Children’s parties are surely the enemy of the environmentalist? Presents, paper, food, party bags…and worst of all, a lot of it is simply wasted.
For anyone who has enjoyed/suffered (whichever is applicable) the task of organising the celebration of a child becoming a year older, I am guessing you will have seen presents opened that are never used because they are not to taste or are a duplicate of something your child has already. Everything is wrapped up and, in a new trend, is often also in a gift bag. For food that has taken hours to prepare, a significant amount of it usually has to be binned as it is impossible to estimate how many chocolate marshmallow cakes each child will want. Probably the biggest waste of money and effort of any aspect of a child’s party is the party bag! Kids love them, I can’t argue, but in my experience they are generally filled with small plastic toys, horrible sweets full of terrifying ingredients and have themselves a plastic feel that I sense will be lining landfill for decades. Here is a selection of the type of content typical of these bags:
So, guess what? Despite my new awareness of ethical consumption and waste, I am hosting a kids’ party at the end of the month…
Why? Aside from the obvious reason of having a very excited child with a birthday coming up, I do actually believe that it is a good exercise for me to contribute something valuable to my children’s lives and their community. By hosting a party I get to watch the children interact with their friends in a way that I am excluded from by nursery. Plus it brings together friends that I don’t see often, as well as offering an opportunity to socialise with the parents of nursery friends who will share a lot of experiences with us over the next decade or so as our children start school together.
So how can I improve on the typical environment-wrecking kids party? Here are my ideas so far – if you have any more, please please let me know! I aiming for this party to tie in with my blogging objectives of ethical shopping and responsible waste disposal.
Venue: I have booked the local sports centre for the party. It is run by a charitable trust dedicated to providing services to the community on behalf of the local authority. Most of the 30 guests live locally which increases the chances of them arriving on foot, and more importantly, not polluting the environment by driving.
Invitations: With more planning, I could have done better, however the invitations were paper so therefore recyclable. They were from Marks & Spencer and although they were produced on ‘paper made from responsible sources’ (what does that mean??), they were made in China, so had to travel across the world to reach me. With reference to my post mentioning spoiling children, I have made it clear on the invitations that there is no need to bring a present – hopefully if anyone actually adheres to this, it will contribute to reducing waste (gift, paper, sellotape, money etc.)
Food: There was an option to have the food catered by the venue but as all of the children are under 5 years old, I have decided to provide it myself to make sure there are some healthy options. Further, it gives me some control over where the food is sourced – I would like to limit, or ideally avoid, using the supermarket.
Prizes: I aim to provide ‘ethically sound’ prizes and definitely will be avoiding plastic toys! For ‘pass the parcel’ I have chosen a small prize (see below) to limit the amount of wrapping paper I need to use and I’ve been saving the awkward sized pieces of paper, that I normally stick straight in the recycling box, to wrap the prize. Plus I have some old kids’ magazines pages I can use for extra layers.
Birthday Cake: Okay, I’m struggling with this a bit and am realising that I’ve probably missed a trick by not ordering one from a local company a few weeks ago. Surely the most ethical way I can source a cake is by baking one from scratch at home? (Limit packaging, use organic ingredients, avoid the supermarket etc). I think though with having to prepare all of the food, this may be outwith what is realistic for me. Bear in mind that prior to me having children I was a ‘slam it in the microwave’ kind of a girl. I have definitely improved and now bake regularly but it has been known for me to attempt a cake that has, for whatever reason, failed. I’m not sure that this is a risk I can take on the morning of the party – ‘no cake’ would be a lesser issue than what it would do to my state of mind…
Party bags: Here’s how I’m doing so far
With the exception of the tissue paper, everything in the picture is from Yellow Moon. I chose this organisation because they will donate a small percentage of each thing(specified on the site) to a charity of your choice. Also, as you can see all of the items are recyclable with the exception of the crayons which hopefully will be used up to avoid waste and the friendship bracelets.
I also have on order small packets of sunflower seeds from Just Seeds UK (via ebay) – these are packaged in envelopes with a personalised label.
Each child will get a piece of cake wrapped in a paper napkin.
The tissue paper has been added for a (recyclable) flash of colour so that they don’t appear to be the most boring party bags in the world.
The party bags themselves are plain white but I’m hoping the children will use the crayons to decorate them. I have glitter letters that I am thinking of using to put each child’s name on the bag – this may justify me sticking a printed label to each one explaining that the bags and contents are recyclable as long as the letters are first removed.
Outfits: Finally, to reduce waste I am going to try and make sure we are all dressed in clothes that we own already. I admit I have got into a habit of buying new clothes for the children if they are hosting a party. It is unnecessary and I want to break the habit before they are old enough to realise the pattern has been established!
I’ll do another post in a few weeks with an update on how I got on with the ‘ethically consumed and responsibly disposed of’ party! Gee, sounds fun already…