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How to Host a Green Birthday Party

by Tiffany in Children

Eco Friendly Birthday PartyIf you want to hold a green birthday party and skip the plastics, cellophane and, all those snacks full of preservatives, you’ve come to the right place! There are many exciting ways to hold a green birthday party that your child and their friends will enjoy. They have fun and you have peace of mind knowing that your child’s birthday isn’t leaving an everlasting footprint on our planet.

Many parents realize to late the drawbacks of the conventional party system… spending too much money for a few hours of fun, kids hopped up on sugar, low quality toys that are forgotten in a week, huge amounts of garbage generated, competition between kids for the “bestest, biggest” party, etc. And of course who can forget the biggie in my book… the sense of entitlement that can come with it. When too much time and energy is placed on birthdays it is easy for kids to get more grandiose and excessive in their requests each year. Parents can even end up competing against other parents in this regard.

My own personal birthday motto is SIMPLICITY and I think this is in large part due to the fact that I came from a family that did not celebrate birthdays…at all. For years after I had my own kids I managed to keep things very minimal. Just last month I finally broke down and hosted an actual party with guests for my daughter. I held out until the last minute and then caved in to pressure from my extended family who insisted I was being mean by denying her a party. I realized my mistake as soon as the venue was booked and the invites went out. She would have been happier with MY idea of taking the family to a nearby resort with an indoor water park. We could have stayed the whole weekend for the price we paid for her birthday. Lesson learned I guess.

What I prefer for birthdays and what my kids usually prefer is an event with family and maybe one friend. We get to spend time together and make the celebration more about family and less about doting on one person. And with a few special touches here and there the birthday boy or girl still gets to feel special. We love museums, zoos, planetariums, state parks, camping trips and the like for birthday “events” instead of parties.

BUT, if done right a party can be low cost, low impact, and meaningful.

Location is everything – Think about a good location for your green birthday party and pick a place the shouts “environment!”  A neighborhood park is a great place to hold a birthday party and your city or town probably won’t charge you like some popular pizza places or other venues. Not only will the children love the outdoors, they can run and explore the world around them—and, they won’t be around arcade games!  If it’s too cold to be outside, ask your local community center or church what their fees are to hold a birthday party.  Find out if they will let you hang up homemade trees and flowers on the walls to give it an outdoor feel.

Greener Gifts – You can also green up the gift giving. Indicate in the invitation that you are having a green birthday party. If your friends don’t know much about green gifting, tell them stuffed animals filled with natural cotton and wooden toys that come in everything from trains to puzzles are good ideas.  Say no to plastic or anything that is wrapped in heavy plastic that may harm especially smaller children. Ask them not to wrap the gifts at all or use recycled paper instead of new. A simple “no gift wrapping required” will get your point across.

You can also request used toys and books. This may make it easier on parents too if they can “shop” in their home or at second hand stores. My kids have already attended half a dozen birthday parties this year and it can get expensive!

My favorite idea for a spring or early summer birthday is to have a garden party theme and request plants and seeds instead of gifts. The kids can even do the planting at the party. Not only does this take care of the entertainment this ensures that your child is not bombarded with toys they don’t need.

I also like the idea I highlighted in my first green birthdays article.

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.”

Gifts from mom and dad don’t have to be elaborate either. An organic t-shirt, some natural lip balms, non-toxic nail polish, etc.

Invitations– When you send out invitations, make them yourself from recycled cards, magazines, and paper.  Each one will be different and something children can use as a keepsake. You can also send evites via email or buy recycled invitations. Tiny Prints has a large selection of birthday invites and they offer a recycled paper option. Love this Jungle Fun invite.

But my FAVE idea is to make your own seeded invitations using junk mail. After the party is over guests can plant their invitation and grow flowers! Check out this DIY video.


Menu Planning – When planning your menu think healthy and simple. Lots of my raw treats would be perfect like my fudge cookies or brownie balls. I also posted a healthy carrot cake recipe. Instead of store bought icing, try making your own with natural ingredients so your cake is preservative free. You can dye frosting with natural food dyes too and that is VERY important because most foods dyes are made with chemicals derived from petroleum…yuck! Check out these natural sprinkles too. You can also do something simple like a fruit salad in a hollowed out watermelon bowl. Offer healthy snacks and real juice at your birthday party including nuts, fruits, and veggies.

Entertainment– For games at your party, use your natural outside space if you can and have a nature scavenger hunt looking for trees, nuts, insects, flowers, and birds. Parents can help with this for smaller children.  Your kids will be learning at the same time they are playing.  If you are stuck inside because of cold or bad weather, play the old A-Z game of clapping and shouting animal names and whoever gets the most wins. There are also many eco friendly and cooperative board games that can be played. A new favorite in our family is a completely awesome game called Wildcraft. Not only is it FUN, it teaches everyone (parents and adults) about herbs and their various uses.

Another idea is to have the kids make their own natural play dough, dye it their favorite color with natural dyes, and then take it home as souvenir.

If you want to give out door prizes and gifts, make sure these are green as well. Recycled paper party bags or cloth bags full of small wooden toys such as spinning tops and healthy snacks will be a smash at your green birthday event.

Having a green birthday party can be fun and innovative if you take some time to plan it.  Not only will your child be happy, but also their friends will have a good time, and parents will be impressed with your green efforts and maybe a parental competition for who can have the GREENEST party will break out!

  • Miriam

    Great ideas! We’ve tried very hard not to fall into the extravagant party trap and have so far succeeded. A big thing in these parts is a craft project which can be fun and green though messy.

  • Oh my goodness…all these ideas are fantastic!! I am loving the plantable paper. We did this years ago at a “Garden Tea Party” for Katie’s birthday. I love how you think. Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Natividad Nieves

    How can I do a green party for my 21 birthday?

  • I just discovered your site and love it. We did many birthdays at the beach, clean up is so easy there. We did a dino party and had kids-all under 5- dress up as cave people. Cake was homemade carrot cake with cream cheese icing and was loved by all. It was shaped like a harry(coconut) mamoth. Games were hit the bolder (paper bages stuffed with goodies) Goodies can be crayons, natural candy, etc) We had a race of huffalumps and woozels. It was very sweet.

  • this is so timely as my oldest is turning 4 in two weeks. we are having a kitty cat themed party at our local park. invitations were made from recycled construction paper scraps. no paper products here – using reusuable plates, cups and cutlery from kids IKEA. the guests are asked to bring cat food to donate to the local animal shelter and the gift bags will be miniature plants (“cat nip”) so no “bags” required. we will be playing old fashion games like “cat, cat, dog” (duck, duck, goose) and pin the tail on the kitty. I love all your suggestions and will make sure we incorporate as many as we can to make it another green party! :)

  • Sarah

    I love the ideas for the Green B-day party! We will be celebrating Emma Jewell’s 1st bday next month. I am in search for a small eco friendly play set, with a slide for her bday, any ideas?

    • Akila Rao

      How was Emma’s 1st bday…am planning one too for my 1 yr old son in a month….any ideas?

  • disha

    we are having a simple, low key ice cream social (my husband is making the ice cream!) for my daughter’s second bday party. and i would like to find alternatives to balloons. i really like the paper ball decoration in the photo you feature (it’s aqua blue), do you know what this is called and where i can get them? thanks!

    • Rawne

      I;m not totally “green” savy. But we have made tissue paper flowers. They are really neat and pretty easy. You can make them pretty big too. We used white paper and dipped it into a bit of watercolor. They looks like peonies.

  • I just used this company for my daughter’s 8th birthday party. They are located in the greater toronto area in Canada. The girls made jewelery using glass beads made from recycled material and sterling silver wire. The jewelery was the children’s loot bag and because the jewelery was so beautiful and made from glass material the girls still wear it and treasure it as a keepsake. The company was very eco conscious, they spoke to the girls about recycling and reusing. I was very impressed.

  • erinn

    can i write on the seeded invitation after I’ve made it from my junk mail?

  • Asli

    I discovered your blog a couple of days ago, but finally got a chance today to go through it. I love love love your ideas on green birthday parties. Thank you!

  • Kelli

    I make my own containers to put snacks in out of our old cardboard milk cartons. I cut the top off and wrap then with tissue or crepe paper. You can use stickers or print off pictures to match the theme of the party.

  • Amber

    Some more ideas…

    – Ask guests to be creative in their wrapping, and choose things that can be repurposed, such as a toy bin, a canvas book bag, a lunch box or a photo box.

    – Use stevia or xylitol for baking in place of sugar (natural sweeteners that don’t produce that blood-sugar spike).

    – Repurpose cheap toys your kids get from McDonald’s or whatever into the goodie bags.

    – Buy blank canvas bags and let the kids paint their names on them as well as sponge designs for an activity and a take-home gift.

    – If the party is in the late fall/winter, you could have the kids make bird cookies to take home and feed to their local wild birds. (Again, a craft and a goodie.)

    – Stock up on some recycled items (like egg cartons and cereal boxes), find some instructions online, and have the kids create a craft out of these items.

    – Have all guests chip in for one large gift for your kid, such as a wooden play kitchen, a swingset, a wooden train table, or whatever your child is into.

    I’m so glad I ran into this website! I have two kids’ birthdays coming up, plus others to attend, and I would really like to find ways to reduce waste, and break the cycle of “typical” birthday parties!

  • Hmdavis2010

    We have been doing green parties for a number of years. We have a compost and chickens so many of our items are designed to either be put in the compost or be eaten by the chickens. The plates we use are sugar cane ware and the cups and utensils are vegetable based instead of plastic. All biodegradable. I have used in the past nice washable tables clothes or biodegradable ones that can be thrown into the compost. The “Goody Bags” consisted of wood whistles, bouncy balls and parachute men. I made ribbon wands using wood dowels, wood beads and ribbon. They were a huge hit.
    Most of our friends and families now are philosophy and beliefs and respect it and even participate in activities. The few who have grumbled… oh well.
    As too gifts… this year was the first we asked for donations. My son actually came up with the idea after he saw that the local exotic animal rescue needed money for a bear in closure. I made it optional but not mandatory and we had a few parents give both a donation and small gift to my son.
    I am proud to say I am a Waldorf Mom so many of our decorations, activities, and meals were inspired by Rudolf Steiner and the Waldorf community. This year we were cooped upside for my Son’s birthday party. The theme was imagination, trains and airplanes. It was great! We had forts, airports, train stations, and a castle.

    I have boxes of stuff that I find over the year that can be used for future projects and birthdays.

    Have fun and be imaginative.

  • Purvi

    One of the ideas I have started implementing as a party-goer is to give money (read cash) as a gift instead of toys. This is very traditional in India where I am from, but people have moved away from it. I take my daughter’s help in drawing small flowers/writing names (she is 3.5) on the envelope, slide some cash in it and seal the envelope. It feels different practicing that here when you see the room full of huge sparkly gift bags and you having a teeny weeny envelope you fear might get lost, but I am getting used to handling that myself. I make sure I tell the parent of the birthday child that I have her gift in a small envelope so make sure you see it/get it and sometimes I make sure to give it in their hands so it doesnt get lost. Having done this in 4 parties already now in the past 15 days, I feel much better. If you want to give cash, why even spend on the gift cards and contribute to the plastic trash?

  • Anonymous

    Cool! I also love the TickleMe Plant Party Favor. In it each child was able to grow a real TickleMe Plant from seeds and watch how the leaves fold up and the branches droop when tickled! 

  • kidsthinkbig

    We have been “gifted” for several green birthday parties either in book form and person or via Skype. Reading, sharing ideas and small “green” action items for children = empowerment, change and fun!