A Green Birthday Party

Keep your kid’s party green and spend less of the “other green.”

By Karen Berman


Kids’ birthday party paraphernalia and related expenses can easily get out of control—and often the most expensive and least environmentally friendly items are those that kids take least notice of, which means you can easily cut waste. Here are some ideas.

If Your Child is a Guest

  • Make the birthday card: Fold a sheet of paper in half and you’re all prepped. Have your child decorate the back, front and insides of the card by drawing pictures and using stray stickers, glitter glue and scraps of wrapping paper, ribbon or whatever you have around the house. For the message, beginning writers can sign their names under your handwritten greeting, dictated by the young guest if possible. Older kids can write out the whole thing; if necessary, you can write out a model for them to copy. You save money and recycle odd art supplies, and it’s an ideal distraction when the kids start asking, “When’s the party?” hours before it starts.
  • Make the wrapping paper: Wrap presents in your newspaper’s comics pages or use a brown paper bag and let your kids decorate it as described above; just be careful not to let wet glue bleed through to the gift! Or keep any gift bags that you receive and re-use them. (Remember to take off the little gift tags that come on the handles if they’ve been written on!)

If Your Child is the Birthday Girl or Boy

  • Create invitations and thank you notes: If you’re inviting the whole class plus family and neighbors, invitations and thank you notes can add up, but you can save money and excess packaging by making your own. If your guest list is long and your time is short, create note cards on your computer; you can easily get two cards per 8.5- by 11-inch sheet of paper. If you don’t have note-card software, create the “cover” with a clip-art picture and a title, and then type out the text separately; print out one side, flip the paper over and print out the other. If you want to forego envelopes, print picture and text, flyer-style, on one side of the paper, fold it in half so that the blank side is outside, tape the edges and write out the address. (For thank you notes, be sure that you or your child writes a personal message that mentions the great gift.)
  • Be selective with themed paper goods: Kids love to see their favorite characters on birthday tableware, but you can be selective about what you buy. Use beach towels or blankets as tablecloths and reusable plastic or metal cutlery. This way, you won’t feel as guilty if you buy a package of themed paper plates.
  • Use brown paper lunch bags as goodie bags: You can have all the guests decorate their own bags as a party activity or do it with your child beforehand. If it’s a party activity, be sure each child’s name is on the bag.
  • Choose Earth-Friendly, Healthful Goodies: Party favors often consist of small plastic toys that are forgotten within hours. Instead, give out easy-to-grow seeds and small flower pots; healthy snacks, or crafts to make at home (such as beads for bracelets and necklaces if the kids are old enough). Or pick one larger item such as a book, a hula hoop or other long-lived item and make that your goodie. If you shop early, you can sometimes find good deals at big-box club stores.

Without doubt, when you clean up after your son’s or daughter’s birthday party, you will shake your head over the waste, but with a little creativity and thoughtfulness, you will shake it far less than you used to!