Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Six easy tips for an eco-friendly birthday party

A homemade cake (or other special treat) helps to keep a party authentic and meaningful.

There was a time I wished that I was organized enough to go all out with decorations for my kids birthday parties. But even if I had been organized, I could never bring myself to buy all sorts of disposable plastic stuff. The typical birthday party generates a lot of trash and I just couldn’t do it.

The fact is, parties are often disposable events. You might not set out to have it that way it’s just that most party supplies – from decorations to plates and cutlery –are disposable. Wrapping paper isn’t recyclable, loot bags are often filled with throw-away plastic items and a lot of processed, packaged food gets consumed.  

When our kids celebrate with disposable we’re sending the message that this is a good thing when we all know that it isn’t. Hosting an eco-friendly birthday party is a way to teach kids that it’s fun to be environmentally responsible and it’s just as much fun as a “normal” party. (It’s usually the parents that have more trouble with the transition than the kids.)

If you want to host an authentic, meaningful celebration think “reusable” and “truly usable”.

Use craft paper as a tablecloth and let the kids decorate it with markers.

Consider using reusable plates, cups, cutlery and napkins. If you’re hosting the party at home this is easy. If the party is at another location choose compostable (paper) table cloths, plates and napkins.

Choose finger food (think pizza and cupcakes) so you don’t need cutlery (it isn’t compostable).

Bring a large compost bag to gather up all of the compostable trash. Enlist the children to help with the clean-up (they’re used to it at school) and explain why compost is better than trash. 

For loot bags consider practical or edible items rather than plastic throw away stuff from the dollar store. Give small gift certificates to book stores, a book, or as an activity do a craft and let the finished product stand in as the loot bag.  

My kids have been to many birthday parties where instead of gifts they were asked to bring a donation to a charity (The Animal Rescue League, Harbour Lights, Save the Children, Canadian Red Cross, The Boys and Girls Club), and we have hosted similar parties. If your child already has enough toys consider doing something similar. Being surrounded by your best friends is a ball, so don’t assume that your child will be disappointed if there isn’t a pile of presents to open. 

Want to plan an eco-friendly wedding? Rent as much as possible. Slim down the invitations, and instead of including a reply card offer guests the option to reply via email or a toll free number. Offer attendants the option to choose a dress that they’ll wear again rather than buying or making dresses that will sit in the closet for years. Consider a menu that features local food and for decorations choose reusable or natural items that can be composted or given away. 

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