Low Impact Birthday Party:
Last year’s birthday party was superhero themed but this year Amelie wanted a zero waste nature theme but in reality it was more of a low impact birthday party.
We decided we wanted to have a fun kid’s party but keep it as zero waste/ sustainable as possible. We definitely underestimated the amount of prep involved and left a few things to the last minute. As a result we made a few compromises and learned some lessons along the way.
It’s all too easy to just to go and buy everything you need for a party from a couple of stores or order online. This year, we all wanted to have a party where we handmade as much as possible
As it turns out it’s actually quite difficult to throw a zero waste kid’s party. Everyone works hard and has busy lives that don’t leave too much time to get creative and hand make things.
So how do you throw a low impact children’s party?
As we have learned, preparation and forward planning is the key.
Last year we hosted the party at home but this year we’d invited Amelie’s whole class so needed somewhere bigger.
Luckily, where we live there are designated community rooms that are perfect for hosting 18+ children and parents too. As long as we volunteer to help out some way in the community we can use the room for free.
As well as the event space it also had a kitchen with plates, cutlery & glasses etc. Unfortunately, we had already purchased biodegradable plates and cups but we now know for next time.
When you’ve set up the room make sure that you have a system in place for your waste. We used a ‘low impact’ bin bag (from la droguerie ecologique) for the non-recyclable items, a compostable bag for food and recycling boxes and paper etc.
If this is all set up at the beginning & everyone knows the system you’ll save time at the end of the party when it’s clean up time.
Food & Drink:
The party was from 2pm to 5pm so we only needed some snacks, as everyone had already eaten lunch.
Our plan was to have a bowl of sweets, cherry tomatoes, cheese cubes, olives and some bread sticks, cookies, muffins and fruit juice. The day before the party we went shopping for nibbles, drinks and some baking ingredients.
This is where we encountered our first fail. The supermarket we go to in France offers a great selection of package free produce but, typically, didn’t have any cherry tomatoes. So we ended up with a large plastic punnet instead.
That said, we did manage to buy everything else, except for the cheese, in either recyclable packaging or package free – Juice in glass bottles, bread sticks in a box, baking ingredients in paper and sweets in bulk.
Before we found out about the kitchen at the location we went out and bought some biodegradable cups and plates. We used a marker pen to write the children’s names onto their cups in an attempt to avoid any unnecessary waste.
At home we made ‘easy’ banana muffins, cookies and cornflake cake bars.
I decided to make my own ‘Happy Birthday’ Banner using brown paper and the colourful paper wrapping from our Who Gives a Crap toilet roll.
I found the card for the letters from our building’s recycling bin then wrapped these in the loo roll wrapping before mounting them on brown paper. I also trimmed the edges with pinking shears for a zigzag look.
Out of the leftover coloured paper I also made two buntings and used paper gift-wrapping cord (I’m sure it has a name) to hang the banner and bunting and stuck them up with paper masking tape.
Originally we told Amelie that she wasn’t going to have any balloons this year. It was heart breaking seeing her little face as, lets face it, every kid expects balloons at a party. A few days later I found a bag of coloured balloons and some party hats at the back of a cupboard, so this year balloons were back.
Again, with more planning and research we would have bought biodegradable balloons or used ribbons on sticks for the kids to play with.
That said, we had balloons so we used them up to avoid unnecessary waste.
For the entertainment we hired a local children’s entertainer who did a fantastic job keeping the kids amused until cake time.
She came dressed as a fairy (the theme was nature after all) and started off with face painting & tattoos before moving on to stories, puppets and games.
Last year Andrea and I took the lead with some classic party games so it was nice to take it a little easier this year.
We decided to buy Amelie a nice cake to make up for daddy’s home made decorations. Andrea found a local woman who has an amazing selection of handmade, personalised cakes.
Unfortunately, when we collected the cake there wasn’t a box big enough and it was pre wrapped in a plastic foil. I could have attempted to make it myself but it would have looked rubbish.
No party is complete without party bags! It can be tough to avoid the plastic bags with plastic toys, wrapped sweets and balloons etc. We still wanted the bags but wanted a more sustainable alternative.
We bought 2 packs of paper bags with birthday stickers. We couldn’t find any package free in the time we had so we ended up with two single use plastic bags.
For the contents, I made sweet envelopes out of brown paper for the bulk bought jelly sweets. I also made little pouches that were originally intended for seeds but, unfortunately, November is the wrong time of year to buy seeds.
Instead we settled for tulip bulbs and again, due to lack of planning, ended up with a plastic bag of bulbs and cursing ourselves for our lack of planning time. The seeds would have come in paper bags but you win some and lose some.
Finally, as a little Christmas craft idea we bought plain paper baubles and wooden paint brushes.
Although the bags were lacking in colour and plastic toys they were a real hit with all the kids. With a little more forward planning these could have been totally plastic free too. You can also find companies online who sell completely eco party bags for birthdays etc.
That just leaves us with the presents.
We completely forgot to mention in the invitation that we are trying to live a plastic free life but Amelie got a lovely selection of mainly craft based gifts anyway from her lovely friends.
Talking to some other families who are going zero waste, they also suggest in their party invitations that they could give an experience as a gift such as a trip to the cinema with their friend.
I hope that you find some inspiration from our experience and learn from our mistakes.