If your child's birthday is coming up, here are some tips to avoid the bin-bag of waste, the sitting-room-full of (often quickly-broken) €10 gifts, and the plastic take-home bags that give you anxiety! In easy ways that yield a very happy bunch of kids (and parents).
Sustainable party tableware
The best option is reuse:
Ask party guests to bring their school water bottle and add some cordial into it; or
Borrow tupperware from friends and neighbours; or
Use your local party borrow kit - we offer one in Dublin 5 and there are more around Ireland - see PartyKitNetwork here. And do consider starting your own to lend-out too!
If your party's at a play centre, ask them in advance about their tableware - many have their own reusables, and if they don't they'll often let you bring your own in.
The second-best option is recyclable, third-best is compostable:
- Many disposable tablewares are plastic-coated making them not recyclable and not compostable;
- We stock plastic-free paper/cardboard cups, plates, napkins, and cutlery that you can recycle if you can rinse/wipe clean, or compost if you can't.
- (Note: people often believe compostable is better than recyclable. But in fact, keeping paper / cardboard in use by recycling it is usually far easier on our planet than biodegrading it into soil and re-growing the tree from scratch to make more! Composting is only the best solution when the material is too soiled to recycle.)
Sustainable party take-home bags
A plastic bag of disposable plastic toys coming back with my child from a birthday party...I appreciate the generous intent behind it, but it doesn't fill me with joy! So, as my own daughter's birthday party approaches, what are more sustainable party bag options?
- Some people just don't give party bags (the lowest-waste option!)
- Others give home-made gifts - sunflower seeds to plant, salt dough decorations, cupcakes - I love these!
But my daughter's nearly 9 and very conscious of peer pressure. She'd be upset to divert too far from what she sees as the norm. I take a stand when I can, but I want her party to be joyful, not stressful. So we need take-home bags, with shop-bought things in them (sigh!)
Luckily Jiminy's got lovely, sustainable-and-affordable party favours. Many double as an "occupy them at the party" craft!
Managing the incoming birthday gifts
I'm sure you, like me, are grateful to anyone who gets a gift for your child. But the typical €10 gift often involves a lot of waste - low-cost, made-far-away petro-plastic wrapped in more plastic that breaks quickly and is not something your child really wants.
Ideas for how to influence what your child receives at their birthday party, in a gentle way that leaves everyone happy:
- See if you can influence for a "€5 in a card" norm in your child's class. Think of all the avoided 'stressed parent' shopping trips, and the 20+ low-cost gifts not coming into your home, replaced instead by 1 quality gift chosen by your child; or
- I usually include a strong statement on the party invitation: "Strictly no gifts whatsoever, but she loves a home-made card." In my experience, a majority of families will respect this; or
- Ask for a donation to your child's favourite charity instead of a gift.
If there's a culture in the class of giving a physical gift, for when you're child's invited to parties, get organised with our "School term of birthday gifts" bundles for a specific age here.
The party food
Eating more vegetables, less meat is one of the biggest ways to support our children's planet. And reducing food waste is another massive way. (For more info see Drawdown.org)
- Are there easy plant-based snacks everyone will enjoy, like carrot sticks and sesame-free hummus?
- And is there an easy way to send any leftovers home with guests?
- There are lovely vegan birthday cakes available in Ireland - we've adored ours from Buttercream Dream in Dublin (pictured - most was eaten before I got a photo!).
Sustainable birthday party decorations
- Reusable decorations are great, like cloth garlands (we stock these made from recycled plastic bottles, here)
- If you're getting balloons, try and get natural rubber ones (we stock them here). You can even add numbers or images yourself with the amazing STABILO Woody solid-paint pencils (see here, and see my unicorn balloons pictured)
- Most birthday candles are parrafin wax, made from petroleum. Try to get natural beeswax candles (we stock these, made in Tipperary, pictured, see here) or soy wax candles instead.
Sustainable party games and crafts
We love giant bubbles for an outdoor party! We occupied 15 kids at the park with just 2 sets of bubbles (2 buckets, 2 wands-and-rope) for an hour at my daughter's last party!
Or for an indoor party, we've used colour-in working frisbees / boomerangs, planting kits, and a big pile of Bioblo or Binabo open-ended construction toys make a nice chill-out zone.
If you have windows in the space, setting the kids to work decorating them with STABILO Woody is a 30-60 minute guaranteed crowd pleaser! They wipe off again with a damp cloth.
To offer face painting, our organic facepaint pencils are specially designed for sensitive skin, clean-off easily, and are the quickest lowest-mess way to do a face (especially if you're not a facepainting professional). And to go with that, we have packs of 10 "dampen, stick-on" tattoos - dinosaurs and pirates as well as unicorns!
And if you're feeling brave there's eco-friendly slime. Only if you're brave!!
I hope you and your child have a wonderful experience of their party! And we'd love to hear your experience and tips on sustainable birthday parties!