My son is going to be four years old next week– that means a birthday party! This will be our first “kid birthday party.” Usually we stick to family and close friends, which means I can keep the party eco-friendly by using my everyday dishes, avoid goodie bags and all of the other wasteful things. That said, I’m doing my best to find a solution to the birthday party waste.
After choosing the date for a birthday party and settling on a guest list, it’s time for invitations. Are paper invitations really necessary for your child’s party? Skipping paper invitations will save you money at the store and the post office, while also saving the environment a little bit. Instead, why not try a website like Evite to let guests know about the party. Another option is to simply telephone guests and let them know you’re having a party and they’re invited. This is how I let family know we’re having a party. If you absolutely must mail invitations, why not look for ones that are made from either recycled materials or come from renewable resources like those offered by Pear Tree. They are made with 100% recycled cardstock and are comparable in price to their non-recycled counterparts.
Paper goods are one of those things that seem to create huge amounts of waste at birthday parties. Planning in advance, I’m opting for paper plates that can be recycled as opposed to Styrofoam. There are a number of companies that make eco-friendly paper goods. Some companies that make particularly eco-friendly dinnerware products include: World Centric, Rosetto Liteware and Nature Friendly Products. If you want a simple solution to your paper products, then you should check out the Acme Party Box Company. They offer several different themes including a Kingdom Party, Pirate Party and a Circus Party among others.
You could also opt for plates made from recycled materials that can be used time and again, like the ones from Preserve Tableware. If you have a place to store these plates and don’t mind the extra step of washing them, then these are a great alternative to the disposable variety. Plus, while saving the environment, you’ll also be saving your wallet since you won’t need to buy new tableware for every birthday each year for several years to come.
Since I want to encourage our guests to recycle, the recycling bin will be right next to the garbage pail. My hope is they will clear waste in the garbage pail and place the recyclables in their proper place.
We are not big fans of balloons in my home. Actually, that’s not true— my children LOVE balloons, but my husband and I loathe them. They are a source of fights and the string poses a strangulation hazard with our little one. Add to it the fact that they’re bad for the environment, and I think it’s a consensus that we’ll be skipping balloons this year. My son is having a pirate-themed party, so we are opting for pirate decorations. My son and I made pirate flags together using some old black pillowcases, pieces of white felt and fabric glue. We already hung one flag from his swing set (which he pretends is a pirate ship), and the other will go in the front yard on the day of the party to welcome our guests. We also built a large pirate’s treasure chest using an empty box of diapers. We covered it with paper and decorated it with skulls and crossbones. Most likely, we’ll use it to hold our dinnerware. I also know some parents who make (or buy) “Happy Birthday” Banners made of fabric and use them for each child’s birthday. Basically, if you can take the same approach to birthday decorations as you do for other holiday decorations—store them in a bin and reuse the same decorations every birthday. There’s really no reason to buy all new decorations for every birthday.
I don’t recall leaving birthday parties with a bag full of goodies when I was a child. These days, I’m hard-pressed to remember a party my kids have been to when they haven’t gotten at least some kind of party favor if not a small bag of toys and candy. It can be difficult to step back and either do something different, or completely skip the giving a favor altogether. I admit that I am a victim of peer pressure, and would like to make sure my son’s guests leave with some kind of parting gift. Here are some recommendations for party favors that you can give while keeping to your eco-friendly party plan: reusable water bottles, plant growing kit, and for those who are a little more creative, you could make play dough with this recipe:
1 cup organic flour
1/2 cup sea salt
2 Tbs. cream of tartar
1 cup filtered water
1 Tbs. vegetable oil
Mix flour, salt and cream of tartar in a saucepan. Combine water and oil in a small bowl. Stir into flour mixture gradually. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until very thick, stirring constantly. Remove and allow to cool for a few minutes. Knead until smooth. Store in an airtight container.
Finally, there are some great programs and all-in-ones you can use for your child’s birthday. The one I wish I had known about before planning my son’s birthday party is ECHOage. This is such a cool program. You can first use their website to send out e-invitations to your guests with all of the party information. Your guests can RSVP directly on the site. But here’s the part I like best—instead of everyone showing up at your child’s party with a gift, they give a monetary gift through the website. Half of the money given to your child is donated to a charity of your choice. The other half of the money is sent to you to buy one big gift for your child. Talk about cutting down on toy overload—and you’ll be doing something good for others with your child’s birthday. In addition, you can send out thank you notes directly through the ECHOage site.
Wish me luck as I attempt to throw my son a birthday party while taking care to be gentle on the environment. I hope all of my planning will pay off, the children will have fun, and that all of our guests will follow the example I set and recycle!