Conventional birthday parties are events that bring about a great deal of decorations and favors that leave a hefty load in your local landfill. From the plates to the entertainment to the goodie bags, each party makes a mark on the environment. Hosting an environmentally friendly birthday party for your child and their friends to enjoy can be an opportunity to grow in your journey of sustainability–and teach your child about living green.
Making a conscious effort to host a sustainable birthday party is not only kind to the environment, but for your body as well. There is a multitude of ways you can substitute conventional birthday items for more sustainable ones. Most plastic and throwaway party items contain toxic ingredients and remain in the environment for years to come. Teaching your child that less is more and showing them how to recycle will help your child understand their impact on the world around them and what they can do to make a change.
Here are some tips on how to throw your next sustainable b-day party.
Invites are an exciting part of the birthday event, but realistically, most invites are glanced at, then thrown in the trash. In the world of technology, choose an e-vite to spread the news. (Paperless Post is a lovely option.)
E-vites collect zero waste, and you can really personalize the invitation. If you have your heart set on sending invitations in the mail or your child gets a thrill from handing them out in person, then you can find invitations that are made on recycled paper. It may cost more, but it definitely fulfills the mission of sustainability.
Think of decorations that can be used for multiple occasions and are not geared towards one event or individual (meaning no names). Create banners out of fabric that can be reused every year, and skip the balloons as they have a short lifespan and are filled with toxic material. Star hangings or light garlands that can be reused are a good substitute for balloons.
A tablecloth is a necessity with kids, but choose one that is waterproof and made from a firm, reusable material. Refrain from inexpensive, plastic tablecloths. They tend to not be very sturdy and are not recyclable. For party hats, children can make their own flower garlands or headwear made from items in nature or reused material, and they can then be taken home and hung up or reused at their next birthday party.
Disposable plates and cups leave a hefty footprint when it comes to waste. Forgo the throwaway party plates and cups, and use reusable, BPA-free plasticware instead (preferably made from recycled material). Buy a set that you use specifically for parties and get-togethers, and choose a fun color or pattern. If you have an eclectic mix of partyware you’ll also eliminate the game of “whose cup is that,” which only generates more waste when using disposable cups. Make things fun and different, and have guests bring along their favorite drinking glass. Whether it be a mug or a plastic cup with an attached straw, it’s a funny conversation kids can have during cake as to why that is their favorite cup.
In order to eliminate a buildup of dishes at the end of the party, have a station that is filled with soapy water that party goers can place their dirty dishes. If you’re outside you can use a bin or a bucket, and if you’re inside you can direct them to the sink. Opt for cloth napkins, and set up a basket for them to be disposed in. This not only teaches children responsibility and the beauty of recycling, but it also eliminates extra clean-up when guests leave.
Snacks that Matter
Most kid snacks leave a paper trail, as they are bound in wrappers or containers that are not biodegradable. Skip the juice boxes, and instead make drinks in bulk. They can be stored in punch bowls or pitchers. The same goes for snacks! Think of snacks that can be made in bulk. Protein balls (filled with yummy fruit or chocolate chips), chips or popcorn, are all great options and are easy to make. Put the snacks in large dishes or bowls. If you are concerned with children spilling the drinks or playful hands in the snack bowl, then ask the parents beforehand if anyone is willing to volunteer or take turns monitoring the snack table. They will be more than willing, as they have and will throw parties that need assistance in the future!
Goodie Bag Go To’s
Goodie bags are filled with items that are not bio-degradable and tend to get lost or break. Instead send the party guests home with something they made at the party, such as homemade play dough or a planted vegetable sprout. You can also buy items that are sustainable, like recycled crayons or wooden toys. As they tend to be more on the expensive side, gift each child just one item. This not only teaches children the value of sustainable living but also educates them on the value of minimalism. For an extra treat, you can add a side of homemade popcorn or trail mix (just check if any children have food allergies) and stash them in a reusable bag. The gift of a day of playing with their friends and full bellies is a goodie bag in itself.
Conscious Gift Giving
Wrapping paper is festive and fun to unwrap, but it’s only good in the moment as it is not recyclable. Ask parents to skip the wrapping paper and opt for naked presents, or to use reusable bags that can be used for shopping or gift bags for the next party you attend. Just like goodie bags, gifts for children are often made of plastic and small pieces that get lost or thrown away. Suggest to parents to gift their your child a book (especially one that is the gift givers favorite) or handmade toys that are made with kind, environmentally friendly material. If you ask for handmade or eco-friendly toys, it can be best to send gift ideas or shop locations that are reasonable both geographically and financially.
Have you thrown a sustainable children’s party before? If so, what are your favorite substitutes for conventional birthday party favorites?
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Photo: Unplash, Paperless Post, Re-Play, EcopartyAnytime