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Is it possible to throw a child’s birthday party (or any party for that matter) without piling up mounds and mounds of trash? The answer is most definitely YES. Throwing an eco-friendly party (or green party or nearly zero-waste party) is actually probably easier than you think. Like any party, it just takes some planning in advance.
Here are some tips and ideas to get you started planning your next eco-friendly bash.
1) Invitations: Consider electronic invitations from Evite, which is what we did for my daughter Ava’s recent 4th birthday party, or EchoAge. Both options save paper and trees. If you have to have paper invitations, check out seed embedded paper (that you can plant) from Green Field Paper or Botanical Paperworks or others, so your invitation is reused and recycled.
2) Tableware: One of the biggest waste creators at a party is the tableware – the plates, cups, napkins, bowls, and eating utensils, and even the table cloths. All of this plastic stuff (made from oil) gets used once, then ends up in the landfills where it doesn’t degrade. You can avoid the waste and plastic altogether by using reusable tableware, which may be cost-effectively purchased from a restaurant supply store. If you enjoy throwing parties and do so often, this might be the best way to go. Another option is to use compostable* tableware which is often made from corn, potatoes or sugarcane. Thanks to Green Party Goods we had compostable plates, cups and utensils in pink (for all of the kids) and I bought additional compostable tableware from EcoCycle, where they offer up a zero-waste event kit. Unfortunately the kits are only available locally; they do not ship them. EcoCycle provided me with table signs and boxes/bags to collect the compostables. After the party, I dropped them off at the EcoCycle facility to be composted. We collected recyclable items separately and took them back to my house to put in our recycle bin.
*It’s worth noting that many of the compostable tableware requires the very high heat of an industrial composter (not a home composter) to effectively decompose.
If you need table cloths, consider using an old sheet (check out Freecycle or thrift stores) or a piece of fabric in the color or theme of your choice. My mom whipped up a couple farm-themed tablecloths in no time for Ava’s party.
3) Decorations: Children’s birthday parties often mean lots and lots of balloons which are not good for the environment. Most are not biodegradable, are bad for sewage treatment plants, and are bad news for marine wildlife as well. As an alternative to balloons, one could decorate with Chinese lanterns or felt banners (both of which are reusable). Recycle Your Day has a tutorial on how to make a paper bag pinata. Or you could have your party at an outside location (at least during the warmer months) and let the natural scenery be the “decorations” and avoid artificial decorations all together. We held Ava’s 4th birthday party at a local farm where the kids had the option to feed and pet animals, have a pony ride, play in a giant tree house, and more. They loved it! Parks make a great setting for children’s parties too. We’ve had two of Ava’s previous birthday parties there. Outdoor parties are a great way to get kids connecting with nature.
4) Food and Cake: When planning your menu, try to keep foods as healthy, organic and whole as possible. Avoiding prepackaged, preservative-laden foods is healthier for your guests and better for the earth since there’s less packaging involved. For Ava’s party I went with a fruit salad, a carrot salad, my version of confetti salad, a green salad and crackers. Instead of a cake, I made cupcakes using a healthier recipe sweetened with applesauce and honey, but my frosting (which my mom and I used to try to make the cupcakes look like pigs) included a lot of powdered sugar. I know, tsk, tsk, but ya can’t win ’em all. The good news is that the food coloring I used to dye the cream cheese frosting was plant-based (from beets). You can buy natural food coloring (and avoid artificial colors) at most health food stores.
5) Gifts and Wrapping Paper: When it comes time to wrap presents, think recycled or reusable materials first. Encourage your party attendees (as I did) to wrap their presents using newspaper or cloth. My friend Julie took the cloth suggestion one step further and made her own zero-waste wrapping “paper” by naturally-dyeing play silks a lovely shade of pink. The play silks are like a bonus present and provide unlimited imaginative play.
You also always have the option of politely declining presents. Kids often have so many toys that it won’t bother them to make presents optional, suggest books only (used books are even better) or request no presents at all. Another idea is to ask for donations to a charity in lieu of gifts. Let your child choose the charitable organization.
6) Party favors/hat: I wanted to stay away from cheap and/or disposable party favors/hats and bags for the kids. Thanks to Green Party Goods, we received a felt queen’s crown for Ava’s big day (and you’ll have a chance to win one below). They also carry felt party hats.
Since I wanted to avoid plastic for our goody bags, I picked up some mini canvas bags from Hobby Lobby as well as some craft paint. I painted a pig and each child’s name on the bags. You could also buy a yard of fabric, cut it into squares and make your own bags tied up with a ribbon.
Then for filling the bags, I bought some groovy recycled rainbow crayons* from Art 2 The Extreme, an Etsy store. In keeping with our farm theme, I printed up mini coloring books of farm animals on recycled paper. I also wanted to include some sort of treat, but I wanted to avoid sugar and artificial colors, so I included a box of organic raisins for each child. That was it. Simple, but fun and no junky little plastic toys to end up in the landfill.
Another neat eco-friendly party favor idea is to give polished stones or geodes. They are natural and great for imaginative play. Check out Etsy for other unique and/or recycled/eco-friendly favor ideas.
7) Thank you notes: Again, these can easily be done without trees by sending electronic thank yous. If you feel the need to send them in the mail though as I did (what can I say, I’m old-fashioned), use recycled paper/cards. We made our thank you notes and Ava stamped them with a new stamping set she received for her birthday. I think it’s important for children to be involved in the thanking process and she really enjoyed creating cards for all of her friends.
Looking for more green party ideas? Check out Nature Moms Blog’s Eco Friendly Birthday Party post.
Now on to the giveaway…
Thanks to Green Party Goods, I’m giving away one felt queen or king crown (your choice) and 10 collapsible baseball figure party favors. To be eligible to win, simply visit Green Party Goods, take a look around, come back here and leave a comment letting me know what your favorite thing is. That’s it! (If you want to link to it, Twitter it, or Stumble it, especially if you found this post helpful, I certainly won’t object, but that’s not required to enter to win.) The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7. The winner will be selected by Random.org and emailed, so be sure to include a valid email address or link to your blog so I know how to reach you. Good luck!
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