Zero Waste (or Lower Waste) Parties for Kids
As things begin to open back up and many kids return to school, we may start seeing an increase in an event that has been a distant memory for many of us: children’s birthday parties with other people present. As much as our Kindergartener loved his birthday parties with the birds, we are excited by this prospect; however, a recent invite to an outdoor kids’ party reminded us of a common side effect of kids’ birthday parties: lots and lots of waste.
BUT it doesn’t have to be this way! We are going to share some tips and tricks for throwing a kids’ party that is low on waste but still full of fun.
If you or your child are attending a child’s birthday party or other party where gifts are common, here are some gift ideas that cut down on (or even eliminate) waste:
- If the recipient is comfortable with it, buy a gently-used secondhand item. This way you are not contributing to the energy and resources that go into manufacturing a new item.
- If there is a cause that the recipient is passionate about, consider making a donation in their name.
- Give a gift of experience, either for you to do with the recipient or for the recipient to do with their family.
- If none of the above are good options for your situation, look for an item that has little or no packaging and that is made with renewable materials.
If you are throwing a party for a child, you could try these:
- Let guests know that you are comfortable with (or even encourage) secondhand gifts.
- Make gifts optional, and suggest that if anyone would like to bring a gift they bring a small donation for the guest of honour to give to a cause of their choosing. For our 5 year old, the chosen cause is always the Donkey Sanctuary. For kids who get excited about birthday gifts (what kid doesn’t?) we have found a balance that works for our family. We give our children one gift from us (often a gift of experience or the next size up of a secondhand bicycle) and ask that their grandparents give their gifts privately rather than at the birthday party. This way the grandparents still get to spoil their grandkids a little bit but party guests who don’t bring a gift or who bring a small donation don’t feel uncomfortable when they see other gifts at the party (because there won’t be any). Have you tried a gift-free birthday party? What has worked for your family? What hasn’t?
If you are attending a birthday party or other gift-giving occasion, consider replacing conventional gift wrap with one of the following:
- Repurposed materials such as newspaper, magazines, or packaging from other items.
- Reusable gift wrap such as fabric gift bags or fabric wrapping “paper” (let us know if you are interested in a workshop on how to use it!)
- A blanket, table cloth, or other item that will hide the gift until the moment of reveal.
- Nothing! There’s also nothing wrong with giving an unwrapped gift! If you want to maintain the element of surprise, you could always hide it behind your back (or behind a piece of furniture) until the “tada” moment.
When we give gifts with reusable gift wrap, we usually tell the recipient that the gift wrap is part of the gift if they will use it, but that we are also happy to take it back for reuse if they won’t.
When we host a birthday party or other event, we consider the impact of decor and weigh it against the benefits (and other options) before choosing anything. This is what we usually end up doing:
- Skip the balloons!
- If you’re not ready to move past balloons, follow these steps to minimize their impact:
- Tie them with twine rather than plastic ribbon.
- Skip the helium – this is a nonrenewable resource with many important uses, including in some medical procedures.
- Take responsibility for the balloons afterward to make sure they end up safely in the garbage where they are less likely to harm wildlife.
- Decorate with nature. I will often put a few vases or jars around with seasonal flowers or greens (dandelions and daisies in the early summer, evergreen branches in the winter).
If you want that Pinterest party look, check out All Wrapped Up to rent kids’ party decor, games, activities, and servingware that can be reused over and over! They even have some balloon alternatives.
Goodie Bags/Party Favours
What kid doesn’t love getting a goodie bag at the end of a party? I know mine do. But I also know that they have so much fun at birthday parties that they wouldn’t even notice if there was no goodie bag. The last time we were at an event with goodie bags, they were full of plastic items that will be used a few times and then go to a landfill. The intentions were good, and our kids were so excited, but a day or two later those plastic items sat forgotten.
If you feel the same way we do about goodie bags, try these alternatives when you are hosting a party:
- Skip the goodie bags! The kids will probably have just as much fun without them.
- Go with something more eco friendly, like wildflower seeds or a plant. If it fits into your party theme/schedule you could make this an activity during the party and send everyone home with a flower/tree that they planted, or seed balls that they made.
- Give out gently used secondhand books. Many thrift stores have children’s books for $0.50-$1.00.
- If you love the more traditional goodie bags, go with fewer items that are lower waste and more likely to be useful (and last more than a few days). Some ideas:
- Sidewalk chalk
- Homemade playdough in repurposed containers
- Fabric scrap bracelets
- Personalized thrift store T-shirts (these could even be decorated during the party!)
Do you do something to reduce party waste that we haven’t covered? Let us know! You can reach our Education Team at firstname.lastname@example.org