Paper hats, plastic forks, wrapping paper, plastic cups, latex balloons, plastic party favors, paper napkins, vinyl tablecloths, and loads of artificially colored food and high-fructose corn syrup. Ahhh, children’s birthday parties–a few hours of glee and a heaping pile for the landfill.
In the past six years I have thrown a total of 10 birthday parties for my two girls. And although they have always had a load of the homemade thrown in, I must confess that when planning the early ones I was so wrought with nerves in anticipation of all the little people and their parents in my house that I definitely leaned toward a model of disposability.
But the bags and bags of trash after those first parties still bring a slight shudder of shame–and I have done my best to repent and put my best green foot forward in these festive endeavors. It just feels right. Birthday parties can be such a tremendous expression of waste and consumption, I don’t want my kids to identify those actions with the joy of their parties. It seems like a bad association to nurture.
As it turns out, skipping the Dora party kit for something outside of the box is completely fun. I thought I’d share some of the things we’ve done to green our parties, but since I have, to the best of my calculations, about 26 more birthdays until my kids pack off to college, I thought I’d ask you to share some of your ideas here too. So first, four of the solutions I have arrived at, then–if you’d be so kind–will you share your green birthday tips in the comment field below?
Instead of Balloons
Balloons are treated with ammonia, tetramethyl thiuram disulfide, zinc oxide and added plasticizers (and are harmful to marine life if they make it to the ocean rather than the landfill (where they aren’t so great either). Instead, make giant pompoms to hang from the ceiling from recycled tissue paper or pre-used wrapping paper.
Instead of Plastic Junk Goodie Bags
Have a take-home craft project for the favor. Some projects my kids have loved include: Making ojos de dios using twigs and yarn remnants; making fairy wands using long twigs and fabric scraps, old notions, sequins, pipe cleaners, etc.; decorating organic cotton tote bags with giant rubber stamps and soy-based ink. How about making and giving naturally scented and colored homemade play-dough? Or give a book, a little pack of craft supplies, or a well-thought small gift.
Instead of a Commercial Pinata
Making a perfect pinata can be challenging, but at the very least, making a funny-looking pinata is so rewarding, and the kids will love it even more (because chances are it will look wonderfully silly, like accidentally Dr. Seuss, at least mine have). Fill it with fruit leather, organic lollipops, yogurt raisins, and useful trinkets (hair clips, erasers, crayons, etc.).
Instead of Disposable Tableware
Over the years I have added to my collection of non-disposable party-ware: A case of wine glasses from a restaurant supply store, dozens of cloth cocktail napkins from eBay, thrift shop flatware, and a few stacks of strategically mix-matched dessert plates from flea markets. Now granted, glass and ceramic may not be the best materials used in a house of rambunctious 4-year-olds, but they work great for the parents. Add in a sleeve of eco-friendly paper cups and plates; and serve cupcakes and finger food to alleviate the need for plastic forks.
I’d love to hear about gift-wrapping, alternative gift-giving, green themes. Send me whatever you’ve got by commenting below. Thanks!
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