HOW TO THROW A LOW-WASTE PARTY
It’s easy to go overboard when planning your child’s birthday party, buying far too much and forgetting how much of it will end up in the bin at the end of the day and later, in landfill. Here are 7 simple ways you can reduce waste at your kid’s next party.
Let’s face it, the ‘classic’ kids’ birthday party is notorious for ending in bags and bags of waste. From paper plates and juice boxes, to lolly wrappers, gift packaging and popped balloons, the aftermath of the sugar-fuelled fun promises to fill those kerbside bins…but this doesn’t have to be the case.
Beyond recycling options (for the items that belong in your yellow-lidded bin, as well as for soft or scrunchable plastics), there is a range low waste and zero waste alternatives for children’s birthdays that offer parents the opportunity to reduce the impact of their child’s big day without increasing the cost or spoiling the fun.
OUR TOP 7 WAYS TO REDUCE WASTE AT KIDS’ PARTIES
1. GO PAPERLESS WITH YOUR INVITATIONS
Rather than having invitations professionally printed, using photos (which aren’t recyclable) or heading out to buy piles of supplies to make them from scratch, consider going paperless and sending out invitations by email or through a private event page on Facebook.
With hard copy invitations likely to be lost (only to be uncovered at the bottom of your child’s school bag weeks after the party has taken place) or thrown away, taking your invitations digital is the savvy zero waste option. It is also free and can often make it a lot easier to track RSVPs.
Consider including a waste-conscious message in the invitation too, asking attendees to be mindful of their gift packaging and to choose recyclable options if they’re committed to the wrapping tradition. A request to forgo the card (cause how many kids actually keep them) may also be a good idea.
2. CREATE A REUSABLE PARTY KIT
Children’s parties can get messy, so it can be tempting for parents to opt for disposable serving-ware and decorations to make the clean-up just a little bit quicker – lobbing it all in the general waste bin when the day is done. However, repurchasing disposables every year means you’ll be spending a lot more time and money on this party checklist item in the long run, while sending more rubbish to landfill every time.
A once-off investment in reusable cups, plates and cutlery, as well as decorative items such as fabric tablecloths, napkins, bunting and ribbons will pay for themselves after years of reuse. What’s more, clean-up is as easy as two button-pushes (dishwasher ON and washing machine ON).
If you go down this route you could also let friends and family know that they are welcome to borrow your kit for their next party. If you like the idea but feel unlikely to use it enough to justify putting one together consider putting a call out to your local Buy Nothing community, or if you live in Perth take a look at Community Dishes.
Impact-owning choices when it comes to disposable plates and cutlery include anything that is compostable including paper and bamboo items.
3. HOLD BACK ON THE DECORATIONS
Quite possibly the easiest thing you can do to reduce unnecessary waste when it comes to parties is to step away from the decorations. Steer clear of balloons, party poppers, blowers, hats, and streamers and you’ll have already prevented a mini-mountain of waste from being created. And, we’ll say it now, the kids won’t even know they are missing.
For those theme-specific decorations, why not head down the DIY route? A quick search on Pinterest (using your theme and ‘DIY decorations’ as keywords), will spark endless inspiration – think rocks painted to look like Minions, toilet roll unicorn horns and cardboard Captain America shields.
You might also want to Google ‘Boomerang Bunting’ – a sharing movement that has started up in parts of WA.
4. CURATE A LOW-WASTE MENU
A little bit of pre-planning can make it relatively simple to avoid supermarket-bought cakes and individually packaged items like drinks, chips, biscuits and lollies.
Consider sourcing treats and lollies from a bulk food store and head into the kitchen to make the cake from scratch. If you’re not the most confident baker, you could take a reusable container to your local bakery to transport their delicious creations home.
Other homemade treats which can be made with minimal waste include hummus, crackers, fruit or veggie skewers, and cookies (and remember to buy ingredients you use often in bulk and to pick loose, unpacked produce when possible).
For drinks, a large batch of homemade lemonade or fizzy soda made from regular tap water using a household water carbonator means you can make slightly healthier versions of the sugar-laden store-bought fizzy drinks, while also cutting back on heaps of plastic.
5. PROVIDE CLEARLY LABELLED BINS
Our kids are often smarter than we realise when it comes to sorting waste, but they can’t do it if you haven’t provided the tools! Create an area with clearly marked bins for items that can go in your kerbside recycling bin (think cans, bottles, paper), for REDcycle (soft plastics), for composting or your FOGO bin if you have one (left over food, paper cupcake wrappers, paper napkins etc) and then one for any items that have to go to landfill.
6. CHOOSE GAMES THAT DON'T REQUIRE MORE 'STUFF'
You don’t need to buy more stuff to keep kids entertained. Rethink your party entertainment and pause any thoughts that lead you to pass the parcel and treasure hunts.
There are loads of party activities that just call for things you have lying around the house – like musical chairs, cookie decorating, pizza-making stations, obstacle courses, swimming and dancing competitions.
7. DITCH THE PLASTIC IN YOUR PARTY FAVOURS
Kids love their birthday party loot bags and who can blame them – the only thing better than a day of fun with your friends is getting to take a bag of lollies home with you afterwards.
Instead of including the usual plastic-wrapped lollies and cheap plastic toys that get tossed aside within a few hours, fill a paper bag, reusable fabric bag or jam jar with unpackaged lollies. Homemade play dough or slime, and art supplies like crayons, sidewalk chalk and colouring books also make for fun inclusions.
Let us know if you have other ideas on how parents can reduce waste at children’s birthday parties by dropping us a line or reaching out to us on Facebook. Also, don’t forget to tag us in your impact-owning posts on social media using #ownyourimpactwa.