Thursday, May 3, 2012

Five Easy Ways to Reduce Birthday Party Waste

The Climate Crusader knows how to throw a kid's party ... sort of.

Before I was a mom, I found the idea of throwing kids' birthday parties more than a little daunting. Lots of sugared-up children running around my house, or forking over so they could run around a rented space? That didn't sound like fun to me. Once my daughter was in kindergarten, though, there was no avoiding it. I accepted the inevitable, and started planning. Long before I'd chosen a theme or decided for sure where to host it, I did know one thing, and that was that I wanted to reduce the environmental impact of the party.

Traditional kids' birthday parties can generate a lot of waste. Think balloons, streamers, disposable dishes, plastic forks and spoons, and lots and lots of packaging. All of that adds up to a lot of stuff headed straight for the landfill, where it will sit for hundreds or thousands of years. Not good. I decided to do a little bit of investigating, and look for an alternative.

With several kids' birthday parties under my belt now, I'm happy to say that party hosting is actually far more fun than I'd expected. I'm also happy to say that I found some easy ways to reduce the amount of waste that I was generating. Here are my tips.

Five Easy Ways to Green Your Birthday Party

  1. Go high-tech with your invitations. Electronic invitations are still viewed with suspicion for formal events. But a kids' birthday party is not a wedding, or even a baby shower. So why not ditch the paper invitations in favour of an email option? If you want it to look nice, you can get creative in Photoshop. Plus, electronic invitations make RSVP-ing a snap, so the other parents will have no excuse for not replying.
  2. Look for reusable decorations. I got some felt butterflies and a cloth banner with my daughter's name on it the first time we hosted a kids' birthday party. The butterflies are scattered on the rug and pinned on the wall at each party, and used as toys the rest of the year. The name banner hangs in my daughter's room, and comes downstairs to the living room on the big day. These decorations are festive and they have staying power.
  3. Use real dishes and cutlery. I don't like washing dishes, but thanks to my dishwasher one load takes care of the plates, bowls, cups and cutlery from my kids' parties. If you need extras, you can always borrow some for the occasion. And if your party is away from home, laundry baskets make great transportation devices.
  4. Re-think the loot bag. Most kids' parties feature plastic bags filled with plastic trinkets, which will likely end up in the trash sooner rather than later. Why not mix it up a little, and do something different? Make a craft at the party that the kids can take home. Or consider paper bags as an easy alternative to plastic. They're not waste-free, but they are recyclable. A few mindfully-chosen items also beat lots of cheap stuff.
  5. Re-use the gift wrap. True fact: I have not purchased gift wrap in years. Instead, I keep all the gift bags and tissue paper I receive, and re-use them. It gives new life to gift wrap, saves money, and eliminates that big garbage bag full of wrapping paper you may remember from your own parties as a child. What's not to love about that?
Those are my tips for reducing waste at a kids' birthday party. How do you green your birthday parties?


Sarah said...

Great! Growing up we would always forgo the bag of junky party favors and do a craft instead. It was so much fun, and many years later I still have some of the crafts we made. I really like using real dishes and silverware - people think it is so inconvenient, but you just pop them in the dishwasher, instead of hauling huge bags out to the trash - throwing away money!

Betsy (Eco-Novice) said...

Here is a post I wrote about greener parties:

Several of my ideas are similar to yours. I love the idea of reusable decorations (we've also made decorations from trash/recycleables). The best party favor I've heard of: a single baseball for each kid who attended a baseball themed party. I try to buy one thing for around $1 a piece. One year it was a notebook and box of crayons (bought when school supplies were on sale). I hate the bag of trinkets so I don't give it.

robbie @ going green mama said...

Great ideas! I stay away from the trinkets too...We've done everything from the freezer cups for a luau to tea cups from Goodwill for our Fancy Nancy party. And I have never heard anyone complain because they didn't get a bag of stuff!

Lisa Corriveau said...

For my son's first birthday party I gave each kid a castle-shaped bucket with sidewalk chalk & a few crayons inside, plus a 'sketchbook' I made of recycled & vintage papers. We used 'real' dishes & cutlery like you mentioned, plus fabric napkins. I made a whole bunch of them quickly by serging the edges of fabric scraps.


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