By Ivory King
Written on 4/19/18
When you think of kids’ parties, what pops into your mind first? Cake, maybe some hired actor impersonating a kids’ show personality - even fun party themes, and of course the food! What about the paper streamers, plastic party favors and disposable plates and flatware? Those probably end up near the bottom of the list, yet so many of us buy a bunch of cheap disposable stuff for every party because it makes clean up easy and perhaps we feel like it’s just necessary.
But if you’re trying to shrink the carbon footprints of your home and family, these incidentals suddenly can be considered not disposable - but dispensable. You can strategize what party-friendly route you want to take - and all the time you spend putting up crepe paper or tossing glitter around you can use in more economically - and environmentally - friendly ways. Certainly the other parents will appreciate it, and with honest conversation, your kid will too! Buy plates and cups from thrift shops, and use colorful bandanas as napkins - you don’t have to worry if the plates get broken, and kids can keep the bandanas as favors if you don’t want to reuse them. If you do decide to decorate, you can pass the decor on via a post on a parent group or neighborhood site, as well as in the free section of Craigslist.
Greener favors and no gifts?
Fewer party favors means less packaging - try homemade snacks and no plastic junk. Depending on where you live, you may want to make the favor something living. Though this might not land for urban kids, many others will appreciate bringing home a plant or sapling, wrapped in a fabric bag to plant at home. There’s also seeded paper that kids can easily plant - and you can use it for table settings, game instruction notes or other fun ideas that would normally amount to waste but now will end up in the dirt!
And then there’s the polarizing “no gift” trend. One mom’s earth-friendly party blog post says that she actually does tell parents to not bring gifts, or to make a donation in her child’s name - “I don’t have to rearrange my house to accomodate tons of new gear, my daughter doesn’t focus on material goods, and the environment benefits, too. Everyone wins!” To shift focus back to the birthday kid, you can ask them what their favorite cause is and let attendees know to donate to a specified NGO - a great way to get them thinking about charities and the work that they do, and developing a sense of their own values.
Another aspect of the “no gifts, please” on the invitation is that it makes your party more inclusive. Some may love to shop, bring gifts or they just feel neutral on the subject, but other families are financially struggling, perhaps invisibly. LifeHacker brought this up in a compassionate way that some may have not considered the burden that this places on some parents. The “no gifts” line doesn’t necessarily mean that people who really want to give your kid a gift won’t, but it creates room for those who can’t.
Without an emphasis on “the stuff,” kids are more free to enjoy the moment with their friends. This might include organized activities or games that can be incredibly sustainable. One thing to keep in mind, though trampoline parties have become rather popular, they aren’t suitable for little kids - pediatric quotes from Slate.com say definitely no kids under 6, and discourage their use for all ages. Though the individual risk is hard to estimate in terms of frequency, the injuries themselves can be extremely severe - “football injuries were four times less likely to lead to hospitalization as trampoline injuries.” So let’s find a game with fewer incidents of spinal injuries, shall we?
So many childhood memories of birthday parties are centered around friends, activities and food. The decorations and trinkets don’t make a huge impact on how your kid and their friends enjoy the day, but they do make one on the planet. Avoiding plastic and cheap things to fill up a party favor bag is a great way to minimize how much trash we create - and if your kid is aware of all this, they’re probably going to be enthusiastic about it. Talk to them about what they would like out of the day, and how all of it connects and you’ll end up with someone a little older - and a lot wiser.
Cover photo courtesy of Busy Litte Izzy