At times I feel as though I’ve been a mother forever, whilst at the same time I can’t quite believe that my little boy will be turning 5 this year! It seems since my son started school he’s going to birthday parties all the time and I have even agreed to do a school graduation party for the kids at the end of the school year. So I started thinking about how I could throw eco-friendly party for the graduation party and my son’s 5th birthday party this year and maybe even give tips to my fellow other mommies that throw parties every year for their children. Even if you don’t have little ones, many of these tips are useful for part-goers young and old alike.
Throwing an Eco-Friendly Party for Kids
Think back to your favorite childhood birthday party. What made it so magical? A cake with your name on it? The fact that all of your friends came over and ran around your backyard until you were exhausted? Whatever made your favorite birthday so exciting, it probably wasn’t the several bags of trash your parents collected after everyone went home. Kids’ parties are a ton of fun and make great memories, but they can also be extremely wasteful affairs. Waste is bad for the environment not only because it sends material to the landfill, but also because of the energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions associated with waste disposal, not to mention the resource usage, pollution and greenhouse gas emissions entailed in the process of creating new items to replace what was tossed. Even recycling, which is an energy-intensive process, has environmental costs.
If you’re a parent and plan to celebrate your tots anytime soon (and by all means, do!), here are some planning tips to make the party more eco-friendly.
- Those dirty dishes, god do I hate them!
Eliminating disposable dishes, cups, forks, etc. is a major way to reduce party waste—in fact, it’s my number one recommendation. But is using real dishes realistic with 14 sticky children running around? Every time I’ve hosted a party for my son, for the last 3 years I’ve ran to the dollar store to get the disposable plates, napkins, forks and everything else I’ve needed. After all they’re convient, I don’t have to wash them and you can get Spiderman and Batman plates, napkins, and cups that my son thinks are awesome. But this is so bad for the environment. How can you eliminate disposable dishes? If you’re nervous about giving kids your real porcelain dishes, hit up your local thrift store and pick up an array of reusable plastic cups and plates, plus any extra cutlery you need. Items that survive the day can be reused again at future parties. Aside from the environmental benefit of not generating trash, the eclectic mix of colors and styles will add to the fun vibe of the party and help guests remember which plate was theirs. No cake mix-ups! Plus kid’s don’t care what their dishes look like.
- Use alternative decorations!
Decorations are often what make a kids’ party so special—they let your child know their celebration is no ordinary day. They can also be one of the biggest sources of waste. If you’re going the DIY route with your decorations, keep in mind the recyclability and reusability of your creations. Even if you start with a recyclable material like paper or cardboard, covering it in glitter and glue will render it unrecyclable. Bunting, pinwheels and garlands made out of paper are a great recyclable options, or make bunting and banners out of fabric so you can use them year after year. Try to make decorations that will work for multiple occasions rather than one specific theme. With kids potentially creating a mess with snacks and crafts, a tablecloth is often a must-have decoration. Avoid using a flimsy plastic tablecloth that can only be used once. Instead, use a washable fabric tablecloth, a sturdy picnic tarp or a waterproof table covering that can be wiped down and reused. Even though they’re a kid-friendly favorite, avoid using balloons in your decorations. Balloons can be extremely harmful to wildlife if they escape into the environment. My son loves balloons, I have no idea how to get around this one.
- The dreaded goodie bag!
Treat bags can be stressful to shop for and assemble, and it’s tempting to fill them with inexpensive novelty items that will end up breaking or being tossed. Consider skipping goodie bags altogether, sending guests home instead with full stomachs and happy memories. The last party my son was at, he came home with a plastic cup which we will use at home, but alot of it was items that we will put in the garbage. If the treat bag tradition is firmly entrenched in your social circle, you can make them more eco-friendly by using recyclable or reusable bags. Fill the bags with gifts that are ethically made, durable, have minimal packaging, or can be eaten rather than thrown away.
- Share the love!
Buying a slew of supplies for your child’s party, whether disposable or reusable, can get expensive. Instead of purchasing a lot of new items, especially items that will only be used once, look to other parents in your family or social circle. Who has great games to lend? Whose daughter had a Chuggington-themed party recently and still has some of the decorations? Who has an extra set of plastic cups perfect for little hands? Use these resources to cut down on the waste generated by your party and to save your pocketbook some stress as well. As today’s children grow up in a world that will be dramatically affected by climate change, it’s important set an example of care for the environment and self-awareness of the impact our actions have on other people and the planet. With a little care in the planning process, a kids’ party can be a fun-filled blast without being a burden on the environment.
If anyone else has any ideas please let me know.