Celebrating a child’s birthday is an important marker of time and full of happy chaos! As much as we want to make these events special for the children that we love, the last thing we want to do is throw a party that leaves a legacy of waste. Of course, you love your child and want to protect their future, and throwing a green birthday party is a great way to start! It shows your child and their friends that you can celebrate as you live lighter on the earth.
Here I have rounded up some amazing ideas to get you started!
Think about a goal of Zero Waste and earth-friendly gifts and party favours. It can be unique and special to you and your child, and a really great way to leave a greener legacy for your child.
Let’s start with tackling Zero Waste
It doesn’t have to be any more difficult to host a party that has no waste. Once you are set up, it can be cheaper and easier than buying disposable dishes, cutlery, napkins, wrapping paper, decorations, etc. I purchased durable reusable small party plates and second-hand cutlery years ago and they serve us well every time we have a gathering. They go in the dishwasher and then get stacked and stored for the next party.
If your child is a bit older and into fancy parties, a table set with vintage plates and cloth napkins can be a delight that feels extra special. I love to give children adult-style decorations of fresh flowers and a hand-made banner or giant card.
While take-out food may seem like an easy option, the waste is generally significant with a large take-out order. Will the restaurant provide durable take-out containers that can be re-used or will they fill the containers that you bring them? These options may be available. Alternatively, consider easy home-made solutions like having the children make their own custom pizza or waffle.
In any case, homemade treats are definitely the best way to avoid food wrappers and can be a great way to involve your child in the preparation and excitement in the days before a party.
Putting up party decorations helps make the day feel special! Unfortunately, many birthday decorations are made from plastic and can cause environmental harm. For example, sparkles and confetti have the potential to harm wildlife and end up in their digestive systems, as they are too small to clean up effectively. Stick to decorations that can be reused or made by hand with environmentally friendly materials.
For example, there are plenty of beautiful cloth banners that you can purchase from boutiques and shops on Etsy. These can be used over and over again. A home-made banner made of recycled paper is another great plastic-free alternative.
What birthday party is complete without gifts? Although giving and receiving gifts is a time-honoured birthday tradition, that doesn’t mean you can’t make some eco-friendly adjustments. We all know that children’s toys come in excessive packaging and can sometimes be unwanted or unnecessary.
Giving and receiving gifts that offer an experience rather than a physical item is a great idea. A gift card to a movie theatre, admission to an attraction, or a planned outing can be just as exciting, if not more, than a material item. Check out Green Action Centre’s guide to sustainable gift giving for children.
Talk to your child about what they want, and you may even wish to start the tradition of having just one special gift for their birthday and the party with their friends is their gift from their friends. Having each child instead contribute to a charity that your child selects is another great idea. Your child can feel that they are making a lasting positive impact through their actions.
Another nice idea, especially for young children who love to have toys, but have plenty at home, is to have each child attending the party bring a used toy to the party instead of a gift. Just have them leave it unwrapped, in a big box at the door, and at the end of the party, each child gets to choose one toy to take home as their party favour! It exchanges toys and everyone is happy with choosing something!
Now, taking home a small loot-bag of gifts is pretty common after a birthday party, but unfortunately, those party favours are all too often inexpensive plastic items that don’t last, and end up in the landfill in short order. Not the legacy that you want to leave! Here are some great ideas to green up the party favours.
Finally, children generally need something to do when it comes to birthday parties. Taking the group out to participate in an activity is a great way to keep them entertained. You can also choose an educational or meaningful activity such as a visit to an animal shelter.
Don’t be afraid to host your own simple and creative activities like paper airplane making, decorating cookies or nature-based crafts. Just stay away from toxic materials, styrofoam and plastics. These may be hazardous to young ones and are definitely harmful to the environment.
Of course, simply letting the children get outside and play in nature is a refreshing and delightful time for kids who tend to spend too much time indoors and with screens. Guide them in their exploration of a local pond, nature reserve or education centre. Kids are great at keeping themselves busy while exploring the natural world.
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