Greener Birthday Parties for Kids

My son’s birthday party is this weekend, and he is so excited. He can’t wait for his party. This year, we are keeping it simple with just a few friends coming over for a sleepover – very low key – and my son could not be more excited. Just goes to show, it doesn’t have to be over the top – kids are happy with simple things. And parents are happier too. I know I am. I can do without the stress and expense of a big party.

Over the years though, my kids’ birthday parties have run the gamut, from a quiet celebration at home with the family, to an all out themed bash, complete with decorations, games, and tons of food and drinks for kids and adults. At times, I have gone over the top. The funny thing is, most of those parties were when my kids were really young and they don’t even remember them anyway.

My advice is first and foremost, to keep it simple – especially when they are young. You can go all out on a child’s second birthday party, but odds are you will cause yourself a lot of stress and expense, and your child may end up over stimulated and in tears by the end of the day.

Simple parties are easier to plan, less expensive, and better for the planet too.  Here are some tips for keeping it simple and green:

Easy, inexpensive, reused party décor – You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of decorations. Odds are you (or some of your friends and neighbors) already have many things in your own home you can use to decorate. A couple years ago, my daughter wanted a High School Musical birthday. I vowed that other than food, I would not purchase one thing for the party. Well, just by scouring my house to see what kind of things we already had in storage, I was able to decorate the whole party with things I found around the house – metallic stars from New Year’s eve parties past, vinyl records from her Dad’s collection that he can’t part with, place mats cut from red fabric left over from Halloween costumes long gone. We did print some pictures from the movie on the computer (on 100% post consumer recycled paper – bonus!) and put a couple of those in frames and hung them on the wall to complete the theme. So I did it – the only new thing we purchased was my daughter’s gift, High School Musical Sing-It for the Wii – which she opened early so it doubled as a party activity. Here’s a picture of the girls at the HS Musical themed table having dinner ~


And, I was told by one of Emma’s friends the next day that it was the “best birthday party ever!” I considered that a big compliment coming from an 8-year old girl who’s been to many much pricier birthday parties in her day. Goes to show again, it’s about the friends and fun, not the stuff.  [more]

Better party favors – I’m a big believer in no party favors (yes, we’ve done it and lived to tell. As a matter of fact, only a couple of kids even noticed). Or, just one small favor for each guest – like a fairy wand if you having a princess party or a sword for a pirate party. For my daughters HS Musical party, we gave out reused favors (and got away with it). We found old blank CD’s stuffed in drawer of the office (from the days before iPods) and burned soundtracks for each girl as a party favor. Whatever you do, please ditch the plastic “goodie bag” (which really, is “good” for no one) filled with cheap trinkets. Those things end up broken and in the trash by the time your guests make it home. Not to mention the plastic bag is always trash bound and totally unrecyclable. 

Reusable or biodegradable food serving – Our recent birthday parties have been small so I didn’t need to buy any disposable plates or cutlery. Certainly, most of us can find enough plates, cups and cutlery for a small group of kids. If you are having a larger party, consider biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery, or paper goods made from recycled paper.

Better gifting with less waste – Let’s face it, every year your kids end up with gifts (from well meaning family and friends) that you just have no room for, no patience for, or you child has no interest in. Save your guests the money and yourself the hassle by considering no gifts or a group gift. Here is a great solution – invented by two moms who were tired of witnessing first hand all the birthday party waste, Echoage makes greening kids birthday parties easy. With this service, you select an eco-friendly birthday party invitation, choose a cause and invite your friends. Then, instead of bringing wrapped and packaged presents, guests simply rsvp online and make secure online contributions that are pooled for the purchase of one memorable gift for the birthday boy and girl and the remainder of the money to donate to the cause of your choice. What a great solution!

So here’s to happy kids, happy parents, a happy planet and Happy Birthdays!

Learn more about Allison at  

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