By Fredrica Syren:
In January and february we celebrated two birthday boys. My son Noah turned 8-year-old on January 2nd and my son Liam have his 6th birthdays just 6 weeks later. Phew!!! Birthday parties are super fun and something most kids look forward to. However, they also can mean lots of trash and impact on the planet. It seems as if it’s impossible to have a great and fun birthday party without the endless mountain of waste, from the plates, cups, napkins, and uneaten food to the gift wrap, present boxes and disposable decorations. For our two birthday parties, we tried maintaining our zero waste lifestyle but still have a great day for each birthday boy.
So the good news is that it’s absolutely possible to throw a zero waste birthday party. But it does require a bit more work and effort in the planning and more of your doing it yourself.
- Send paperless invitations — Paper invitations waste trees and natural resources, so one option is to use only those made from 100% recycled paper. The best option is sending an electronic invitation by using email or Evite.com.
- Skip the paper plates, plastic cups, bowls, napkins, etc. — Plastic or Styrofoam cups and disposable dishware and utensils may be more convenient, but they’re incredibly wasteful and they do end up in a landfill after the party. We used our regular plates and glasses, and — oh, yeah — it meant more dishes for us to clean afterward. But nothing is more wasteful than disposable products.
- Use natural and reusable decorations — Let the fantasy flow and let kids help out by making paper signs, plants, flowers, twigs, leaves and fabric to decorate the house for the party. All you really need are fun colors.
- Buy eco-friendly balloons — My boys LOVE balloons. I think most kids do. Heck, I still do. There is just something fun about batting them around and even popping them. For the best green options, make sure to get latex balloons that are 100 percent biodegradable.
- Make fun organic and healthy treats — I’m lucky: my kids love pancakes, so many of our parties have been pancake themed birthday parties, serving different flavored pancakes (vegan and gluten free options, too) along with cream, different fruits, berries, jam and syrup. A guaranteed hit. For the parties with cake, I also offer snacks like cut up veggies and hummus dip, fruit with yogurt dip, smoothies and homemade lemonade. I always make the cake because it’s super easy and much cheaper.
- Suggest eco-friendly gift-wrapping — Encourage guests to save on wrapping paper by implementing reusable wooden boxes or sheets of newspaper along with natural string and ribbons.
- Make a green goodie bag — Forget the plastic toys and candy in a colorful plastic bag. Instead, use paper bags made from recycled paper and have the birthday child help decorate bags with color, etc., then fill them with seeds for planting, homemade goodies or moldable beeswax (my kids’ personal favorite).
- Have fun activities — At our parties, we almost always do some sort of craft like making their own lantern out of old jars or making a planter that each child can take home. We also might do some painting or other fun craft projects. My son Noah loves soccer so for him we will have a soccer party in the park so his friends and him can play and friendly game. Our kids also really like a scavenger hunt where they have to work together figuring our clues that will bring them to the treasure, which can be a treat or goodie bag.