Kids’ birthday parties are notorious culprits for creating large quantities of garbage. Think disposable themed tableware, decorations, balloons, not to mention the cards, gift wrap and unwanted plastic bits and bobs from loot bags.
What if there was an alternative? What if a birthday party could produce zero waste!
In all aspects of life, I believe less truly is more. And in the context of a child’s birthday party, less garbage, can = less stress and more fun.
Last year for Theo's 5th birthday we had enjoyed a small gathering in Toronto with close friends and managed to achieve our first zero waste birthday party. It came as no surprise to our circle of friends that we would shoot for a greener option. (I’m known as that Mummy always rabbiting on about her mason jars). Realizing how easy it was to achieve with just a little extra thought and planning, we were committed to ensuring all future birthday parties would follow suit.
A year on and Theo's 6th birthday. Our family is brand new to the school/area/community, I therefore wasn’t quite sure how a zero-waste birthday party would be perceived in a new crowd. There seemed a fine line between not wanting to be considered ' too crunchy' yet still staying true to our values and always being motivated by the opportunity to inspire others.
For us the zero-waste lifestyle doesn't mean going without, simply that you go without producing all the garbage, but would our guests feel the same?
Here’s how we pulled it all together.
Our zero waste Birthday party
Hosting a party loved by all, children and parents alike, which produced zero garbage and saw only a few, thoughtful gifts exchanged.
Theo’s only interest was spending the morning playing with his friends and at some stage blowing out a candle and devouring a slice of birthday cake.
Send paperless Invitations
Rather than waste trees, I sent each parent an invite via text. On acceptance I followed up with a second message, explaining just a little about the zero-waste idea. I concluded with a note saying there was absolutely no need/obligation to bring gifts. We are currently on a journey to simplify our lives and minimize our possessions (check out this post, about the benefits of frugal living for kiddies). However as I know people often can't resist bringing a little something I suggested a book for our collection. We ended up receiving 6 lovely new books.
We simply used what plates, bowls, mugs and glasses we had. We have moved away from plastic entirely, so it was stainless steel cups for the kiddies. All our crockery has come from various thrift stores so its an eclectic collection as you can imagine. But trust me your guests are not coming to judge your coordinated crockery.
For last year’s party I made the decorations (homemade bunting) which could be kept and used for all future family birthdays. If getting crafty is not your thing there are so many beautifully made ones to buy on Etsy, but with a couple of hours and a sewing machine, they are surprisingly simple to make. I made three long strings of bunting for less than $10. 'The flags' as the kids call them, were displayed adding a splash of colour (not a balloon in sight, so no garbage).
Personally, I think a mix of free play plus a couple of activities offers the perfect structure. I suggested numerous games, (the musical ones being my fav) but all my suggestions met with a look of disdain from my 6 year old.
Just excited to all be together and out of the school environment, there were at least 30 minutes of craziness as the kids chased each other around the house. I had set up a craft table which the girls loved. The boys however were content to charge around. I think we achieved 5 mins in which all 7 kiddies did sit down and get mildly creative together. I set out homemade playdoh, paper, chalk boards, sticks, buttons and some cool sculptures were created.
Despite it being winter and excessively rainy here in the mountains in the Pacific North west, my goal was to get them all outside if possible even for 15 minutes. I prepped a super easy treasure hunt around our garden. Six clues, ending at a prize which could be shared. It turned out to be a great way to get them to let off a bit of steam.
We opted to keep the food simple, generally you’re only providing snacks and often the less on offer means less food wasted.
A gigantic bowl of homemade hummus with veggie dippers.
Fresh bread straight from the oven. We prepped two large loaves which were popped in the oven just 30 minutes prior to guests arriving. Who doesn’t love a house that smells like a bakery?
Friends are always impressed by your bread making skills but seriously ours is a five-minute prep time job. Our guests devoured 2 loves in a matter of minutes.
Fruit kababs on a wooden stick, using only fruit I could purchase with no packaging, melon, cantaloupe, watermelon. pineapple, apples, pears, grapes.
Bulk bought snacks - banana chips, raisins, pretzels, chocolate covered peanuts, dried apricots, gold fish crackers.
Birthday cake - I opted to make cup cakes, we had already devoured a large birthday cake the previous day (Theos’ actual birthday) and this meant less wasted food. I used this vegan recipe, because I just never bake anything I can’t eat.
We served freshly ground coffee and teas for the adults, freshly squeezed orange juice, milk or water for the kids.
Last year we opted to not give any but this year I was feeling inspired (with a little help from Pinterest).
For each kiddie I made a little bag out of some left-over material and popped a mason jar of homemade playdoh inside plus a little note book with clip board and a couple of coloured pensils.
We did it!
I’m quite sure a good time was had by all. Theo had a great time with his friends, I enjoyed getting to know all the new parents, the food was devoured, all the feedback received was positive and ultimately no garbage was produced.
Feeling inspired to host a zero-waste birthday party? I would love to hear about it if you do!
You got this Mama.
Let’s be the change we want to see in the world. Let’s start a trend of zero waste birthday parties.
Thanks for popping in.