How To Throw a Kids Eco-Friendly Birthday Party
No matter what the age, kids dream about one special event every year, their birthday party. Who wouldn’t look forward to gathering of friends and family, birthday cake and presents, party games and entertainment? Sadly, such a production is not always a welcome event for your wallet and definitely not easy on the environment. To help reduce both your budget and environmental damages while still making your child’s day extra special, here are 9 eco-friendly party tips that are simple enough for anyone to follow.
As with any party, the first thing you always do is notify friends and classmates about when and where the party will be by sending out an invitation. By choosing email invitations you will save on paper and postage, and it is an easy way for parents to reply and for you to track RSVP’s. You can either email families directly or use a site like Evite or Pingg.
Samantha Vermillion, who chooses to live green, has learned a lot from throwing eco-friendly parties, “if you send an evite, include a carpool option for people to click on. It allows the party attendees to save a little money on gas by driving with someone else who is also attending the party.”
If you prefer traditional invitations, use paper that is already around the house. Print out invitations from your computer on recycled paper. Also, let the kids help color and decorate the cards. Hand deliver as many of the invitations as possible, walk to their houses or have the kids hand them out at school.
If it is an option, stock up on party food from your local farmer’s market rather than your nearest grocery store. The closer you are to the source of the food, the less energy you will waste on transporting it. The prices at farmers’ markets also tend to be cheaper than at grocery stores, so you will walk away with extra cash in your pocket. It depends on when and where you are hosting your party, but you will most likely be able to find some tasty fruits and treats that any kid would enjoy. Throughout the party serve nutritiouskids’ foods that are tasty and simple to make. Tea sandwiches, organic cookies, soy hot dogs, chicken fingers, popcorn, and pizza are just some options. An idea for dessert is to use smoothies or yogurt to make popsicles (http://agreenliving.net/).
Another option is to make your kids’ birthday cake rather than purchasing one from the store. “Baking at home gives you control over the ingredients (especially important if guests have food allergies). Also, store-bought cakes often come in disposable pans and cardboard boxes, which generates extra trash” (pbs.org). If you are looking to make your cake healthier, you can use whole wheat flour, less sugar, substitute applesauce for the oil or butter, and skip the artificial food coloring (almostallthetruth.com).
Instead of water bottles or individually packed juices, have a large, community container and recyclable or biodegradable cups. Write the kids’ names on their cup before the party begins, that way they will remember which one is theirs. Substitute the artificially colored, sugary drinks and serve 100 percent fruit and vegetable juice.
If you choose to serve coffee to the parents, purchase shade-grown, organic, or free-trade.
Dishes and Table Ware
“Some of the biggest sources of waste at children’s’ parties are the plates, napkins, tablecloths and cups that get tossed away after one use. Rather than buying paper products, offer reusable, kid-friendly cups and plates” (pbs.org). Styrofoam plates take 5,000 years to biodegrade. In comparison, paper products which take less than six months to biodegrade (http://www.greenecoservices.com/). Bamboo is also a cheap and chic alternative to styrofoam and plastic plates. Depending on the number of guests you have, you can also use your own plates, bowls, glasses and silverware. Let your guests know from the beginning to keep track of their own dishes and to reuse them. Samantha Vermillion says that it is important to “make it clear to your guests that they are to put recyclables in a separate container than the trash; otherwise, recyclable or not, it all ends up in one bag.”
There is also the fun option of using ice cream cone bowls for dessert and edible straws for drinks. That way the kids can eat up their dishware and none of it will go to waste.
For tablecloths, instead of plastic, why not use a colorful twin or queen size bed sheet. Once the party is over, you can just wash it and use the same sheet at later parties. If your kid has their heart set on a themed tablecloth, you can pick up some themed fabric at the fabric store. As for the placemats, you can use your computer or recycled paper to print custom placemats to match your theme.
For the decor, get ready to bring out your creative side. Forget the streamers and balloons that often pop before the party finishes. Instead of purchasing more decorations, use materials you already have around the house and have your kids help you make them. Look through the basement or attic for items that you can use to help decorate the party. Use recycled paper to make banners and party hats, which guests can also color themselves. For some cute and creative decorating ideas you can visit greenplanetparties.com.
Presents are usually wrapped in beautiful shiny paper that gets torn to shreds and tossed on the floor. Gift wrap is one of the biggest forms of waste at a birthday party. Most friends and family won’t mind if you encourage an eco-friendly option. You can request on the invitation to use reusable gift bags, recycled gift wrap, newspaper, or no gift wrap at all. Truly, kids don’t care what the present comes wrapped in; all they care about is what is inside. You can also create a registry list of eco-friendly gift ideas that your child would appreciate such as wood toys, cloth dolls, laptop lunch boxes or klean kanteen bottles; these are just a few of the several different options to choose from.
There are endless options of activities you can do at a green birthday party. Some of the most loved party games require little to no materials. Some examples include hopscotch, capture the flag, charades and musical chairs, which require minimal supplies and are ones that every kid will enjoy. If you want to incorporate music, consider playing musical chairs or doing karaoke. If you are having an outside party, scavenger hunts and races are entertaining. Using crafts, art supplies, and paper that you already have is also a good way to save a little money. One idea is to have all the kids make a big mural for the birthday child or something for everyone to take home with them.
Most plastic goody bags are filled with trinkets, candy, and stuff that will end up in the trash more often than not. The thought is sweet, but there are alternative forms of goody bags that can be a little more eco-friendly. Book exchanges are a great idea. Have every child bring a new or used book and each will get to take one home at the end of the party. Food is always a great party favor. Send your guests home happy with sweet creations like homemade chocolate fudge, a batch of cookies, organic lollipops, recycled bead jewelry and handmade toys. A new trend is to give gift cards, in small amounts, to places such as the local frozen yogurt or ice cream shop. That way you know that your gift will be used, and after all, what kid doesn’t adore ice cream?
You can continue the idea of being eco-friendly even after the party ends when it is time to clean up. Make sure you recycle whatever you can and sort things into the proper bins. Put leftover food scraps into a composter, and give extra food to your guests to take home in reusable containers. Pre-spot any reusable tablecloths or placemats and toss them in the washing machine along with an eco-friendly laundry detergent.
Wipe down your kitchen counters, tables, door handles and knobs with a healthy non-toxic kitchen spray. Most antibacterial cleaners contain triclosan, a chemical that has been linked to cancer, developmental toxicity, skin irritation, and endocrine disruption (http://www.organicauthority.com/). If you are out of green household cleaner you can always make your own.
Here is a simple recipe for your easy, do-it-yourself green cleaner:
1 spray bottle
1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
2 cups of water
10-12 drops of your favorite essential oil, i.e. lavender, eucalyptus, jasmine (optional)
Remember if you are not 100 percent satisfied with the do-it-yourself spray cleaner, next time simply pick up your favorite non-toxic, all purpose cleaner at your favorite local natural food market.
You did it! Having an eco-friendly birthday party is not that difficult when you apply a little bit of imagination. It also sets a great example. There is no downside, and after all the whole point of ‘going green’ is to preserve what we have left of the earth for the generations still to come, and most importantly teach our children to live healthy, natural lives.