Think back to the last time you cleaned up after a party. How many trash bags filled with napkins, plates, silverware, and cups did you toss out? If it was a kids birthday party, you probably added wrapping paper (most of which can’t be recycled), party hats, balloons, and broken or discarded party favors to that trash as well. Next time, you should consider holding a zero waste party for your kids.
Most of us probably don’t give much thought to what is tossed away, but all of that trash is having an impact on animals and our environment. In the U.S., we dispose of 500 million plastic straws, and 50 billion water bottles annually — every minute, one million disposable cups are tossed into the trash. Every year, about 8.8 million tons of this plastic trash ends up in the ocean, where it photodegrades over time and turns into microplastics that are virtually impossible to clean up. Microplastics are incredibly harmful to animals, and over 700 marine species are currently in danger of extinction because of plastic pollution. Plastics also litter our beaches, contaminate drinking water, and harm seabirds and wildlife.
Many families are starting to make changes at home. Swaps for the items we use every day is relatively easy, but how do you make an entire zero waste party for kids?
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Tips For A Zero Waste Party
Children love all things simple and whimsical. If you combine those two elements, then you have a winning recipe. While some children are attracted to characters and specific themes, other children will enjoy activity-based parties – such as bike rides, painting, swimming etc.
Once you have settled on your theme, the rest of the party planning follows, and you can start planning decorations, activities and favours, all while keeping costs and your environmental footprint down.
While popping to the store and picking up plastic banners and balloons is the easiest option, it’s not the most sustainable. In the interests of creating decorations that keep costs down and are kinder to the environment, consider the following:
1. Use Natural Materials
Natural materials will make the zero waste party become more wonderful than ever! Using natural materials as decorations is standard for a wedding or an adult celebration, use flowers and plants at children’s parties and I guarantee the kids will love them too. Cut tropical leaves from your garden Cordyline or Palm to create a jungle vibe or use pretty cut flowers and Ferns for a tea party or fairy theme. If possible use flowers straight from your garden or alternatively consider buying whole plants and then transfer to your garden afterwards.
Gum nuts, banksia cobs and leopard tree seeds can be decorated into little creatures. Pine cones can also be painted and strung up as decorations. Dried palm flowers that messily fall into backyards can be spray-painted or wrapped in colourful wool.
2. Invest Time In Creating Reusable Decorations
If you enjoy sewing or you are happy to invest in long term decorations, hand-sewn cloth buntings are hard to beat. If you opt for gender neutral colours and timeless patterns, these buntings can be used for many years and across different festivities.
If sewing isn’t your thing or you don’t want to fork out that kind of investment, you can purchase wool inexpensively and create pom-pom garlands. Children love pom-poms and if they are old enough, they may even help you make them. You can find helpful tutorials online and you don’t need any fancy equipment. Easy tip for your kid’s zero waste party!
3. Use Recyclable Materials
Why fork out money when you already have decorative treasure in your trash to create a zero waste party for your kids?
Catalogues, newspaper inserts and junk mail can be cut into triangle shapes and made into buntings (holepunch across the top and thread with string, or use little wooden pegs to attach to the string). Toilet rolls can be made into characters and critters. If you are looking for inspiration, head over to Pinterest and you’ll find ideas for every party theme. Once the party is finished and you’re packing up, the decorations can go back into the recycling bin. Try not to create waste while holding a zero waste party.
4. Cups, Plates & Utensils
This one is the biggest culprit of one-time use plastics. Even when using paper, most party plates and cups have a plastic coating on them. The best thing you can do is to use reusable cups, plates and utensils for a zero waste party. You can use your everyday dishes. These will require washing but it really is worth it for the amount of trash reduction! If you can’t fathom washing them, bamboo or compostable plates & cups will be great for zero waste party.
5. Food & Food Packaging
When it comes to party food try to buy as little pre-packaged food as possible. Drinks can be served in jugs and poured into glass jars. If you use paper cups then consider labeling them with the children’s names, this way you will use less cups. Save any left over paper tableware for other events.
Don’t overdo the food preparation if you are aiming to a zero waste party. Kids hardly eat anything at parties because they’re so excited, so rather than ending up with loads of leftovers that are potentially contaminated by little sneezes, coughs, and grimy hands, put out only what is necessary. Keep the rest for other meals. If other parents bring food, request reusable containers.
No more of those thin plastic tablecloths, they don’t even look very good because they always have creases in them that you can’t get out. Use real fabric table cloths. If you don’t want to invest in a table cloth, you can also use bed sheets. Use white or a solid coloured top sheet to match your colour theme. Fabric stores also normally have bins of scrap fabric that you can look through. You might be able to find a large enough piece of sequinned or patterned fabric for the perfect themed tablecloth or table runner.
Go digital! Ditch the paper invites and email digital invitations instead. Switching to digital invites is a super easy way to create a zero waste kids party because of the numerous platforms that offer them online. Just add your guest list, details and pick a design and off they go. Tracking the number of guests is a breeze so you can easily estimate how much food you will. This way will not only help you save money for buying invitations but also create a memorable zero waste party for your kids.
8. Loot Bags
Forget them. It may sound like a travesty, but most kids won’t care for more than five minutes after they leave the house, if that. Think about how you feel as a parent when your kid comes home from a party, loaded up with candy and cheap toys that break almost immediately. It’s annoying, which is why it’s time to break the mold. You’ve given them a great party, and leave it at that. If you simply must to do it in a zero waste party, opt for something more environmentally friendly, like a leftover cupcake, some homemade play dough, or a small book.
How often do you throw a birthday party and end up with WAY too many gifts. It can be so overwhelming. The gift-giving portion of a birthday party can generate loads of unappealing trash, which is why you should choose an alternative. You could suggest that several family members club together for a wooden train set, bicycle, climbing frame or other items which you know will give your children (or indeed your grand children) pleasure for years to come. Another tips for zero waste party is, for an older child, a gift voucher gift to their favorite restaurant can be fun, so that they can invite a friend or two out for dinner.
A zero waste party can be fun and incredibly festive! I hope that we have shown you that it is possible to throw a completely awesome kids party that is also environmentally conscious!