Keep waste to a minimum and teach your child to appreciate time spent together with these tips for an eco-friendly kids party.
They say that parents wear many hats — and it’s true. As a mom of two, I often juggle multiple roles: chauffeur, chef, counselor, and more. But if you ask my children, one of the most important responsibilities I have is planning their birthday parties.
Birthdays are a wonderful way to reflect on a year of growth and an excuse to make someone feel extra special. The occasion is also an opportunity to teach children about the concept of time and aging. According to a research study conducted by child psychologist Jacqueline Woolley, many children between the ages of three and five believe that the birthday party is what causes them to age. For a child, patience doesn’t always come easily. Yet, that once-a-year moment of blowing out all the candles on a cake is always something worth waiting for.
Of course, a kids’ birthday party would not be complete without the whole gamut: a theme, family-friendly entertainment, and goodie bags, all of which ensure that everyone leaves the party with smiles on their faces.
However, these gatherings — and the single-use supplies and plastic decorations they typically involve — generate a lot of waste. It’s estimated that plastic cutlery, plates, and cups take 500 years to decompose. Not to mention the leftover food scraps and packaging to deal with post-event, as well as mountains of wrapping paper that sadly go straight into the bins.
Celebrating a milestone doesn’t have to happen at the expense of the environment. So put your party planner hat on and incorporate these eco-conscious and budget-friendly swaps into your kid’s next birthday celebration.
Here’s how to throw an eco-friendly birthday party.
Digital invitations eliminate the need for paper and ink, which is an effective way to lower the carbon footprint of your party. Websites like Paperless Post and Evite not only provide a wide selection of invitation templates for any occasion, but they can also manage guest lists and track RSVPs. If you want to keep it simple, Canva offers fun graphics that can be customized, downloaded, and shared via text or email.
Instead of buying everything new, normalize borrowing and reusing party supplies. In addition to reaching out to your personal networks, look for online communities like the Buy Nothing Project, where people operate on a gift economy and swap items for free. If you don’t find anything there, buy second-hand or invest in products you can reuse for future events, like colorful IKEA KALAS plates that come with matching forks and spoons.
Make your party more sustainable by adding a touch of nature, which can be incorporated into the décor, party favors, or the overall theme. (I personally love fruit-inspired themes like Apple of My Eye & Lemonade Stand!) Natural elements like flowers and leaves make visually stunning displays and are biodegradable and compostable. Depending on what you can source locally, pots of flowers and plants can multitask as decorations as well as takeaways for guests. If you’re looking for a fun afternoon activity with your child and their friends, try this handmade leaf confetti project, which will add some pizzazz to your party without polluting the environment.
Food production accounts for a quarter of the world’s greenhouse emissions. So when deciding on your party spread, lean toward what’s fresh and in season and support local vendors whenever you can, which reduces your carbon footprint. And limit food waste by having a plan for leftovers. Prepare compostable takeout containers or brown paper bags and encourage guests to take some food and snacks home. No one can say no to free food, especially when you are a busy parent with a hungry child.
Kids get excited about opening presents, but the novelty usually fizzles after a week or even a day. If you choose to give out goodie bags as a token of appreciation, ditch the plastics. Instead of clear bags, consider paper bags or reusable tote bags. Be intentional with the gifts and go with something practical, consumable, or handmade, such as an activity book or non-toxic play dough in a jar. Even a mix of your child’s favorite snacks can bring other kids joy. Our family likes to throw in snacks that reflect our Asian heritage, such as Pocky and rice crackers.
Social media is a place we go for inspiration, but it can also contribute to a culture of comparison. Resist the urge to throw a picture-perfect party, but instead, put your energy toward creating an interactive and memorable experience. Think outside a Pinterest board and throw a messy art party with a paper table runner that guests can doodle on. Depending on the age of your child, book a gymnastics class or facilitate a scavenger hunt at a park. Instead of focusing on the décor and details, you’ll model how to appreciate the quality time spent with loved ones rather than focusing on material items.
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