Partying Without (Single Use) Plastic
15 years ago I was a children’s party planner in London. I loved coming up with creative ways to make the children’s fantasy themes come to life, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was my absolute favourite. But one thing that always struck me was the bags and bags of waste at the end of children’s parties. Almost everything was disposable.
As parents we have the annual task of hosting the perfect birthday party for our little ones (or if you have 2, 3, 4, 5 children these parties can be all too often). At the end of the party the inevitable black bin bags appears to scoop up all the left over food, plates, cups, wrapping paper, decorations and send it all to landfill.
When I began hosting my own children’s birthday parties 6 years ago I knew this was something we as a family needed to avoid. Over the years I have come up with a few different ways, through trial and error, of doing this.
Keep it simple and choose finger food. It is less messy and you instantly eliminate the need for cutlery. Some of our favourite options are:
- Cheddar cheese bread rolls
- Sausage rolls (we mix in some grated carrots and courgette with the sausage meat)
- Veggie sticks and hummus
- Fruit sticks
If you are outsourcing your catering ask them to use reusable Tupperware to transport the food or take your own to them in advance.
Choose to serve water that is filtered from the tap to avoid plastic bottles. If your party is not at home remember to take extra bottles as well as ask everyone to bring their own water bottle with them.
Another great option for a party drink, and to avoid the mini juice boxes, is homemade lemonade. We love this simple recipe.
- 8 cups of water
- ¼- ½ cup of fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp liquid stevia
Simply mix all the ingredients, add ice and enjoy!
This is where your friends come in. We all have a stash of kids reusable plastic plates, cups and bowls at home. Ask to borrow some from your friends too and you will have all the tableware you need for the party as well as reduce your waste by at least one big bin bag.
If you have a theme for your party you can find great print outs on pinterest.
A few years ago we printed all the superhero signs and stuck them on the cups, it was a big hit.
** If, like me, you have a stack of mismatch old party tableware use it for any theme by adding to it with the cut-outs. We then wash them and reuse them until there is no life left in them**
This is a challenge as we all want our children to have beautiful, fun parties and decorations can really make the difference. Here are a few things we do to make our decorations impact our parties but not the earth:
- Buy reusable fabric bunting that you can bring out every year for all the parties. No matter how old your child, bunting is a great addition to any party.
- Instead of balloons buy paper lanterns and pompoms. At the end of the party fold them and keep them for next year.
- Make the children the decorations! For example, for superheroes give each child a cape at the beginning of the party and your room will instantly feel decorated. This year we hosted a Ninjago party (a Lego party with no plastic was quite a challenge!). We made all the children Ninjago bandana’s which they loved and instantly made the theme come to life.
- Photo booth props are great and can be used again and again.
- Spend your money on entertainment instead. I have found that as soon as there is a craft activity or entertainer no one even notices decorations. In fact decorations are one of those things that are noticed if they are there but not often missed if they’re not.
Don’t be afraid to ask for no gifts or even give a little guidance when it comes to gifts. It is ok to say no plastic toys, no wrapping paper, books only or second hand gifts would be appreciated.
We love Two Presents. Your guests each contribute to your gift and the funds are split between your child’s gift and a charity of their choice.
I am a terrible baker so I only have a few cake tips I’m afraid. Outsource should be one I listen to but for some reason I find myself crying into the mixing bowl every year.
- Make your own mini bunting for the cake topper with thin card and paper straws.
- When buying your flour opt to buy the flour in paper bags, not plastic packaging (or even better head to Live Zero for your zero waste ingredients).
- Decorations: use your children’s toys as the cake toppers. They love it and this saves you buying something new that you only use once for the cake.
The first thing to do is try to forget the party BAG and think of this as a party FAVOUR. We try to opt for one item;
- Homemade cookies in a jar with a label saying “Thank you for coming to my party”
- A mini rugby ball
- Books related to the theme of the party
- Superhero capes and masks
- Decorate your own bag
- A craft that was made at the party
- Paper bag from the pharmacy (an exception to the bag rule) with an apple and some doctors note printables for a doctors party.
Often a new outfit is part of the fun of celebrating. As special occasion outfits are often worn once, consider what you could buy second-hand, or buy a quality item that can be resold or shared after the party. At Retykle you can easily buy second-hand clothing, or brand-new-with-tags online. Then if the birthday boy or girl doesn't have an occasion to wear the outfit again, you can consign it back to Retykle, saving closet space and money.
Keep a pack of flannels and tea towels to hand to clean up any inevitable spillages.
Have fun! After hosting 10 parties for my children this is the part I am only just managing to do! Keep it simple so you can also enjoy the party.
Even if we all take on board just a few of these ideas we can reduce the amount of trash all of our parties produce. We don’t need to be perfect, even a small step in the right direction makes a difference.
KEEP IT SIMPLE | CONSUME CONSCIOUSLY | HAVE FUN
With the end of the school year nearing why not adopt these tips for class parties too: Use reusable tableware, ask everyone to bring in food in Tupperware, choose end of year gifts that are sustainable.