And as we all know, planning a child's birthday party can be fun and dreadful all at the same time. A party
is a wonderful way to celebrate the life of your wee little one. But with all the waste these soirees can create, it can drive a green parent nuts!
I remember one party we had for my son that ended in tears (f me, that is). Sure, some of the paper products were recycled in my clearly marked containers. However most of our reusables ended up in the trash with unwanted cake and dinner tossed in with them. I attempted to dig them out - which was absolutely gross - but I was more frazzled by the thoughtlessness of some of my guests. Hadn't I, ever so nicely, instructed everyone to reuse and recycle properly? And we won't even mention the countless gifts and wrapping and money spent and...well, the 'wasteful' list can go on and on.
Ok, so not everyone is green savvy and even the best intentions can end up in a hit-or-miss situation. So what's a green parent to do? I'd like to share with you some - dare I say - fail proof ways to through a fun-filled green birthday party!
First and foremost, I say make it a combination of a traditional and reinvented green birthday party. You can't expect everyone to jump on board and be amused by your ever-green ways. So let's compromise...or at least that is what it will look like on the surface :).
There are tons of cool ways to do invites that will make you smile green. You can simply bi-pass paper all together and use an online invite service or email all of your guests individually. But what about those folks not online. Or worse, those who never read and/or respond to your emails?
There are endless ways you can get creative using recycled paper. Kids love to be involved in planning and helping out with their parties. So why not collect some reusable paper from around the house and make your own invites or get crafty and make your own handmade paper, complete with wildflower seeds. Paper making is fun and you can really jazz it up and make your invites unique. Another option would be to call everyone and leave a message...maybe telling them to check their email :).
Streamers and balloons are soooo old school. Let's think with our green-caps. For my daughter's upcoming birthday party we are going to decorate some old sheets with fabric paints - think little hand and feet prints in all colors - and cut them up and use them as table cloths and napkins. We can reuse these for all birthday celebrations in the future too.
Also, you can cut long shimmery streamers from the any silky material that you have but aren't using anymore (hint, hint: slips, nighties) and use them as decorations: Just simply hang them where they will dance in the breeze. These reusable decorations are great to use in lieu of balloons. They just end up being swallowed by baby turtles. So sad. Check your local consignment shops for pre-used slips and sheets that you can transform into reusable party decorations, or I bet your local fabric store has some festive threads that you can get a yard or two of.
Presents & Gift Ideas...
Oh, the presents. I have to say that this is the part I dread the most. Not only wondering what in the world to buy for someone else's kid and them not liking it, but what will everyone else buy my kids!? Plus, how much stuff do the kids really need?
I don't know about you, but my kids have enough, and there are kids out there that don't. One green birthday gift giving option is to host a party host a party where instead of gifts for your kids, guests bring gently used or new toys to donate to a local shelter. Your child can pick which one and then help you make the delivery.
Another idea is to think local and register your child at a local toy store. And I don't mean the big-box corporate toy stores. Ask around, take a drive. We have such a store here on the east coast where I live that is filled with special gifts and good quality games and toys you won't find at the big plastic toy stores.
You can even ask guests to get your child a book in lieu of a card and write a personal note in the book. What child doesn't love books?! Also, you can send your guests home with a book in their goodie-bag. Everyone brings gently used books that they are done with for a new one. A book-swap party!
Another great idea is to ask for 'experience gifts' where someone can get your child a ticket to a show, a pass to a near by aquarium or museum. A camping trip anyone? These experiences will last a lifetime and won't break, aren't toxic, make a disaster of the house, are more fun and can involve other members of the family too. Everyone wins :)
My favorite way to deffer gifts is to, instead of gifts, ask guests to bring their kids favorite dish for everyone to share. Not only do you get a great variety of foods, this also cuts down on your own party costs. Which brings us to the best part of the party, IMO.
Asking guests to bring food is great. If you are going to do it all yourself (for those supermoms and superdads out there) make all-vegetarian foods whose table scraps can be readily composted. Visit the farmer's market the week of for some fresh local produce.
If you do fire up the grill to satisfy the meat-eaters, buy local. Introduce your guests to some of the unknown local possibilities like local farmers and ranches. Not everyone knows about CSA's and local places where they can get free-range meats and fresh organic veggies.
Dishes, forks, napkins and whatnot...
I like to use cloth whenever I can. Why cut down a tree to wipe my hands one time and toss it out? It's insane. Here you can use your reusable birthday bash table cloths and napkins. The washing machine does all the work. It's no big deal, looks great, and feels great too. You'll save money and the trees :)
As for dishes and utensils, if you are partying at home, use your own dishes. There are also some great reusable dish sets out there. If you are out and about at your local park for your birthday bash, there are some great compostable alternatives. Potato forks, corn spoons, PCW paper products. Check online or at your local green grocery store for some colorful options.
Goodie-Bags and Games...
Last but not least, the goodie-bags. Those little bags you give your guests on the way out the door, filled with tiny junky plastic toys that are not only a chocking hazard, but are cheap, break, and probably have toxic lead paint! Not to mention the candy. Kids + candy?!...honestly, people. But you can't not have goodie-bags. The kids love to have something to go home with. They're kids, right? ;) So let's think outside the bag, shall we.
Kids love crafts. So why not have them make something that they in turn take home, and in a bag that they decorate themselves! Or, better yet, you and your child can decorate some brown reusable paper bags before the party that you can use in lue of a plastic one. For my son's last birthday party, we made some bags and the kids used them to bring home their handmade bird feeders: Send the kids off to find a pine cone, add peanut butter, sprinkle bird seed, and presto! Another year I made super-hero capes out of consignment found slips, complete with each child's first initial sewn on the back. They were a hit! (That's me with my daughter at my son's "Super Hero Training Camp" birthday last fall...like my power arm bans! Yeah, baby ;)
Other ideas could include: treasure hunts, have them make tie dye t-shirts, set up a paint-a-picture station, show them how to make homemade play dough, or they can plant a flower in a pot to take home. The options are endless. Get on your green creative caps!
As always, with a little imagination and ingenuity, the green possibilities are endless. I hope you enjoy your next birthday party 'green' style. I'm off to get mine underway. Wish me luck!