How to throw a less-waste birthday party

Birthday parties are awesome! Who doesn’t love an occasion entirely dedicated to the day you arrived on the planet? But if there’s one thing not so awesome it’s the waste that can accumulate after just one day, or in the case of a kiddies party, after just a few hours.

So how can you throw an amazing birthday bash but still be mindful of the party clean up aftermath? Here are a few tweaks and swap outs I’ve started making over the years.

Ditch the decor

I know balloons are a party essential, especially for kids, but I’ve gone ‘balloon free’ for most of my kid’s parties these days and I can’t say they even notice. Swap out traditional plastic single-use decor with reusable items like paper bunting, crepe paper streamers, string lights, cardboard cut outs, paper flowers and lanterns to hang on the wall or roof. I deliberately keep a look out for these kind of decorative things and choose gender neutral and plain colours so that I can reuse them at the next birthday party or repurpose them for things like baby showers, hen parties, adult birthdays and other celebrations. If you really must have balloons then please consider responsibly recycling them at a soft plastics recycling centre like Redcycle as most municipal recycling schemes cannot process them.

Invest in a party supply box

Over the years I’ve built up a collection of sturdy reusable plastic tumblers, plates and bowls. I keep them exclusively for parties and entertaining with kids and they’ve saved me a fortune not having to buy single-use plastic items each time we have a get together. In the supply box I also keep sturdy picnic cutlery that can be washed and reused, material napkins and good quality plastic table cloths that are a piece of cake (excuse the pun) to wipe down after a party and fold up again to be used at the next party. A good cost cutter is to get together with a group of friends with similar aged kids or if you have a large family who can all chip in to kit out a party supply box that everyone can use on rotation for each party. Make sure to include a checklist of what needs to be packed back in the box each time and you’ll cut down on heaps of single-use plastic over the years. Or alternatively you can even find them available to rent from your local toy library or Facebook Marketplace. If not why not consider starting your own box to rent out within your community and social circles?

Party food

Avoiding individually wrapped sweets is a great way to reduce the confetti of sweetie papers that are left behind after a kids party. Instead opt for bigger bags of chips and sweets and decant them into platters and bowls. Investing in a popcorn maker is also a big packaging saver and costs a fraction of the shop-bought bagged popcorn. For very young kids (5 and under) I’ve found offering each child a pre-prepared plate or paper bag of goodies instead of a free-for-all at the snack table cuts down drastically on the mess and food waste. As they often will pick up something take one bite or lick and put it back down and go on to the next one without any intention of eating it.

Gifts don’t have to be new

For a first birthday or baby shower for a second or third child consider requesting a “gift” that’s either been gently used or purchased from a preloved site or charity shop rather than a brand new out the box toy or baby accessory. This theme can continue year after year if giving second-hand birthday gifts becomes normalised in your home. But it might not work so well for a child who is used to receiving brand new stuff. But a fair compromise would be to receive “new” shop bought presents from rellies and ask for upcycled presents from party goers. Gifting experiences instead of material things is also a fantastic way to make both the giver and the receiver feel like it’s a generous and special gift. A great less-waste idea for dress up parties would be to make the theme “charity shop crazy” or “op shop chic”. Making it a fun yet inexpensive less-waste way to pull off a crazy party outfit all while supporting a good cause too.

Make homemade wrapping paper and cards

As beautiful as shop-bought wrapping paper and Hallmark cards can be it seems insane to spend a fair amount on something that will end up in the bin minutes after the gift is unwrapped. I’m a sentimental person, but the older I get the more I find myself tossing out birthday and Christmas cards a few days after receiving them


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