There’s no doubt my kids love going to birthday parties. With food, drinks, cake, party bags, often a piñata, and a ton of fun, how could they not? But add in decorations, invitations, disposable dishes, and a slough of gifts, and there’s the potential for a lot of waste.
When it’s our turn to host, we come up with a plan that reduces trash (and still involves plenty of sugar and good times).
Here’s how we threw a Near-O Waste celebration for our six-year-old (and a dozen of his friends) at a public park:
Invitations: I sent a group email.
Balloons: He really wanted one (even more than a piñata). “Fishy Fish” will become part of my trash-art LIVE SIMPLY sign.
Decorations: We skipped them. But at home we put up our handcrafted reusable felt chains.
Snacks and Drinks: Party time was shortly after lunch, so guests weren’t expecting a full meal. I served simple snacks that didn’t require plates or garbage cans; PB&J squares, yogurt covered pretzels from the bulk bins, sliced apples, and water from my refillable jug.
Cake: Always made from scratch and always an elaborate production, with plenty of help from the birthday boy!
Party Bags: My son settled on a lollypop for each friend as a parting gift, no bags. Last year we used cloth bags for a few toys and treats. I have a surplus if anyone in the Santa Cruz area would like them for a future party!
Piñata: He did bring it up, but I told him that cake and lollypops were already a lot of sugar. He seemed satisfied with the answer.
Napkins, utensils, plates, and cups: I brought cloth napkins (which I actually forgot to hand out!), real forks, camping plates, small cake pans, and camping mugs and cups from home.
Gifts: Inspired by a friend, our invitation said, “No gifts please. Your presence is Brady’s present.” He received a gift certificate for ice cream, some money, a few sweet cards, and two presents. We got him a Lego set and an experience gift; his first rock climbing lesson!
Total party waste: the gum paste can (cake supply), twenty-five lollypop wrappers and sticks, the balloon, a couple gift ribbons, and some packaging from the Lego set. I recycled the powdered sugar box, the beeswax candle box, two whipping cream lids, a few envelopes, and the Lego bags that were recyclable.
My son had an awesome birthday. He got to ride his bike, run wild, and eat a lighthouse with his friends. We proudly made very little trash. I just had to spend 30 minutes washing dishes.
My husband’s great idea came a little bit late: next year’s invitation just might say…
BYO plate, cup, and fork!