Spring is birthday season at our house, with our eldest turning seven this year, our little girl turning four and the baby breaking one a few months back. It’s taken a few years to get green birthdays right, but this year was smooth sailing.
Like so many new parents, we set the bar high six years ago our first turned one. We invited everyone we knew, cooked for days, baked and celebrated - because what could be more important than our child turning one? Well it turns out that two is also a pretty big deal. But what’s done is done, and it was only after the festivities had died down that we looked around the house and realized that our well-intentioned celebration had resulted in a slough of ‘stuff’ and a pile of waste. We were determined to do better year two.
Better for the Planet
Reusable party plates and tablecloths were purchased. Individual beverages were replaced with cups and jugs. Loot bags were done away with in favor of a homemade piñata filled with healthier treats. We sewed a birthday banner from repurposed material. An appropriate amount of food was prepared, minimizing food waste. And, we petitioned the extended family to curb their purchases.
So began the quest for less. It turns out that grandparents don’t take well to having their spoiling rights limited. So despite best efforts, pointed emails and heartfelt pleas, year two yielded another mountain of colorfully wrapped packages, containing often-toxic toys that had to be fit into the toy-shelf Jenga game.
The next three years followed much the same pattern – we begged family to curb consumption, they ignored us.
The Quest to Make Green Parties Fun
Every other possible measure was taken to ensure that our parties were both epic and green! For our son’s Knight Themed Party, we cut wooden shields for the kids to decorate, welded an Excalibur sword that was stuck into a rock and made a dragon piñata with repurposed pop-bottle limbs. The year before, at the science party, I presented a homemade volcano cake that actually erupted and we filled a pool with homemade slime. Admittedly, in our effort to prove that environmentally friendly didn’t mean sacrificing fun, we may have allowed our party enthusiasm to border on insanity.
But it felt like it was all for not, as we held our breath awaiting the inevitable delivery of too-much-stuff.
Simple Green Success
This year it all changed. Was it the arrival of a third kid that was the tipping point for extended family? Did my cute little birthday invite footnotes finally sink in? Has populist consciousness shifted enough that extended family is considering their footprint when purchasing for their grandkids? Or did the very reasonably reception of thoughtful gifts stem from our taking a more relaxed approach to our children’s celebrations this year?
Perhaps we were trying to hard to make it fun, and setting the wrong vibe all along. Either way, this year it was fun. And green. And pretty much perfect. Here’s what we did:
Bergandy’s Farm Birthday
A picnic at a small working farm, where the kids could interact with the goats, pigs, cows and horses was perfect for our animal adoring four year old. We arrived early enough to section off a couple of prime picnic tables, and paid the modest admittance for guests. Although the table decorations – repurposed flower pots that the kids were invited to decorate - doubled as both craft and party favour, we did away with a formal activity time and instead focused on the two things that mattered most to the Birthday Girl: the cake & the horse back riding.
Asher’s “No-Presents” Train Party at the Park
Asher announced a few weeks before his birthday that he wanted to skip presents and, in his words, “collect money to buy hungry kids food.” My jaw hit the floor. I won’t lie, this is not a kid who suffers from lack of wanting. He’s your typical Grade 1 child, sure that every shiny object before him is the key to infinite happiness. But as the party drew nearer, his resolve grew, and set the tone for the party. We held the celebration at a miniature train park, and bought a few rounds of train rides. I made an awesome cake – an electric train going through a cake mountain – and for party favours, we gifted each child a train whistle. The kids rode the trains, ate well and then played imaginatively outdoors for hours. Everyone left smiling, but none so much as Asher. When he and I counted the money and discovered that he’d raised nearly $200, he glowed with pride. What could be a better gift?
Weston’s Family-Only 1 Year Old Party
Weston’s birthday is actually month’s earlier, but included here because I’d feel bad if we didn’t include him! He’s one. Family only. We learned that the hard way.
In the moderately near future I’ll do a post about the true beauty of the homemade Birthday cake.
In the meantime, check out my 10 Tips for Green Birthday Parties and also share with us how celebrate your kid’s Birthdays while keeping it green? I’m already looking for ideas for next year!