Thursday, January 8, 2009

NEED: Birthday Help

Hi people, and Happy New Year! Thank you so much for reading my blog! It’s always nice to know I am not alone in my efforts to feed my kids, and lord knows it’s an endless battle. (eg: my son, unprompted, ate radishes and arugula last night! Whoo-hoo! But the same day his lunchbox came back essentially untouched. Bah!)

Anyway, I have a question for you all. I’m writing my April installment of my Feeding Your Family column, which I write for I’m talking about birthday parties. Okay, I’m ranting a bit about birthday parties.

Granted, I was a kid who didn’t care for games like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, and I’m always a little creeped out by those pictures of 1-year-olds with birthday cake frosting smeared all over their faces, looking dazed and drunk and sick, so I’m not starting out with the warmest of feelings toward the whole kids’ birthday party genre. Yes, I admit that I'm a bit of a birthday-party-scrooge.

But as we’ve all gone greener in our lives, it has struck me that birthday parties are in desperate need of a green makeover. In the last few decades they have become comprised on an entirely disposable, non-recyclable mentality. From the pizza boxes to the paper plates and plastic forks to the balloons to the plastic games to the goodie bags, which could easily be renamed the Crappy Bags….
(cue loud carnival music and obnoxious barker’s voice): ** CRAPPY BAGS! Filled with LAME Plastic Crap and CHEAP Candy that your Kids Will Play With for TWENTY Seconds. Do Those Toys Suck? No Problem, Moms! Just THROW Them Away!**

That’s not even getting into the candy issue, which I’ll sheepishly with a guilty grimace let rest for now.

Every year I try to make the parties greener, and they end up feeling paltry.  

So lay it on me, peeps. Any ideas? How can we make birthday parties more sustainable without taking away the fun? Are they just by their very nature destined to be chaotic avalanches of waste filled with over-stimulated kids jacked up on a potent combo of sugar and musical chairs? Or can we figure out some way to make them greener and more sustainable? Or is it just one day a year, and who cares?

I’d love any ideas you all can share with me about how to build a better goody bag, what to fill a piñata with if not Cheap Crap, and alternatives to balloons (hey, even the Obamas got rid of the balloons!). Can we figure out how to narrow it down to ONE giant garbage bag for every 120 minutes of party fun? Do you all register for gifts to cut down on unwanted things, or does that seem rude? I don’t know, I need help!

Thank you!


Cay said...

My mother used to set up elaborate treasure hunts for our birthdays. These involved multiple rhyming clues, and at the end, of course, a prize. Crap, I realize. But it usually took us upwards of 45 minutes to get to the end, with only a few clue papers as trash.
we have also tried letterboxing (, which is a similar idea, but in the wild, if you will. One mother (not me) set up a series of letterboxing clues at a park, and the party was all about finding each one. Each kid got a letterboxing "kit" (stamp, stamp pad and small notebook) as their goodie bag, which they used on the hunt (go to the site and you'll understand). We've tried the letterboxing and it's really fun, could work well in prospect park, or even around the neighborhood, if you were creative.
Can't wait to hear the other suggestions!

Lora said...

I love the idea of greening up the birthday bash. We got an idea from a friend that worked well...a book exchange in place of the goody bag.

1. Each invited guest is asked to bring a book to the party. It can be new or used (greener!)
2. At the end of the party, each child takes a book home as a gift.

The book exchange allows for a better take away gift instead of plastic junk, it saves the host from spending on said junk, and it can be greener if used books are exchanged, even more so if unwrapped. Win-win! I think the book exchange could also easily be a video-game exchange or toy exchange depending on the age-group.

Can't wait to plan my next green bday party. Keep those ideas coming.

Mirem said...

The whole goody bag thing can get really out of hand. One of our friends just said ´no goody bags´on the invite, and I think he started a trend.

One of the best things I´ve experienced is the request to give a donation to Heifer International instead of a birthday present. My daughter didn´t really get it, of course, and maybe hers didn´t either, but I thought it was a great idea.

Apart from that, I used brown paper bags once, and I put fruit leather and cheese crackers in them for treats. Was good for my conscience, but didn´t go over so well with the kids...

I love the book exchange idea!

Anonymous said...

What if the birthday boy/girl made home-made playdough as the gift? It could be packaged in food saving containers for re-use in the future

hege said...

we just celebrated our older daughter's 7th birthday, and what I try to do to make it all less toxic and wasteful i: use compostable/biodegradable utensils, cups and plates (though I relented and bought theme related napkins), no juice boxes, marked everyone's cup so they could they wouldn't get mixed up and get a new one, no balloons (I hate balloons anyway), other finger foods not requiring use of utensils but did have cake requiring forks. I debated doing cupcakes, but then I would have needed the paper liners anyway. No party bags although everyone did walk away with one item, loose in their hands. I think trying to home make as much as possible cuts down on waste, although we are always only partially successful at that. Want to hear more from others about this!