Easy Steps to Planning an Eco Friendly Birthday Party

In a perfect world, pre-planning wouldn't be necessary when trying to celebrate a birthday while being considerate of the earth. We know, however, when we look around at the sheer volume of use-and-toss items manufactured strictly for the sake of convenience, that a green birthday party celebration may still be a concept that requires some planning and effort on the part of the hosts.

It doesn't have to be difficult or more time-consuming to integrate a green theme into your birthday celebration. In fact, you've already taken the first step by simply being mindful of amount of waste kids birthday parties create. In just a few more steps you'll be well on your way to creating a more meaningful, environmentally-friendly and socially responsible birthday party.

Pre-planning Your Eco Friendly Party

Plan the party with your child. If your child is over the age of six, he can play a larger role in planning than younger children can. As you plan the party, remind your child why you are making the decisions you are, and how it benefits the community and the Earth. You'll want to discuss things such as gifts or gift alternatives, decorations, and entertainment ideas.

If your child is older and has had years of conventional birthday party celebrations, you may want to make small changes, implementing more changes at each party. Ask your child what they are comfortable changing. You might be surprised to discover how excited your child can feel about helping the planet.

Getting the Word Out Eco-Style

Once you are ready to send out invitations, consider your options. With email and social networking websites, it's not hard to let others know about your party without paper invitations. However, many young children like the act of making an invitation themselves. There are a number of environmentally-friendly ways this can be done.

You might be able to reuse cards from a previous holiday, or create invitations from recycled material from around the home (magazines, newspapers). Our favorite is to have our child create invitations from saved pieces of artwork. We always have too much of this laying around, and what better way to put it to use than having your child create their very own handmade, personal birthday cards.

If you need to create a card to communicate the when, where and what to bring, consider 100% post-consumer recycled paper that is forest-friendly. Ideally the paper you choose should bare the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification logo. In the future, tree-free alternatives are likely to become an option.

Keeping it Simple

Birthday parties often end up being an excessive display of waste and consumption. For many of us, associating these actions with the joy and fun of a party may not be something we wish to nurture in our children. Between decorating, food, entertainment and goodie bags, it's easy for a party to get out of control.

Consider a less lavish, low-impact party with these simple suggestions:

  • Children don't need the commercialized themed birthday party where the 'hot' character changes as quickly as the wind. If making your own decorations isn't for you, you might find yourself at the perfect time of year to collect flowers or leaves for decorating. Otherwise, there are so many fabulous reusable party decorations available that by choosing a simple, traditional theme, you'll be able to use these for birthday parties, Easter decorating and even to give a summer patio party a splash of fun. By choosing reusable party decorations you'll be creating a tradition your child will look forward to year after year.
  • Planning for an early afternoon party means you skip the lunch and dinner hour. It's easy to prepare cut up veggies, fruit and some cheese and crackers which will keep even the hungriest of children happily munching.
  • Keep the party to 1.5 - 2 hours. This allows plenty of time for some socializing, games and snacks.
  • Pass on disposables and use your regular cups, plates and utensils for serving. This may mean you'll have to put that dishwasher to use after the party, but you can dramatically reduce the waste you'll be generating by considering reusable dinnerware.
  • The high sugar content at the average conventional birthday party is enough to make any parent raise their eyebrows. Skip the soda pop and stick with good-old fashion juice or water, instead, preferably served in reusable glasses. Child-friendly glasses or stainless steel tumblers work great in party situations.
  •  It doesn't take much to entertain a room full of 6-10 year olds and some of the best-loved party games require little or no materials at all. Hopscotch, charades, pillowcase racing and pin-the-tail on the donkey are just a few of the classic games children of all ages enjoy. For something a little different, enlist a few parents to stick around during the party - most are more than happy to - and break out the face paints, finger nail polish (non-toxic of course!) or arts and crafts. What's more is that if you choose your craft wisely, you'll likely have the perfect item to send home with each child in lieu of loot bags.
  • Speaking of goodie bags, this is another area where we truly believe less is more. Who really needs more tiny, junky toys that break as soon as they get home, or worse, more sweets right after a birthday party? Try thinking outside the bag. We'll compile a list of goodie bag alternatives at a later date, but a few ideas that have won oohh's and aahh's at birthday's gone by include filling reusable baggies with popcorn, substituting a favorite paperback book for the wasteful plastic baggies, tie up a small gift or treat in a playsilk or send home a packet of seeds in a small clay pot during a summer or garden party.


Relax and Have Fun

After all, isn't this what it's all about? Your pre-planning will have brought you this far with already reducing the amount of waste the average birthday party celebration produces. All that's left is to sit back and have fun.

There are plenty of good old fashioned party games that are great for kids of all ages, so if you find your planning doesn't quite fill a full 2 hours worth of activities (we know attention spans can be short!) break out the music and get the children dancing, play a game of hide and seek, musical chairs, or head outside for a three-legged race. You'll have the children busy and enjoying themselves until it's time to head home.

Reflect and Re-Evaluate for Next Year

Learn from one year to the next. If something worked well one year then do it again. If something didn’t work as well as you'd like, it's easy to change it next time. Each year you aim to celebrate a little bit greener you offer a wonderful teaching opportunity for both your child and the children (and parents!) that are invited.

Birthdays are a time to celebrate life and how your child’s birth brought joy and happiness to the people surrounding them; let that be the message your child hears from a young age and every birthday will be fun, no matter what.

Every little bit counts when it comes to protecting our earth. By making a few small changes at each party, it can be possibly to have both a fun and stress-free green birthday party - one that reduces harm to the environment, sends a message about minimizing our consumerist ways, and inspires others to become eco-citizens as well. Isn't this the best gift of all?

Quick checklist on how to kick old habits to the curb:

  • Discuss the meaning of birthdays and the importance of throwing a green birthday party with your child.
  • Let the invitation set the stage for a green party; rather than paper, consider email or even picking up the phone!
  • Communicate with guests/parents about your decision to have a green birthday. This is easily done with your homemade party invitations.
  • Keep things simple. Combining your green values with a party theme your child will love doesn't have to be complicated or lavish.
  • Have fun! Don't let the planning spoil your ability to enjoy the day. Keep the party simple, and you're sure to have done a significant
  • Learn from each year to make your next party even greener!