I have had quite a few emails from the Nature Moms blog readers about doing an article on how to host a green birthday for kids.
Nothing has a natural mom cringing more I guess then the thought of a conventional birthday party with the enormous amount of garbage they generate from torn wrapping paper and cardboard boxes to the disposable cups, plates, and napkins that are often used. Kids are hyped up on sugary birthday cake, and they get lots of toys that frankly they just don’t need.
So what can you do? Having a green birthday is actually easier than you might think. But first you might to change your thoughts about what birthdays should mean for you and your child. You can plan an event without the tears that may arrive if you tell your child that you will be serving apples and peanut butter instead of cake and giving a goat to an African community in their name rather than giving presents. There is great joy to be had in helping all kids learn the joy of helping others AND protecting our planet rather than tearing through gift boxes and getting sick from candy favors found in the goodie bags. The key is to combine green values with party themes that kids love. So I have some tips for you on hosting a meaningful birthday party packed with fun.
So what makes a birthday party a birthday party? Let’s start with invitations. There are quite a few options for eco-friendly birthday invitations nowadays. Some of the options I found while surfing online were invitations made from recycled paper of course, there are also seeded invitations where each piece of paper is embedded with a mixture of annual and perennial wild flower seeds. Most often these would be used for green wedding or bridal showers but I think they would be just perfect for a birthday party. There is also the tree free paper option. Tree-Free paper is exactly what it sounds like, paper that is made without ANY cuttings from trees, directly or indirectly. Instead the paper is made from more sustainable materials. But if you really want all the guests and their parents to understand what you are trying to do at this “green” birthday party you might want to purchase some recycled paper and make your own. Last year my children and I made some invitations from paper we had lying around the house. We cut out usable squares from envelopes we got in the mail, and then we pasted those to a larger cut section of newspaper. They turned out rather well and we recycled the materials ourselves.
Now on to presents…. Traditionally the birthday child is showered with presents. The presents are usually wrapped in delightful shiny paper that gets torn to shreds and tossed on the floor. So what is wrong with this picture?
Well, I don’t know about you but my kids already have too many toys. A toy hay day is just not necessary and it sends a message of consumerism that that I just don’t like. Furthermore, many of the common gifts will be plastic toys are full of toxins and chemicals that have harmful effects on children and plastic breaks quite easily, then because they’re non-recyclable, they end up in landfills.
So, maybe you can encourage your guests to send funny birthday ecards rather than physical cards. Also, you could request on your recycled invitations that guests bring your child a used book or a gently used toy from their own home. Many parents would be appreciative of this. Or perhaps you could have guests bring a gift to donate to a worthy cause. For instance, I read about a woman that orchestrated a puppy-themed party for her child to benefit a local animal shelter. She made dog-bone shaped oatmeal cookies for snacks and In lieu of birthday gifts, guests brought donations, dog food, leashes, water bowls and toys for the abandoned animals. All the kids and especially the birthday boy LOVED it and the animal shelter brought puppies for the kids to play with. I also read about an Africa-themed party, where kids built a grass hut and collected donations for African children. These parties were fun and they taught the guests a valuable lesson about helping others instead of the usual birthday message of “help yourself.”
Oh and if you liked that adopt a goat idea I was being serious. You can adopt a goat used to provide milk for poor families and gift the adoption to anyone of your choosing. Gardenharvest.org is one such place that offers this.
Okay, so we discussed gifts but what about wrapping paper. This one is pretty easy. Ask on the invitations that all gifts be wrapped in newspaper or fabric. The newspaper can be recycled and the fabric can be reused for a variety of other things.
Next up is supplies and decorations. First off, use reusable dishes, utensils, tablecloths, and napkins. All of these can just be washed instead of being tossed. If you MUST use disposables then go for the Preserve disposables available at Amazon. They are made from recycled yogurt cups. You can also buy compostable utensils. And if you do have any plastic, aluminum, or glass waste at the party, set out labeled recycle bins for the guests and encourage the kids to identify them and use them.
There are also a lot of green options for decorations too. Instead of a plastic tablecloth why not use cloth? If you have your heart set on a themed tablecloth then you could pick up some themed fabric at the fabric store. Even a themed sheet would work. If you have goodie bags then ditch the plastic and go with fabric there too. And what should go in the goodie bags??? Maybe some natural wood wands, if the theme is appropriatemagic wands are an essential for any new up and coming princess, fairy, magician, or wizard. I also suggest homemade play dough. I have several recipes for it on the NatureMoms site.
Avoiding conventional balloons would also be a good idea. When the ground is littered with deflated balloons this spells trouble for local wildlife that could be killed after ingesting them. I don’t anyone wants to thinks that their child’s birthday celebration could cause untold animal deaths so Japanese style paper balloons are an eco-friendly substitute.
Okay, so now we arrive at the issue of food and specifically birthday cake. How about baking a batch of delicious healthy cookies? There are a few healthy cookie recipes in the Dr. Sears book called the Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood. I have tried them and they are all good. Also, what about a home-baked, low-sugar apple pie or a healthy carrot cake. I posted a recipe for a healthy carrot cake that is sure to be a hit at any birthday party.
So are you ready to throw a green birthday party bash? I hope I have given you some good ideas that will help you plan accordingly. If do end up have a green birthday party make sure to send me an email tell me all about it. And if you have already had one I want to hear your experience too….you can comment below. So now that you have a strategy go party!
Check out the latest installment of Green Birthday Parties for Kids.
Wednesday, June 13th, 2007