Easy and Eco-Friendly Kid's Birthday Parties
Your child's birthday - the perfect excuse to have 10 screaming children running through your home, making mayhem. (All in the cause of celebration, of course.)
It's an even better excuse for food - and lots of it.
If you have a younger child, you'll need games or entertainment of some kind. (If you don't occupy them, who knows what trouble they might get into!) You might also have other parents staying for the festivities. If you have an older child, you'll avoid games and extra parents but you'll still have to deal with food.
Let's face it: after any party, the last thing you need is more work. You have a house to clean up, leftovers to deal with and kids to get to bed. However, the last thing the earth needs is more trash. How can we meet in the middle and ensure a fun party with both less work and less trash? It's easier than you might think.
Go Compostable Instead Of Disposable
Who hasn't decided to skip the dishwasher and buy throw-away plates, cutlery and glasses? Clean up is fast and easy. However, all that plastic from all those parties is building up in our landfills and creating a toxic soup that runs into our waterways.
Why not go compostable?
Many municipalities now have composting programs where you collect your food scraps and put them in a special container for pickup. Food, plates, cutlery and all go in your compost bin! This makes clean up of compostable dishware and eating utensils as easy as the bad old days of disposable.
Prefer something reusable? Think bamboo. You can compost this - but you can also wash and reuse. The choice is yours.
You can find some of these items already making their way into your local supermarket or dollar store. If you can't find a retailer near you, consider the great new online retailer Go Green In Stages. Some of these products can only be composted in a municipal composting facility; others will return to the soil in your own backyard compost bin. In either case, these folks have everything you need for a eco-friendly party.
Make Your Own Food
Parties usually mean party food: dips, chips, cakes and other treats. After all, what's a get-together without food?
You can go one of two ways:
- Make all your own food, including dips and chips, so that no plastic is required in the making of your party.
- Buy some party food while making other items.
In either case, you can save money, garbage and effort with a few easy tips.
Dips are easy to make! A few scoops of a quality mayonnaise is simple, cost effective and eco-friendly. Mixing an ordinary package of powdered onion soup mix (or other soup mix of your choice) in sour cream or yogurt makes another quick dip. Use your imagination!
Even chips can be homemade. You can make healthy, low fat chips from all kinds of produce in your own oven - just slice the fruit or vegetable fairly thin and set on baking sheet at low temperature. Watch to make sure they don't burn. You can even make your own potato chips right in the microwave. You'll use less electricity to make them this way and you'll never see a plastic package.
If you are going to buy, keep in mind the most eco-friendly and frugal ways to buy food! Also, look for recyclable or compostable containers for the food you purchase. Best bets for food containers include none (like your fresh produce), recyclable (like glass) and biodegradable (like waxed cardboard). Your highest priority should be based on how your garbage is handled and whether you have both recycling and composting in your area.
For young kids, nothing beats a few games. However, a lot of child-oriented games generate as much garbage as any other part of your party. You don't need to buy that throw-away version of "Pin The Tail On The Donkey" to let the elementary school crowd have a chance at fun and competition.
My husband owns an indoor putting green. We kept a house full of 8 year olds happily entertained by competing to get a hole in one. For each hole in one, the participant got to pick from a variety of dollar store gifts (with minimum packaging, of course.)
Younger children can also enjoy treasure or scavenger hunts. Make groups of 2 or 3, and provide maps or clues that lead them around your home, looking for specific items. Don't underestimate their ability! Make clues fairly difficult - you can always provide hints later.
Older children and teenagers are better served if you let them make their own fun. Provide a suitable space, food and music and let them decide what to do. (This works well for the parents' parties too.)
A New (Old) Take On Wrapping Presents
If you haven't yet received a recycled gift bag as part of a present - where have you been? Gift bags are a great way to provide a colorful package for a gift, without creating more garbage. Some artfully placed tissue paper (or even color cartoons from the weekend paper) can dress up most presents without creating new garbage. You then can keep the tissue paper and gift bag - and use it again! Try that with regular gift wrap.
Another great way to recycle but still wrap is to use newspaper as an eclectic wrapping. A bright ribbon can make even the most humble paper look fabulous. I've personally found that if I wrap in the weekend color cartoons, most gift receivers will get almost as much fun out of reading the wrapping paper as from the gift.
Cloth gift bags are another option. They can be made easily (even if you aren't a tailor by trade), and even really inexpensive but vibrant prints can make a classy gift bag. A nice length of silk cord will dress it up. And a bag can be made to accomodate even the most strangely-shaped gift!
I have given these kind of gift bags to family members - and then had them return to me! It's a great tradition to start.
It's all about creativity - and a little can make your party a festive occasion to envy, without a lot of garbage!