A child blowing out candles at an eco-friendly birthday party
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Party positively

Green Birthdays: Throwing Eco-Friendly Parties for Kids

Katie Overmonds
March 4, 2024

This blog is for the parents scarfing a piece of cold pizza while making sure your kid has their shoes off before they go on the trampoline, while trying to maintain a conversation with another mom about how much sleep you’re (not) getting, while getting your phone ready to take a video of the pinata massacre about to happen at your child’s friends birthday party. Every. Single. Weekend.

I see you. I am you.

Is there a cooler with a grown up beverage in it, or just juice boxes? Juice boxes? Cool cool cool.

The social schedule of school-aged kids these days seems to rival my most bustling events calendar in my prime! (Pre-COVID, of course). And alongside the stress of whether the Paw Patrol action figure you chose is the right one, comes the always-lingering eco anxiety of attending party after party with loads of plastic packaging, single-use loot bag toys, sparkly confetti and more.

Which got me thinking. Can’t we do kids birthday parties better? For our kids and for the planet? Of course we can. Here is a short list of eco-friendly birthday party ideas you can implement when it’s your turn to send out the invites.

Eco-Friendly Birthday Party Ideas

1. Invitations: Let’s get digital

Let's start at the beginning – invitations. Skip the paper and go digital! There are so many cute and creative e-invitation options out there. Not only does this save trees, but it also makes the RSVP process a breeze. For our son’s firefighter-themed birthday party when he turned three, I whipped up an invitation on Canva and had it emailed to all the kiddo’s parents in a matter of about 12 minutes. No paper waste or stamps required!

Image source: Katie Overmonds

2. Decor: Nature's beauty takes center stage

Now, onto the decorations! Forget the plastic balloons and disposable banners. Opt for reusable fabric banners or bunting that can be a part of your family's celebrations for years to come. For table centerpieces, go green with potted plants or succulents – they make fantastic party favors too!

3. Tableware: Ditch the disposables

Say goodbye to mountains of paper plates and plastic cutlery. Invest in reusable, eco-friendly tableware made from materials like bamboo or stainless steel. They're not only better for the environment, but they also add a touch of class to your party setup. Even easier, if your kids are going to be running around anyways? Finger food! Our son’s birthday in July means we can eat outdoors and rather than setting up any formal seating arrangements, the kids munched on pizza at picnic tables, sans plates or cutlery.

4. Party favors: Seeds of love

When it comes to party favors, why not give your little guests something that keeps on giving? Seed packets or small potted plants make excellent, eco-conscious gifts. It's a beautiful way to teach kids about the cycle of life while being kind to Mother Earth. Eco warrior Rocky from the Paw Patrol would approve.

5. Food and drinks: Local, organic, and delicious!

If you can, support local farmers and opt for organic ingredients when planning the party menu. This not only ensures healthier options for the kids but also reduces the carbon footprint associated with transporting food long distances. And hey, how about serving drinks in reusable cups instead of disposable ones while you’re at it?

6. Activities: Nature-inspired fun

Keep the kiddos entertained with activities that connect them to nature. A scavenger hunt in the backyard, crafting with recycled materials, or even planting flowers together – the possibilities are endless. Chances are, most young kids want to spend their time playing in the dirt instead of doing a structured activity anyway. Why stress yourself out with planning when they’re bursting with ideas already? (Caveat: their plans may include activities that mean an extra load of laundry, but isn’t that what being a kid is all about?)

I should add that the very best activity I have (or likely ever will) ever organized was to invite the firefighters from our local station to join in the fun for the party. I never in a million years expected that dropping off an invitation would result in three trucks pulling up to the toddler soiree but it is now a life highlight for me. (And Jack, I suppose, but mostly me.)

7. Gifts: Encourage sustainable choices (or dare I say … no gifts at all?)

When it comes to gifts, gently nudge guests towards eco-friendly options. Consider specifying that you're aiming for a green celebration on the invitation, or suggest sustainable gift ideas like a second hand treasured item, books made from recycled materials or wooden toys. Better yet? Skip the gifts altogether! Most kids are thrilled to have all their friends in the same place having a good time, and would probably be pleased as punch even if they took nothing home.

8. Upcycled decor: Turning trash into treasure

Get your creative juices flowing by incorporating upcycled decor into the party theme. Repurpose old jars as candle holders or transform cardboard boxes into imaginative props. This not only reduces waste but adds a unique and personalized touch to the celebration.

9. Eco-conscious entertainment: DIY craft stations

Instead of hiring external entertainers or renting inflatable structures, set up a few DIY craft stations and let their imaginations run wild. Provide materials like recycled paper, cardboard, and non-toxic paints for kids to unleash their artistic talents. It's a fantastic way to encourage creativity while minimizing the environmental impact of party entertainment.

11. Zero-waste cake: Sweetness without the guilt

The pièce de résistance of any birthday party – the cake! Here’s where you may want to take my advice with a grain of salt because I am NOT a baker in any way. Check out the following “expectation vs reality” shot of how my fire-themed cupcakes turned out:

Although my efforts may not have panned out, I meant well.

Opt for a zero-waste cake by working with a local baker who uses minimal packaging or by baking it yourself. If buying, request a cake design that doesn't rely heavily on fondant or single-use plastic decorations.

And that’s it! Remember, the key to a successful eco-friendly birthday party is not perfection but progress. In the end, what will be remembered is not the decor or the gifts but the fun had with the people they love.

Or possibly the meltdown they had when being the center of attention was just all too much. We’ve all been there, right?

Happy celebrating to you and yours!

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