Have a great birthday celebration without creating heaps of rubbish.
If you cringe every time you see shiny wrapping paper, foil balloons, plastic plates and delicious food thrown into the bin after a party, it might be time to sit your little ones down and talk to them about having a more eco-friendly birthday bash. Children are the easiest to influence and once they are on board, we will be truly on our way to protecting the planet. Follow these seven easy steps to make it a greener affair from start to finish.
Read more: How To Introduce Your Kids To Sustainability
Step 1: Invitations
Thankfully, almost no one these days prints out invitations (unless it’s for a wedding, but that will probably change too by the time it’s your kid’s turn – phew!). Use Paperless Post or Evite to design and send out the invites. If it’s a TwoPresents party, they will send the invitations and follow up on RSVPs for you. You could also design your own invitations on Canva and send them out by WhatsApp or email. But if you really have to send out physical invitations (to classmates’ mamas who you don’t know very well), try to get your child to hand-design or draw them on plantable paper.
Step 2: Decorations
Now that you have the support of your child, use him or her to help you make pinwheels, party flags, and put up streamers and cloth birthday buntings. We love some of the ideas from The Spruce Crafts! Avoid single-use plastic decorations and if you need to buy anything, pass them around and share with friends afterwards. There are plenty of Facebook groups that swap or sell party items. You don’t need to personalise every occasion by buying name patterns and balloons that cannot be used again. You’ll be surprised to see how much more easily kids grasp and accept the concept of sharing when they see their parents do it on a regular basis.
Step 3: Tableware
This should really be the easiest to do. Bring supplies from home, borrow from a restaurant close by or rent reusable cutlery sets. If for some reason, none of this is possible at the party location, opt for disposable cutlery made with compostable materials from vendors like Vegware and PUREARTH.
Step 4: Food and drinks
The first thing to consider is the birthday cake. A lot of parents get excited by the theme of the party and order cake wrapped in heavy fondant. Other health-conscious parents throw away all this fondant because they don’t want to deal with kids bouncing off the walls on a sugar rush. So why not avoid it altogether and opt for healthier cakes with minimal fondant (perhaps just a topper?) and creative, edible toppings like fruits and sprinkles?
The next thing to avoid is food ordered in takeaway boxes. Opt for homemade finger foods, fruit skewers or order fresh snacks from a restaurant close by. Instead of buying individual packets of crisps and juices, get a large order of fresh chips (wrapped in paper, of course) and make your own lime juice at home.
Step 5: Games and activities
The best sort of party is one where parents can hand over the kids to entertain themselves or be involved in some sort of activity. We love baking and making birthday parties where the children actually make their own food and get involved with crafts (that they can then take home as gifts).
A lot of the party entertainment service providers will agree to demands like using recyclable materials for crafts, whole wheat flour for cakes and will refrain from handing out unnecessary items like bubbles, stickers and balloons. If not using the services of a professional, you could play simple games with the kids, like egg and spoon races, musical chairs and pin the donkey’s tail. These require little or no elaborate preparation, don’t involve wasteful accessories and are always great fun.
Step 6: Teach kids to recycle
Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to go entirely trash-free at a birthday party but you can make the clean-up eco-friendly. Have separate bins or bags for food, paper, metals and the unavoidable plastic. Make a game of it and get kids to segregate and clear up the rubbish. Award points and prizes (homemade chocolate fudge would work nicely here!) if food waste is below a reasonable amount. It’s a good way for kids to understand and learn about what can be recycled and become more conscious in their decision-making.
Read more: The Best Kids’ Birthday Party Entertainers
Step 7: Gifts and party favours
This one’s the biggie! How can you teach your kids to say no to gifts? The answer is to get them to care for and believe in a cause. Involve them in choosing a local charity and insist on a no-gifts policy. Provide donation details and you could even record a cute video of your child explaining why it means so much to him or her (this is to convince mums who ignore the no-presents rule).
You could also use TwoPresents again to collect some money for a favourite cause and the rest goes into one, much-desired gift for the birthday child. Another idea we love is to have all the kids bring one book each (no wrapping paper, please!) and drop it into a big bag. While leaving, they dig in and pull out a book blindfolded and go home with that (both birthday gift and party favour sorted!). If you really want to give away a goodie bag, opt for wooden toys, bamboo cutlery sets, plantable pencils, a small herb garden and the like. Use a simple paper or cloth bag rather than gift wrap paper, of course!
None of these steps will work though if you don’t get your child completely on board. So start the conversation with the birthday kid and work towards planning a fabulous earth-friendly celebration. Even if you can’t manage to make every aspect of it cleaner and greener, know that even small changes make the world a better place. And really, a healthier planet is the best birthday gift you can give your child!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on 20 April, 2012 by Sarah Senesi, and updated by Anita Balagopalan on 16 May, 2019.