There's a lot of disposable stuff that comes along with throwing a typical kid's birthday party, from the plastic cups and forks to plastic favors and toys to wrapping paper, balloons, crepe paper and tablecloths. All of which gets used once and ends up in the landfill.
Environmentally friendly birthday parties are just as easy to throw, with a little planning and choosing recycled or reusable items. We've got five easy tips to show you how!
The invitations set the tone for the party you're throwing, and lucky for green moms and dads, there are eco-friendly alternatives to the pre-packaged Bob the Builder or Barbie party sets.
Best bet: Skip the paper products and send out online invitations. Alternatively, give your guests a ring on the phone with the scoop about your kid's birthday shindig.
If you'd prefer to send a paper invite, look for cards printed with soy-based ink on recycled paper. Or make invitations and thank you notes into a craft project for your kids -- use materials from around the house to make invitations with a personal touch.
Also check out the plantable seed cards. The paper used for these special invitations is embedded with wild flower seeds that guests can plant in the yard when your party is over.
Remember, too, that not everyone is green-savvy. Don't be afraid to let them know this birthday party will be green and what that means.
So what about presents?
Well, many parents figure that their kids have too many toys anyway, and a birthday party is only going to add more to the heap. Some green parents go the "no presents but your presence" route, asking guests to bring only themselves to the party. Others ask guests to bring books, toys to donate to a local shelter or experience gifts such as tickets to a local zoo or museum.
Be sure to let your guests know if you'd prefer to skip the gifts, prefer donations or request that any gifts be wrapped in newspaper, fabric or in a reusable gift bag.
Tip: "Reduce, reuse, and recycle" by offering up outgrown toys or clothing instead of new goods.
While many little ones are dreaming about a princess party or maybe dinosaurs, eco-friendly birthday parties are a chance to introduce green living to your kids and their friends.
Take this party out of the house and take the kids on a tour of a local organic farm. Or ask guests to donate to a cause such as Autism Speaks, a pediatric hospital or to a local shelter (animal or people). When choosing, come up with a short list of options and let your child pick which one appeals most to him or her.
What did your kids bring home from the last birthday party they attended? We'd be willing to bet it was a small plastic toy. When making your kid's birthday party eco-friendly rethink your choice of party favors. How about an arts or crafts project? Homemade modeling clay, for example, is quick and easy. Or maybe you don't even need party favors?
You do, however, need to decorate the party place, whether it's at home or away, to make it special for your birthday boy or girl.
Reuse streamers and happy birthday signs from year to year, and instead of balloons hang paper lanterns, pompoms or butterflies. Save more paper from the landfill by using a sheet as a tablecloth and wash it when the party's over. Go with a fun pattern or buy a plain sheet and turn it into a decorating project. Heart set on a specific theme? Pick up the kid-friendly patterned sheet set - part birthday gift and reusable, too!
When we think birthday cakes we think about sheet cakes, frosting and a lot of high fructose corn syrup. Instead of picking up a conventional cake at the supermarket, consider making a homemade cake. Or get a healthier cake, such as carrot. And who says the birthday cake has to be cake? Substitute traditional birthday cake with muffins or pie made from organic fruit.
Skip soda, drink boxes and any other single-serve beverage in lieu of water, lemonade, organic milk, whatever your pleasure, that you serve out of pitchers.
Be sure what you serve with is green, too. If you use reusable dishes, utensils, tablecloths, and napkins, all can just be washed instead of being trashed. Recycled paper plates and some plastic utensils can be composted.
Tip: Serve cupcakes and a buffet of finger foods at your party and you won't need utensils. Recycled paper napkins will do the trick!