Sustainable kid’s birthday party ideas can still be beautiful and chic, here are some budget and environmentally friendly ideas for goody bags, decorations, cutlery and birthday gifts.
It’s so interesting all of the ways that having a child changes your perspective. When I was planning Bibi’s first birthday party, I started to think about how my choices, even in party planning, could effect both the earth and her future. We decided to make her first birthday party as sustainable as possible. That meant making choices that would have less of a detrimental impact on our environment.
For Bibi’s second birthday, I wanted continue the tradition of having sustainable birthday parties. As I planned, I’ve realized that these practices are also beneficial for busy families. Sustainable birthday parties help save time and money because the decor and party favors are multi-use, repurposed and reusable.
Birthday parties aren’t typically eco-friendly. With the advent of Pinterest and Instagram, parties seem to be more expensive, over-the-top and wasteful than ever before. I can understand how easy it is for parents to fall into the trap of spending so much time and money trying to have the “perfect” party that the costs for their pocketbook and the environment may sometimes go unaccounted for. I’ve tried to change my mindset by focusing on the most important parts of these gatherings…being with friends and family and making memories. I also try to keep in mind the impact that my party choices will have on Bibi’s future.
With these things in mind, we can all try to make birthday parties less stressful and more sustainable. If you are planning a party for your child here are some of the ways we’ve made Bibi’s parties sustainable, less stressful and still a lot of fun.
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One simple and sensible idea for sustainable celebrations is to choose paperless invitations. In our increasingly digital world, e-invites are a helpful choice for both the party planner and the invitees.
Paperless Post has hundreds of beautiful e-invites that you can customize. There are many invites that are free to send up to 50 people, as well as added paid options. Invitees can RSVP and also add the event to their calendar. You’ll be able to log in and see who is coming to the party.
Evites is another company that has paperless invitations. Some of their premium designs are animated which adds an extra element of fun. Evites are also customizable and they have a large selection of both free and premium paperless invitations. They can be sent via text (SMS) or email and you can see who has RSVPd.
Borrowing Party Supplies
So many party supplies are used once and then put into storage never to be touched again. Last year we borrowed a “one” cake topper from Bibi’s friend who had just celebrated her first birthday. Borrowing party decor and supplies is a wonderful way to recycle. People are often thrilled to see the special decor they made or purchased used again.
Before nailing down your party theme, ask friends and neighbors if they have any party supplies they are willing to lend or rent. Another great place to look for pre-used party supplies is on Facebook marketplace.
Zero Waste Decorations
Consider purchasing or making party decorations that follow a zero waste mentality. Zero waste in its simplest form is sending nothing to the landfill. Choose decorations that can be reused, eaten/composted or repurposed.
Reusable Multi-purpose decorations
There are so many options when it comes to reusable party decorations that have multiple purposes. Some ideas to consider:
- Cake Toppers: This year, I chose cake toppers without numerals that we will be able to use for future birthdays. You could also purchase small toys that can be used on the cake and later as a toy.
- Banners: Try to find neutral colors OR multi-colored banners that could easily match different themes. This year, we purchased a new multicolored fabric flag banner by Cheri Party which we plan to reuse for other celebrations. Different colors featured in the flag will help this banner blend seamlessly with other themes in the future. The “Happy Birthday” banner is recycled from last year’s birthday and this is from Amazon.
- Printable/Custom artwork: For Bibi’s first birthday party, we used a custom birthday card as part of her table top decorations. Inside I wrote notable moments we enjoyed together in the last year and our wished for her. We put these cards inside her keepsake memory box. You can also print, frame and display fun artwork that goes with your theme. After the party it can become decor in your child’s room or playroom. -Fabric Tablecloth: Choose a neutral fabric tablecloth that can be used year round, or a colorful table cloth or table runner that is specific to birthdays
- Photographs: Everyone loves to look at photographs, and printing and displaying them as party decorations is festive and a great conversation starter. Best of all, you can re-use the photographs in a scrapbook or as decor in your home, grandparents’ homes or your place of work.
Edible or Compostable Decorations
Another way to make your party sustainable is by choosing decorations that are edible or compostable. Food can be a beautiful party props and can be consumed after the party. For Bibi’s second birthday party I made macarons and meringues. Meringues are simple to make using only sugar, egg whites and lemons and can be made in advance. Not only are they a pretty decoration, they can also be packed up for guests to take away in goody bags. Here is the easy meringue recipe I used. (Tip: I folded in the food color when the meringue has come to stiff peaks.)
For those who are a little adventurous, you can try making macarons too. This is my basic macaron recipe from my other site, IndulgeWithMimi. I like that macarons can be frozen for up to a month so you can make this part in advance. For Bibi’s party, I made them several weeks ahead which reduced my anxiety, knowing that I had these beautiful treats all ready in my freezer.
There are many no-prep foods that can be purchased and used as party decorations. I filled 2 small decorative plates with Ladurée almond dragées. Other ideas include fruit, candy, wrapped chocolates, marshmallows, store bought cakes and cupcakes. You can use glass containers and make a festive (and delicious) party display.
You can also purchase silicone molds of letters and numbers to create edible chocolate or fondant cake toppers. Another way to add nature and texture to your party decorations is by cutting foliage from your yard. Branches, flowers or grasses can add a lot to your decor and are free and compostable.
And now a side note on why I have two cakes here instead of one. For Bibi’s half birthday, I baked her a half birthday cake and then, subsequently, one smash cake for her first birthday so I thought why not two cakes for her second birthday? These cake logs are super simple to bake and so very delicious! They are a family favorite because they are so soft and fluffy and not overly sweet. We cut up half of them and gave them to her grandparents to enjoy during our virtual party. Here are recipes: chocolate cake roll & fruit cake roll.
Repurpose Items From Around the Home
If your goal is to have a sustainable birthday party, look for ways to creatively repurpose items you already have as party decor. Instead of flowers, you can save time and money by adding potted plants from your house as table top decorations.
You can use your child’s favorite toys or items for decorations or cake toppers. On Bibi’s first birthday, we displayed some of her favorite block toy. For her second birthday party we decorated with candy boxes, macarons, candles and her gift from us. Once you’ve decided on a theme, look through your house with fresh eyes for items that could be used as party decor.
Eliminate Single-Use Plastic
Around half of the 300 million tons of plastic produced each year is disposable or single-use plastic. Making the choice to reduce or eliminate plastic in your party planning will help with this problem
For Bibi’s 2-year-old farm party theme, we printed out animal cupcake toppers and glued them onto toothpicks. We were able to recycle them afterwards and was the only thing from the party we had to recycle. This is the Etsy party shop where I purchased the digital assets for downloading.
The cake two cake toppers are from Cheri Party. Although they were custom and I could have added numerals or Bibi’s name, I decided to order them without it and had them made in a neutral color palette for future celebrations.
Instead of plastic cutlery you can use eco-friendly and biodegradable wooden cutlery. You can use paper cups for drinks. Plastic straws can be replaced with paper straws which are colorful, inexpensive and biodegradable.
For dishes, you can use your own dinnerware or purchase reusable melamine plates for children. We made the decision not to use any balloons for birthday parties. Not only are balloons single use, they also don’t breakdown easily. And did you know that helium is a non-renewable resource? Instead of using balloons, add color and fun to your party decorations using tissue paper pom poms, banners or paper flowers. All of these are easy to make with materials you might already have at home and these tutorials: DIY tissue paper pom poms, DIY birthday banner, DIY paper flowers.
Green Party Bags
If you plan to give party bags to guests, there are creative ways to make them sustainable and fun. Plastic knick-knacks are easy to come by, but most often get broken or quickly thrown away.
Packaging: Use recyclable paper bags, there are many options to choose from!
Edible: Party-goers will love to take a treat home as a party favor. Some fun ideas include flavored popcorn in a paper cone, a homemade candy bar, or an exciting exotic fruit.
Useful: Parents will be delighted if their child’s party favor is an adorable picture book. Other fun and useful party bag items include a bath bomb, a small pot with seeds, mini board books, stationary, or a pack of beeswax crayons.
When it comes to gifts for the birthday girl or boy at a sustainable birthday party, both your gifts and gifts from your guest can be thoughtfully eco-friendly. You can:
- If guests asks for birthday present suggestions for your little one, you can suggest donations of money to a good cause in lieu of gifts.
- Request no birthday gifts: Explain that you are trying to keep your child’s toys minimal and that their presence is more valuable than a present.
- Wrap gifts in eco-friendly options like reusable drawstring gift bags or compostable wrapping paper. You can also creatively wrap your gifts in something useful like a new pillowcase.
- Give and/or request experience gifts: Instead of gifts, we brought Bibi up to a day of snowplay up in the mountain. We figured that it would be something memorable many years down the line instead of a gift that would soon be forgotten. This also allowed us to safely meet up outdoors with her grandparents.
You can save time, money and feel better about the carbon footprint that your family is leaving behind by choosing to throw sustainable birthday parties. I hope these sustainable birthday party ideas help you as you plan your next party.