green birthdays

It's easy to make birthdays a little greener, whether you are turning 5, 35, or 65. Parties don't have to have so much trash, and gifts can be eco-friendly and wrapped in recycled paper or bags.

This year was a good birthday for green gifts. I got a reusable shopping bag that folds into a grenade case, with the clever slogan War on Plastic. Milo has already enjoyed it more than me.


I also got this impossibly adorable recycled-paper notebook to attempt to keep myself organized. Spoiler alert: I may have picked it out myself, and they definitely have a variety of great covers. Made it hard to decide. The brand, Ecojot, is based out of Canada and they produce stationary items made with recycled paper and cardboard, vegetable inks and biodegradable shrink wrap. Even better, a portion of all proceeds are donated to their GIVE Program, to provide writing tools for children in need around the world to help them write their way out of poverty and violence. Now that's a birthday gift to feel good about!

(Bruno Mars also makes for a great birthday gift to yourself, just sayin'.)


Even got a bike ride in during my birthday weekend. A quick ride to and from brunch on a Sunday morning in New Orleans is always a happy time, even when it's 90 degrees and stupid humid outside.

Now, I'm sure most children would not be excited for grocery bags, Bruno Mars concerts and notebooks as birthday gifts, so I've got a few tips on how to green a child's birthday party while still keeping it fun!
Start with your invitations. Add some science and nature fun to your child's birthday invitations by mailing out seed paper invitations, such as these from Eco Party Time. Or choose invitations made from recycled paper. Or you could get creative and make your own recycled paper party invitations. It can be a fun activity with your child...until someone throws a crayon! If you truly don't want to use paper, use an online invitation such as Paperless Post, or go more low-key with a private Facebook event invite or mass message. (You know you've sent at least one at some point!)

Gifts, especially at children's birthday parties, always come with a ton of unnecessary trash. If you're determined to reduce your trash impact, include a line on the party invitation requesting that gifts be bagged, wrapped in plain paper, or even unwrapped. Gift bags have a longer lifespan than wrapping paper, and they are reusable (covering yourself for the next child's party your child has to attend!) Save all good tissue paper to use again. Another idea if you are the one giving a gift, whether to a child or another adult, is to use reusable shopping bags as the gift bag. This way, the gift bag is part of the gift itself! The bags can be used to hold toys in the car, and they come in amazingly handy on road trip vacations.

When planning the party decorations, skip the PVC and vinyl dollar store kind that won't last three hours. Use items you have already, or decorate with other eco-friendly decorations. Tables can be covered with brown kraft paper, which also gives children a coloring surface. The paper can be recycled once the party is over (unless it's covered in food or drink spills, then that will have to be thrown away). Recycled tissue paper formed into poofy flowers can be used for festive decorations. Save anything that's still in good shape once the party is over, and use again for future parties.

Kids and dishes are a bad combination, so I'm not even going to dare suggest using real plates for a party, no matter how green it is (and if you're an adult and having a party for yourself, use real plates! You're a grown-up, after all!) Melamine plates seem to be a good, inexpensive solution, but be careful not to microwave them! Look for sustainable or biodegradable disposable dinnerware, made from bamboo or other plant-based materials. Susty Party is my jam for eco-friendly party supplies, so check them out. They sell everything separately, but they also have really cute party packs that make your shopping go much faster.

Place clearly marked recycling bins throughout the party area, and especially next to the food. To make it a simple teaching experience for children, create picture signs of what's appropriate to throw in the recycling bin.

If you're a little older and more low-key, you've still got eco-friendly alternatives! Ask for eco-friendly, locally made or sold, or recycled material gifts from your loved ones. If you're looking for a gift to give, remember that many websites sell gift cards online, and they can be delivered paperlessly! Choose a locally owned restaurant, or a farm-to-table restaurant, and enjoy a delicious birthday dinner.

If you're having a get-together, class it up with real dinnerware and drinkware. Place recycling bins out for wine or beer bottles. Get creative with making wine glass markers, and use recycled cardboard or damaged gift wrap, with a marker to write guests' names. Broken or solo earrings can be taken off the hook, strung on some picture frame wire, and tied around wine glass stems for a creative way to use otherwise trash-bound items.

Birthdays shouldn't have to be a drain on resources and the environment. With a few adjustments, your birthday celebration can be both fun and eco-friendly!

For more green children's party ideas, visit Parents, PBS and Green Planet Parties!

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