss ways to acknowledge the increasing diversity in the campus environment when planning events.  

“Something that many people do over the winter break, regardless of what may be celebrated, is travel,” says Howard. “People use the winter break to go on vacation, drive to visit family and friends, or attend parties. In the workshop, we’ll discuss things like trip-chaining and carpooling, turning off our car engines instead of idling, and becoming mindful of how many flights we take each year. We will encourage people to keep carbon emissions top of mind.”

The focus of the workshop is on holiday parties, but the tips provided can easily be implemented year-round, especially when paired with UCalgary’s Sustainable Events Program.

“The intersection of environmental, inclusivity and diversity are key aspects of any sustainable event, regardless of the season,” says Yimbo. “We encourage anyone organizing an event to always consider the tips we will share.”

Looking for more sustainable holiday tips? Check out these gift-giving ideas, as well as tips on how to sort holiday waste:

  • Give experiences (classes, theatre tickets) instead of products wherever possible. If you are purchasing products, buy Fairtrade, locally sourced and durable items that will last over time.
  • Use newspaper, tea or kitchen towels, or jars and cookie tins as gift wrap create less waste and make your gifts look rustic.  
  • Check out The City of Calgary’s guide for sorting holiday waste.

Register now for the workshop. For more information, contact

The University of Calgary’s Institutional Sustainability Strategy provides a road map for continuous improvement in our pursuit of excellence and leadership in sustainability. We aim to become a Canadian post-secondary education leader in sustainability in our academic and engagement programs, administrative and operational practices and through supporting community and industry in their aims for leadership in sustainability. Learn more about UCalgary’s leadership in sustainability.