Celebrating a child’s birthday is an important milestone each year, but traditional birthday parties leave a wake of disposable cutlery, wrapping paper, excess gifts and single-use decorations in their path. Throwing an environmentally friendly birthday party can easy and fun! Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Ask for second-hand, edible or non-plastic toys
If your big concern with birthday parties is going home with a pile of possibly toxic plastic toys that your child really doesn’t need, include a small note in the invitation to let parents know that you’re hoping to reduce waste by choosing pre-loved toys and natural materials where possible.
Support a cause and go gift-free
Some birthday parties ask guests to bring a donation to buy a goat for a family in a developing country instead of a gift for the birthday child. This may be as much as guests want to donate, or a fixed amount such as a toonie. For very young children, some families choose to have no-gift parties, which reduce the conflict around toddlers opening gifts together and the amount of unnecessary toys.
Choose sustainable party cutlery
Even families who normally avoid disposable products tend to cave and put out a stack of paper plates and plastic forks when it comes time to throw a birthday party. Who can manage to serve all the guests with real plates, wash them if needed and also host the party?
While serving food on real plates is the most environmentally-friendly option, palm leaf fibre plates, wooden forks and compostable paper cups are a decent second choice. If you feel very strongly about avoiding disposable products, you might consider renting or borrowing extra supplies or hiring a neighbourhood kid or cousin to wash the forks and plates between the snacks and cake.
Ditch the goodie bags
Goodie bags may be a favourite part of birthday parties for the kids, but many parents dread the cheap plastic toys and excess sugar that goodie bags bring into the house. A greener and healthier option is to choose a small gift to give out to each child as they leave the party, such as a wooden fly-eye, a box of eco-friendly pencil crayons, a small stainless steel water bottle or a cookie cutter.
Buy or make reusable decorations
Instead of blowing up plastic balloons and stringing paper streamers, why not use a reusable fabric birthday banner? Another great idea is to make a felt birthday crown for the birthday child to wear. As the same banner and crown are brought out for each celebration, not only are you reducing waste, you’re also creating traditions and lasting memories. Children especially love the repetition and familiarity of using the same decorations at every birthday.
The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule has instructions on making your own, or you can shop for them at Green Planet Parties.
Birthday parties can go green with just a few changes to the regular traditions. Whether you borrow a stack of side plates from your neighbour instead of throwing out paper ones or give the kids a yo-yo when they leave instead of a bag of made-in-china dollar store toys, all the little changes add up to make a substantial effect.
Michelle Carchrae is a freelance writer and homeschooling mom to two girls. With a serious love for Vancouver and an equally serious need to get out of the house with two young kids, Michelle searches out the best kid and parent friendly places to go. Michelle also writes about parenting at her blog, The Parent Vortex.
Michelle Carchrae is often asking those important life questions: "who moved the scissors?", "how would you do that differently next time?" and "are you finished with the glitter glue?" Homeschooling two girls, ages 6 and 3, is her full time job. The rest of the time Michelle can be found blogging at The Parent Vortex, hiking in the forest or knitting and reading simultaneously. She recently published her first ebook, The Parenting Primer: A guide to positive parenting in the first six years, and moved to Bowen Island.