Sunday, May 9, 2010

Superhero Secrets: the Eco-Friendly Birthday Party

Desperate and belated search for ideas for a way to celebrate the fifth birthday of the daughter of a suburban greenmom...

The birthday party. Usually it's at one of Those Places, where you shell out huge amounts of money in order to not have to plan, clean, shop, or worry about what the other parents will think of your house. But they are crazy expensive, and they almost always come with tacky "goody" bags and bad pizza.

So I have this vain hope that maybe we can do better for my daughter. So I'm looking around...

Eco-Child's Play has a few posts on the topic; the "low impact birthday party" one seems to be the most immediately useful. She also recommends Green Party Goods for party favors--although I honestly am not inclined to spend so much, nor to require the carbon footprint of shipping a bunch of things to me. And besides, even though "compostable cornware" is certainly a huge improvement on Dixie cups, I would prefer to go with reusable all the way.

So still looking...the NatureMoms blog also has some good thoughts, particularly the idea of having homemade play-doh and natural wood "magic wands" as party favors...and this video of instructions on how to make your own "seeded paper" invitations is brilliant. The Not-Quite-Crunchy-Parent also has some good favor ideas, like capes (capes+wands=fairies!) or plants or crafts to do at the party that become favors to take home, like snow-globes or masks or what have you.

The ideas on eco-bites don't look like my thing, but that's mostly because I'm fairly lazy--check it out, you might find something there! And while most of the ideas on this SheKnows site also are somewhere between common sense and too much work, that little picture of the kid with a plant in a decorated flower pot scores high for me--that, I could do! (I love the idea of moving entirely to e-vite invitations, but somehow neither of my children's schools have managed to gather and disseminate parent email addresses for exactly this purpose. It's so frustrating!) And the Green Baby Guide has some great ideas I wish I'd had when my kids were littler--but they are now a little too big for this wonderful scaled back plan; now there's peer pressure and but-Sofia's-party-was-at-the-giant-inflatable-place to compete with...

The article on Carbon Footprint Defined
is by far my favorite, both in style and content. The activity ideas are particularly good, as is the author's understanding of the perils of children's parties. (Honestly, any site that starts by saying "Throw a green party! It'll be easy!" makes me squirm, because there's nothing easy about doing a child's party. Have you ever heard how loudly five-year-old girls scream when they are in a group?)

Any other ideas or links? I have a princess-loving five-year-old to fete in about 10 days and I need anything I can get...

Jenn the Greenmom

(UPDATE: here's my account of how the party actually went...)


Heather said...

I had a customer buy a cloth napkin for each kid in a fabric that worked with her party theme and each girl got to go home with their napkin to use in their lunch box throughout the week. It cuts down on paper waste and takes care of the party favor thing in one swoop!

NotQuiteCrunchy said...

Wow-what a great round- up of green birthday party idea resources.

For me, I've found that I can make the greatest green impact if I focus on the "r" for "reuse",rather than trying to purchase all eco friendly materials.

Cloth napkins and tablecloths that can be used all year, no junk toys in the goodie bag- actually no bag at all - something more durable, etc.

I can at least justify when I spend as much money as i would at a "birthday place" that everything will be used we still use the capes from my son's b-day party of 2 years ago!

Robbie @ Going Green Mama said...

Jenn, we're there too (and not long behind you!). Here are some things we've done or planned to do:

- Forget the goodie bags. Instead, I've gotten the kids something they could reuse, if anything at all. The times there were no gift bags, they weren't missed!

- If you're having a small group, I've just used my regular dishes before. It's really not as painful as you'd think!

- Go with e-mailed invites or print your own and distribute. It's simple, but a one-sided invite is less paper and ink than a folded, character printed one (2+ sides of ink), not to mention you're not forced to use envelopes if you don't need to.

- Like NotQuiteCrunchy, I buy tablecloths that I can reuse. Our luau tablecloth, while admittedly cheap, lasted through the summer (and would have gone longer had the toddler not been in a poking the fork into the table phase!)

- As for gifts, while you can't force anyone to buy certain things, encourage grandparents for more experiential things (ie. zoo or childrens museum tickets, or a class at the parks and rec) as opposed to 2 Barbie dolls. Or, encourage them to contribute to their college account!

- Sounds simple, but make your cake instead of buying one. It's disgustingly simple. Even better, have the kids decorate their own cupcakes!

- I know everyone is into foam things right now, but if you're up for a craft look for something in different materials!

Email me and I'll shoot you some princessy sites and resources to help you brainstorm activities and other ideas. While they have a lot of pitches for products, there are activities and other ideas you can borrow and make your own. Good luck!

Dea-chan said...

I remember that when I was a kid, I had a b-day party that involved my mom spreading all of our dress up clothes on the back of the couch, we all dressed up fancy fancy, and had a tea party.

It was one of my favorite parties.

You could try that, only include crowns and other "princess" attire!

condo blues said...

I've done large scale events for me a green kids party is easy (sorry.) Two words: treasure hunt. Send the kids with clues around your house and yard to find the reusable decorations (Happy Birthday banner), the homemade cake,crowns (instead of hatsa), box of crown decorations (activity instead of goodie bags) even the birthday girl's gift! They will be so tired by cake time they won't miss a goodie bag full of junk! Email me if you'd like more ideas.

Jenn the Greenmom said...

Okay, WOW, this is why I love Superhero Secrets--whatever I can link to in the actual article is nothing compared to what y'all come up with in the comments. The treasure hunt idea is awesome (and spares us having to decorate for the party beforehand), and I think we'll definitely try the "decorate your own cupcakes" thing. (With a dropcloth on the floor.) I've heard of "make your own sundaes" as a party activity too, but I don't think I'm brave enough for that one.

We're currently leaning to an "almost sleepover"--did this with my son a couple of years ago and it was very popular: have kids come in their jammies, have dinner and cake, and then pop popcorn and watch a princess movie. If decorating crowns (and magic wands?)to take home as a craft, and maybe making princess capes for everyone instead of goodie bags, can be part of it too, that'd be a great addition and substitute for the goodie bags. (I've always been anti-goodie-bag even before I was green, but then I used to hit the dollar store for some highly synthetic and probably toxic teddy bear or something...we got flashlights for everyone for the last almost-sleepover too, which was kind of cool...)

Thanks to all!

Tracy said...

I just had a b-day party for my 10 year old son this past weekend. We sent email invites, used reusable plates, cups, bowls and utensils. No treat bags. Instead each boy decorated a t-shirt with fabric markers and paints (this was their party favor). The party was also "gift-free" in order to continue with our green efforts and curb our consumption. I will admit, the older the kids are, the easier it is to do some of these things. Good luck.

Koozies said...
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