5 Ways to Reduce Waste at Your Child’s Next Birthday Party


Image courtesy Kelly

If, like me, you have the exquisite joy of sharing your home with a tiny, screaming dictator, and he/she is about to celebrate a birthday, you may find tears springing to your eyes in the days and weeks leading up to the celebration.

Yes, that’s due to the inexorable march of time that has, seemingly overnight, transformed a chubby newborn into a surprisingly human 2-, 4-, or even 10-year-old. But you also might find yourself weeping due to the sheer amount of waste involved in the production and execution of a child’s birthday party. And while unfortunately, it’s not possible to stop time, it is most definitely within the realm of possibility to host a waste-free party.

Here’s how:

  1. Start off on the right foot by avoiding paper invitations. Sites like Paperless Post make it a snap to create gorgeous, waste-free invitations, and you even have the option to print one for posterity if you’d like to keep one for the scrapbook.
  2. Next up, decorations. Instead of plastic balloons, choose big paper pom-poms or colorful lanterns. Both create the same festive party atmosphere with far less waste. Make (or commission someone crafty to do it for you) a fabric “Happy Birthday” banner rather than buying a disposable one each year.
  3. Nix the paper plates and plastic cutlery in favor of assembling a set of cutlery and dishes from your local secondhand store. With each plate costing you between 25 cents and $1, collecting enough to serve your party guests won’t cost much more than a package of disposables, and you can reuse them for all future parties, too. Let your friends and family know about your secret stash of party plates in case they’d like to borrow them.
  4. Teach your child the benefit of giving by accepting donations to a local charity or animal shelter at the birthday party, instead of presents from friends. Kids will feel incredibly important handing over the money themselves and explaining where it came from. Each year that they grow older, they will grow more compassionate, too. (And isn’t that infinitely better than receiving 18 more boxes of LEGOs to impale your tender feet upon?)
  5. Free yourself from the tyranny of party favors. Look, as a parent, you probably don’t even get to pee by yourself. Why are you wasting precious moments of your life hauling your progeny around a dollar store, mindlessly stuffing eight bouncy balls into your cart while muttering “these’ll do”? Most treat bags are filled with inexpensive mass-produced plastic trinkets, and they’re simply not necessary.

If you feel like your young guests might miss taking something home with them, consider offering a parting gift of a slice of cake, one of the decorations, or a cheery “thanks for coming!” instead.

A waste-free party needn’t be drab, spartan or dull, and by choosing to celebrate in an eco-friendly way, you’re ensuring a healthy world for our children for many birthdays to come.

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Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.