Going green can apply to all areas of your life. We all like to celebrate! But with that usually comes lots of single-use plastics and unnecessary waste. Keep reading for tips on a greener party!
1. Send fb or email invites.
Does anyone even treasure personal invitations or cards anymore? All of mine just end up in a designated recyclee shoebox. I personally love them but they’re really more appreciated when they’re from the closest loved ones for the most special occasions (weddings and baby announcements are my personal faves!).
Paper invites are also pretty costly. A good design, envelopes, stamps, and handwriting out all the addresses is a potential waste of your time and money. With a Facebook event creation, you can skip the tangible AND the digital invitation option. Just write in the details in the description and slap up a photo you like. Another win is that you can update any changes or new details and everyone can see it right away.
So if it’s just your kid’s birthday party, maybe pass. Or just have a few made for your closest friends and fam (maybe printed on recycled paper). And of course for your grandma who maybe doesn’t have a computer, like mine!
2. Choose your location with that environment in mind.
Maybe you want to have a birthday party at the park, Six Flags, Chuckie Cheese, trampoline park, wherever. If that’s the case, you probably won’t need many decorations or any at all. We tend to have ours at home or someone else’s place.
3. Buy decorations secondhand or keep it minimal – or both.
Anyone who has been to my parties knows I’m the opposite of minimal. I just go overboard because I’ve usually been planning the event for months (or almost all year like for both our kids’ first birthdays!). But I try to buy as much secondhand stuff as I can. You can find some unique pieces at antique stores too for a really special flare.
Try to steer clear of balloons which can’t be recycled and there is a helium shortage. Helium is important in the medical world (like for MRIs), for the semiconductor industry, for research experiments, and in labs. Flowers are a nice natural decor but also require a lot of resources to grow them so use them sparingly.
My son’s first birthday is approaching and I’m throwing one party here in Mexico plus one in the US with our family there later. Down here we are doing construction worker theme and all of the hard hats, safety vests, dump trucks, and little toy trucks/tractors have all been bought secondhand from individual sellers here.
We bought one new tractor that is wooden for a one-of-a-kind addition to the decor. We may buy a few other things and I always have my eyes peeled when we go to flea markets. It’s a good idea to get am early start if you plan on buying used, as to give yourself enough time to buy all the decor you want.
4. Use your own dishes and/or compostable plates and utensils.
Instead of the typical plasticware and styrofoam plates/cups, opt to use your own dishes if there are enough. It may be worth thinking about investing in some secondhand lightweight (like used plastic) plates and cups plus extra eating utensils on hand for special occasions versus your every day stuff. You can create your own ‘reusable party box’.
Some companies will rent you their dining sets also, if you need a bunch for a particularly large event you have planned.
If nothing else, there are compostable eating wares now available. Some of them look like regular plastic! And some of them are wooden, which are aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Paper plates are another option, just make sure they aren’t lined with plastic on the inside as many are. Try to avoid styrofoam if all else fails! It can’t be recycled and hangs around essentially for the rest of time.
Whatever cups you use, maybe find a way to label them so people aren’t losing track of their cups like they often do at parties and events. And skip the plastic straws, for the love of mother Earth and the sea turtles.
5. Plan your take on gifts.
Maybe you don’t want any gifts. Maybe you prefer experiences, gift cards, money, movie tickets, museum or concert tickets, etc. Maybe gifts are okay but you prefer they aren’t wrapped (as wrapping paper is literally used to hide the gift and pretty expensive, all just to end up in the trash).
I am forever thankful for any and all gifts. My love language is gifting! But recently I ask for exactly what I need from those closest to me as to not end up wasting someone else’s money if some things aren’t needed. This past Christmas I asked for family plane tickets so we could take a trip together to the beach!
Whatever your stance is on gifts, make that clear to your guests. Request gifts be put in bags that can be reused or make everyone aware you are totally okay with secondhand clothes, toys, decor, etc. Consider a gift registry to get exactly what you want and need.
If you get gifts you don’t need, consider returning, reselling, or regifting them. Some people may find this weird or difficult to do but wouldn’t it be better the gift is put to better use for your needs or someone else’s? I definitely encourage it when I give a gift if it doesn’t vibe with the gift receiver – even providing a receipt is helpful if you are gift-giving.
6. Eco-friendly games and activities for a good time.
There are lots of games that don’t need a lot of stuff to accompany them. Try looking for them on Pinterest and on the internet. Some good ones are Pictionary, Charades, pin the tail on the donkey (or similar), scavenger or egg hunt, ball or ring toss, bubbles, bobbing for apples, or water gun fight. A piñata is always fun and made from paper but its almost always filled with plastic-wrapped candy. We just can’t part with our piñatas though. Do what you can!
Other fun things you could include at a party include rentals like a bounce house, mechanical bull, live music/DJ, or even a portable petting zoo. Maybe plan a craft station and have supplies for coloring, drawing, painting, make edible (candy, cereal, pretzels) necklaces, decorate cookies/cupcakes, etc. Or you could plan your party around swimming in a pool or slip-and-slide.
7. What we all really look forward to – the food.
A money and plastic-saver is to make whatever you can versus buying it or ordering it if possible. Pinterest is full of creative and tasty ideas at all levels of cooking skill. Place your appetizers and desserts on trays versus wrapped in plastic.
Batch cook a giant pot of something. For my husband’s family it tends to be pozole (a hominy stew). Maybe batch cook in a pot charro beans, soup, chili (like for Frito pies mmm), stew, boiled eggs, pasta, rice, or quinoa. In the oven whip up some baking pans full of baked potatoes or sweet potatoes, baked veggies, baked fish or chicken, apple chips, or kale chips.
One special food-related people-pleaser is the “build-your-own” station. Allow guests to build their own yogurt parfait, fruit bowl, veggie skewers, pasta dish, burger/sandwich, meat and cheese plate, ice cream sundae, trail mix bags, taco bar, whatever. Try to buy some of the ingredients in bulk bins and package- or plastic-free.
Catering is good for large events, no brainer. Try to provide plant-based dishes or dishes where meat and other animal products aren’t the main star of the meal. Opt for local and in-season foods if the company offers it. Ask if the caterer has reusable plates and can service the event. Some caterers will bring the dining ware and even take it back so their employees wash it instead of you! That’s a hell of a win.
Maybe splurge on one or two nice foods to add flare if your food setup feels restrictive or boring. This can include an elaborate cake, chocolate-dipped foods, handmade and personalized cookies/cupcakes/donuts/etc., snazzy cocktails, a chocolate fountain, or popcorn machine.
8. Favors – are they really necessary?
Kids love favors at a party and if that’s the audience you are entertaining then I suggest sending them home with extra cake, extra food, or little amounts of snacks from the party leftovers will eat (pretzels, trail mix, fruit, or the fave – candy). Skip the little plastic toys or personalized favors unless they’re guaranteed to be used longer than a few minutes or few days…
If you still feel inclined to give favors consider ones like live plants, seeds to plant, party decor (like if toys or flowers were used in your table/space setup), decorated cookies, photos, or recycled paper bags filled with baked chips/popcorn/unwrapped candy/etc. If crafting is involved, let the kids take their craft home as the party favor.
This also applies to weddings! A photo booth usually makes for much better memories at large events.
Whether you apply all of these tips or just one, every change you can make is a positive one that the planet will applaud you for!
Written by Stacy Ramirez, MS, RDN, LD