The Kid turned six last weekend. About a month leading up to his birthday he brought up the idea that he wanted a birthday party.
Kid: “Mommy, I want a green party.”
Mom: “A green party?”
Kid: “You know, an eco-friendly party.”
How could I refuse a worthy request like that? So the gears were set in motion and I started researching what I could do to have a green party. The more I researched, the more inspired I became. I wanted to throw a party that would leave as little a footprint as I could.
Given the limited room we have in our townhouse, I booked a room at a nearby community centre. As much as we love to entertain at home, we just can’t fit more than 4 kids and their accompanying parents.
I felt that one of the elements of conventional parties that had the most negative impact on the environment was the use of diposables and I decided to use non-disposable party ware from kids cups, mugs, plates, utensils and napkins to tablecloths and lootbags. We decided to decorate minimally (and ended up not decorating at all!). We began to scour the house for supplies and the Kid helped take inventory. I was pleasantly surprised by how many dishes, cups and utensils we had and that we didn’t need to buy much. For the few items we did need, we decided to hit the Salvation Army which turned out to be an excellent lesson in reusing things and learning about the model of helping that the Sally Ann operates.
How do you keep a bunch of 3 to 6 year olds busy for 1 1/2 hours? We decided on a few games: “Simon says” using eco-friendly activities (Simon says ride a bike, hang out the laundry, sort the recycling…), hot potato with a little birdhouse wrapped in multiple layers of newspaper (that ended up being recycled), and story time with a great age appropriate book, 10 Things I Can Do to Help My World by Melanie Walsh . To add a craft component (a crafty mom can’t throw a party without one!!), the kids each painted a terra cotta flowerpot.
When it came down to the cake the Kid wanted a forest cake. A Black Forest cake? No, a forest cake because “trees clean the air.” Well, how could I say no? More research and I designed and made a forest cake complete with trees and a stream.
I am not a fan of loot bags. All too often they are full of non-resuable “junk” that’s made from harmful plastics that end up in the garbage. I decided that I would make fabric drawstring bags with fabric and grosgrain ribbon I had on hand. Not only were they adorable, they were nearly free!
To place in the loot bags the Kid and I made fridge magnets from homemade modeling clay. We cooked the clay, rolled and cut out the shapes, baked, painted and varnished them. We included a list of the Kid’s top 5 eco-friendly tips and a package of seeds to plant in the pots the kids painted.
From day 1 we have made a lot of effort to help our child realize that celebrations are not all about receiving gifts. Luckily he is agreeable to this idea and this year we have begun a new tradition. We let guests know that gifts were not necessary but if they wanted to give, they could donate money so that the Kid could adopt an Emperor Penguin through the WWF.
What was the result? A roomful of happy, well entertained kids with cool useful loot, inspired parents and a garbage bag that was less than 1/4 full. When we got things home, there was only 1 load of dirty dishes for the dishwasher, 1 sinkful of handwashing, 1 load of laundry and some recycling.
The party took some extra planning but in the end it was worth it. It was far more eco-friendly than a conventional party and in the long run, I saved money. It challenged me to think outside of the usual box, the Kid learned some useful life lessons and we are inspired with keeping up the eco-challenge.
The eventful day ended as we all blissfully tumbled into bed to observed Earth Hour. Happy Birthday to the Eco-Kid.