Trying to go zero-waste in this consumerist world can be very difficult but don’t let that sway you from trying. If I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a million more times:
"We don't need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly."
- Ann Marie Bonneau
So, this is what I did. A very imperfect zero-waste attempt at a 5-year-old’s birthday party: Frozen themed.
Was it actually zero-waste? Absolutely not. Was it less waste than previous birthdays? Most definitely! Did I learn a thing or two to help me succeed more with future eco-friendly events? You betchya!
What did I do to make eco-friendly choices?
Best of Intentions: The Game Plan
I made a short-form list of my ideas for the party as I was planning in order to keep me on track.
I bought used for as much as possible. I used mostly long-lasting, reusable items for decorations (cloth tablecloths, canvas prints, fabric tool, stuffed characters, etc) and the items that were less reusable were at least paper and compostable.
As far as entertainment was concerned, I just had the kids play on their own accord, inside and out, while the adults snacked and socialized. It was a regular play date. The organized games that I had set out for the kids were handmade or bought second hand. Pin the nose on Olaf was made by yours truly using bristol board and non-toxic paint that I already had around the house. Although this whole game was made to be composted, I wound up selling it to someone who was interested in reusing it. I also bought a second-hand, themed bean bag game that went to the same person as the Olaf picture.
The gloves in the goodie bags were definitely the best idea of all the items I included. Most of the other things, in hindsight, were unnecessary and possibly wasteful.
What didn’t work?
I tried to make our own snowball pinata so that we would create less production waste and ensure that it was compostable but… it failed miserably. We wound up buying a premade one from the store instead because my daughter really wanted one. Also, the candy in these are all individually wrapped… I truly don’t know how to solve this problem, even if we had of been successful in making our own pinata. What can we put in that would still interest the kiddos and not create waste? On that note, much of the food created waste too (because of its packaging - plastic containers, bags of chips, etc.), which is something I would like to strive to change.
What would I change?
I DID buy some paper fluff ball decorations from the dollar store because my daughter was sad that she couldn’t have balloons (for how bad they are for the environment). This satisfied her and created a bit less waste - compostable, at least - but the packaging in came in was garbage so I don’t feel like I made much difference in choosing that over balloons. I’ll have to be more mindful of this in the future.
We used compostable cups and paper plates because I haven’t found the cups and plates that I would like to use/reuse for parties - lightweight and durable - and we also don’t have a dishwasher yet so washing a heap of party dishes by hand seems daunting. I need to continue my search for these items so that I can use them for our next event.
Food presented a problem for waste that I think can be overcome next time, if I prepare accordingly. The chocolate kisses came individually wrapped, the chips came in their bags, and the fruit came, pre-cut in a plastic container. By buying these items from a bulk food store (perhaps augmenting them a bit - like having rosebuds representing kisses, or finding candy lips) and cutting the fruits and vegetables up myself, I could feasibly eliminate the waste I created.
My goodie bags included a “Do you wanna build a snowman?” Olaf marshmallow treats in a plastic bag to keep the marshmallows fresh. I couldn’t come up with a better solution for this fun activity that the kids loved to bring home. If I was to do it again, I likely would have eliminated all of the other things in the goodie bags except the marshmallows (with a better bag solution) and the gloves. No need for the extras (and the waste that comes with them).
In general, I need to establish some standards for party gifts as well. I noticed that there were a lot of cards and wrapping/tissue paper that found its way into the garbage. Perhaps one solution to this predicament (brought on by kind and generous hearts, sending love to my sweet girl) would be to request limited wrapping/packaging directly. Alternatively, I have seen people host a fiver or tenner party instead of accepting gifts. That way their money goes toward ONE gift that the child really wants and avoids the garbage from all of the gifts. It might even save our guests some money in the meantime!
Any items that could be reused, I sold for a very fair price with hopes that they would do the same. Thereby giving the items used a longer life and avoiding/limiting the waste for as long as possible. The only things we kept were the stuffies (the kids loved them too much to part with them) and ONE canvas print (now hanging in my girls’ room).
In the end it was a very successful birthday party; everyone had fun and we had far less waste during this birthday celebration when compared to years past. I have a pretty good understanding of what a zero-waste celebration could look like and I aspire to do better the next time around. Baby steps!
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