Sustainability is a word that’s thrown around a lot in recent times – but what does it actually mean?
And how do you have a sustainable kids party? Do those words belong in the same sentence?
Let me explain!
What does Sustainable mean?
If an activity is said to be sustainable, it should be able to continue forever. Essentially its about thinking about what we purchase and consume comes from, and whether we really need it. It’s about thinking beyond our immediate needs and looking further to where products originated from and how they were made.
For example, using your own shopping bags instead of plastic ones – that kind of thing. It even extends as far as purchasing local, such as handmade local gifts instead of shipping from overseas.
When it comes to kids parties – it means thinking more carefully about decorations, party bags and plastic plates and cups!
Sorry – more washing up I know.
How can we be sustainable for a children’s party?
In the beginning, we can only go as far as we personally really want to. So if you are new to this – just take baby steps! When you are planning, ask yourself some questions:
• The theme – obviously some themes are going to be harder than others to do in an environmentally friendly way!
• Do you need balloons? Do you even need any decorations?
• Do you need plastic toys in lolly bags? Do you even need lolly bags?
• Do you have to send paper invites?
• Do we need plastic plates?
• How much food do we actually need?
Then when writing a list of things to buy, ask yourself if you can make any of the items yourself, or buy them from local and/or sustainable sources (for example recycled paper plates instead of plastic). If not and you really want to buy the item – think if it can be kept and used for another party? If so, then that is better than nothing.
Here are some general tips for various party concerns. Naturally, the options you choose will depend on the time you have available and how far you want to take it.
1. Invitations: paper invites are cute, but think if you really need to send them? Think of alternative methods for those who are “online” and save the paper (even printed on recycled paper) invitations for the older attendees (or less tech savvy!):
a. Use Facebook to create an event and invite through this
b. Try an online invite service (you design an invite through their site and email to recipients – you can even manage RSVP’s, notify guests of updates & share on social media)
ii. Paperless Post
iv. Etsy – some sellers will customise designs and send you an electronic version, which you can email yourself
2. Decorations: you are limited only by your imagination here! Naturally, if you have items at home leftover from previous celebrations use those instead of wasting them. Try and think recycled or reusable.
a. Avoid balloons. Even though balloon companies claim latex balloons are 100% biodegradable, experiments have shown they last for over 180 days once at sea. This is very harmful to marine life. Warning, this link shows some shocking consequences of balloons on our wildlife.
b. Avoid too many plastic or coloured paper style decorations and opt for material or homemade ones instead.
c. Disposable plates: if you really want to use these, try and purchase recycled or biodegradable ones.
3. Lolly bags: I’ll admit I love the idea of a lolly bag (except for the sugar filled lollies of course!), but in reality most of it ends up forgotten and in the bin by the next day. If you still want a take home option for your guests, here are some ideas:
a. Carry out an activity at the party (i.e. making something crafty or food) and each child can take it home.
b. Get the birthday boy or girl to make some pictures or some cute crafts before the party and give one to each child.
c. Make some playdough and give each child some.
d. Purchase eco friendly toys from local businesses such as Eco Toys or Green Earth Party . You could also look on Etsy for suitable items, for Miss H’s first birthday I brought some handmade chalk which was a lovely addition.
4. Games: keep it simple, if you have prizes naturally think about the recycled or reusable principle. Eco Toys has some activities you can purchase.
5. Food: plan how much you will actually need so there is minimal waste. Try and make as much as you can yourself so there is less waste from packaging. Offer leftovers to guests if you don’t think you’ll get through them. Compost if you can (or feed to chickens or dogs!).
6. Gifts: this is a tricky one, as we all like to give nice presents to the birthday boy or girl! If it really bothers you, you can ask for no presents (if you think everyone will listen!). When buying gifts, try and think local and handmade if possible.
7. Venue: if you can’t have the party at home, be sure to pick up all the rubbish after the party!
8. Birthday Traditions: I love the idea of starting some traditions on your children’s birthdays – this makes them really special and memorable without lots of material things. One idea I love is where someone collected a heap of vintage tea plates from second hand stores and brought them out each year for her daughters birthday parties – so cute and easy!
Why are we talking about this? How can I help – a few balloons wont kill anyone?
Our impact on the environment is becoming increasingly devastating. One of the biggest issues is waste – we are producing more than we can get rid of. We are using non renewable resources at a fast rate and not even realising it. Here are some facts:
• It’s been calculated around 8 million metric tonnes of plastic are ending up in our oceans each year. An article on The Conversation estimates “by 2025 we will be putting enough plastic in the ocean (on our most conservative estimates) to cover 5% of the earth’s entire surface in cling film each year”. Scary.
• Helium is a limited resource and is used for vital purposes, such as scientific research and MRI scanners. Its believed we could run out in 50 years!
Stop it – I love balloons, streamers and colourful plastic!Why should I change? I’m not making a difference surely.
I’ll admit it is a balancing act, as most of us love a children’s party with cute decorations and lots of colour. The key is just to think a little more about things, instead of falling into our “natural patterns” of behaviour. To change will take time, so don’t beat yourself up over it!
At the end of the day we are trying to conserve the earth for future generations to enjoy as we have. Future generations, being our children. The children we are having the party for….even if you hold back on one decoration, balloon or party bag your small action will have a ripple affect on those around you, as well as showing your little ones how to act! Who knows, you might even save yourself some money.
So over to you – how do you feel about parties – do you love going all out on decorations etc – if so, can you see yourself making some small changes now? I’d love to know!
I’d also love anymore ideas on how to be sustainable!
For some further inspiration, please check out these awesome sites:
A list of eco friendly party supply stores:
Other posts in the Children’s Party Series: