Photo: How to throw a green birthday party

Decorate with a timeless, handmade Birthday banner! (Credit: Green Planet Parties)

Throwing my first zero-waste kid birthday party felt like a Choose Your Own Adventure book with one path always leading to the entrance of "You name it" dollar store.

So I enlisted Suzanne Bertani — owner of Green Planet Parties and a green living enthusiast who shares her journey via Mommy Footprint — to help choose the path of least waste.

Home versus away

Zero clean up party packages are alluring. But most don't allow you to control the type and volume of décor, tableware or treat-bag contents. (Please comment if you know of great zero-waste venues.)

Suzanne: Home or away, omit disposable, single-use, and plastic everything. Decorate with a timeless birthday banner (win it!) or a special tablecloth that can be reused. Choose reusable or compostable tableware.

Me: Home hosting is a lot louder but offers complete control of your waste footprint. Many community centres have reasonable rental rates—with excellent recycling and compost options. Comb thrift stores for tea cups and plates for a Tea Party theme. Kids can take them home or, if they're old enough, pour soy wax into cups to make nontoxic candles!

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Zero-waste loot bags

Suzanne: Choose sustainable, good-quality, budget-friendly options that will last, e.g., second-hand books, wooden crafts or toys and a litterless snack in a reusable bag.

Me: Have kid's decorate their own paper bag with nontoxic homemade paints, then fill with jars of homemade play dough or seed bombs!

Don't forget nature!

Suzanne: Parties can become a lot of work. Pick an age-appropriate, fun and manageable theme. When my boys discovered the magical world of Harry Potter, taking the kids outside to play Muggle Quiddich was a party to remember! And a fairy walk through the woods for my daughter was filled with magic and fun for the entire family. (Here's a cheat sheet for Wizard and Fairy party themes.)

Living in harmony with nature requires us to choose our own adventure daily! How have you created a zero-waste, nature loving Birthday party? (The draw is now closed. Congrats to our winner, Richard!)

Lindsay Coulter, a fellow Queen of Green

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January 20, 2014

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Feb 21, 2017
8:01 PM

Today I set out to find items to create eco friendly party bags…started with a thought about flower seeds…first stop, wild bird and nature store…found mason bee nesting tubes…got some ideas at dollar store for plant pots…they had clay pots and peat pots…went to Art Knapp and found West Coast Seed brand “bee garden blend” wildflower seed packs…back to different dollar store…found kids garden gloves with bees on them…bought local potting soil, kraft paper bags and back to store for mason bee nest tubes…they are packaged locally…going to contact the bee keeper for more business cards and going to copy the mason bee info sheet found near nest display…voila…no plastic junk bags…educational…gardening component…ecologically responsible…so happy…feel much better about this party tradition going green

Oct 12, 2016
9:40 AM

Is it still possible to get access to the fairy cheat sheet? The link in the post no longer works. Thanks!

Nov 17, 2015
9:48 PM

I just like idea of omit disposable and plastic also budget friedly options. Thanks for sharing this article.

Aug 10, 2015
1:39 PM

This is so fantastic. Whenever my kids are at a party and I see the amount of waste, I can’t help but frown, but it makes me feel like such a party pooper. I love your ideas!!! Will be sure to implement at my next party.

Mar 26, 2014
10:24 PM

Great suggestions! There are so many more compostable disposable tableware options these days too! I wrote a post about my daughter’s last birthday party:

Feb 07, 2014
4:27 PM

Ooh would love to win this birthday banner — it fits with my rainbow icecream theme for my almost 5 year old son :)

Feb 05, 2014
10:50 AM

We’ve so far haven’t held a party, this looks to be the first year we’ll be considering one since our kidlet is now old enough to appreciate it. When they were younger we as a family made a birthday bag that we reuse every year. Since their birthday is in autumn we have it decorated with an autumn theme. We had collected leaves, fabric painted the vein sides and pressed them onto the fabric. It was a patchwork of several panels each having a different autumn colour thread border. Every year we take the gifts we’ve got them (some purchased and some made, never more than a few items in total), if there is any packaging it is removed and all loosely placed in the bag so there is no garbage to deal with on the big day (it remains hard to have any purchased gift without packaging, so at least we can mitigate it for the event). When they open it (it is twice the size of a pillow case) they have to explore in there and reveal what each is as they pull it out — it is great fun to do and watch. Reusing this family made birthday bag is one of my favorite family traditions that I look forward to doing with any future addition to the family, especially figuring out how to decorate it if they’re born in a different season.

Ideally we make a gift ourselves, last year one of us made a kid sized leather sachel for putting their wilderness collections in when we are out for walks. The year before was a felt alpaca out of alpaca fibers. We’ve started making it a tradition to go as a family to Science North the weekend closest to their birthday (got to pet a beaver, porcupine, flying squirrel, turtle and snake). This could be the equivalent to any science or other engaging learning center in your area. Last year we also happened to include a day handpicking and pressing apples with family friends, which I hope to do again in years to come. This could be any seasonal activity for when your kid’s birthday is.

Spring it can be a maple farm visit, flower pressing, lavender wand making, or a “new additions to the farm” visit…

Summer, a camping trip or field day trip (canopy walks, cave exploring, etc.) with field games…

Autumn, with harvest activities like ours, hayrides, and field mazes…

Winter, sleigh rides, sledding, snow cave making, etc.

All seasons can incorporate a campfire and stargazing if close enough to crown land, venues that offer that, or a friend’s place that has the space.

I’m always a big fan of less presents and more presence, having the focus being more on the experience and memories and also makes it hassle free for guests if it is a gift-less event because the gift is having quality time with friends. You can make activity oriented only events like this more affordable by requesting a small fee from guests (this also helps ease the minds of folks who feel awful about not giving a present).

Jan 29, 2014
3:21 PM

We always talk about being sustainable at Kindy. We promote litter less lunches and using open ended and recyclable materials for play. I love the idea of extending this to the birthday party because we really do just buy throw away rubbish! I really love the idea of purchasing tea cups from thrift shops as you would pay no more than the $2 shop.

Jan 27, 2014
9:20 AM

Awesome post, Queen of Green. Love your attitude and suggestions.

Jan 26, 2014
10:57 AM

My son is still very young but I am glad that I came across this post. It makes so much sense to try to minimize litter from a party — probably ending being better!

Jan 21, 2014
9:29 AM

I just love green birthday parties! We give out seeds as goodie bags, and use proper linens and plates — which is a huge treat for the kids. I’d love to be even greener as the years go by, and get the kids exited about it too. :)

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