“We follow sustainable practices at home, and birthday parties should not be an excuse to lose out on sustainability” these are the thoughts that led Rajashree- a doting mother of two- to plan sustainable birthday parties for her kids!. We got into a conversation with Rajashree to learn how she goes about planning birthdays for her Lil ones, got some ideas from our Instagram community, and added in our own to create a guide to help you plan sustainable birthday parties with more ease! We have covered topics-
- Managing waste
While also listing down resources to help you out in the same! So let's get started with invitations:
Rajashree has mainly used E-vites to invite guests to her party, but another exciting way her son sent out invites to his friends is by drawing on paper and taking a photo, which she then shared with the guests online. You can also give Evites a twist by sending out video invites!
If you are not comfortable with the idea of a digital invite, you can also
- Send out invites made out of recycled paper or
- Make it more environment-loving by using seed papers that can be planted in the soil after being read. Talk about being memorable!
For e-invitations, you can use websites like Canva and Evite that have tons of fun templates to choose from (most of them are completely free!). For recycled paper and seed paper, check out Ethical Paper, Pepaa.co, Seed Paper India.
- Ask your guest to confirm their presence at the party; that way, you can plan a more efficient event!
- Want to let your guests know about the theme? Combine your ideas in a fun mood board on Pinterest and share it with your guests!
Rajashree has always had a theme for her kid's birthday! She says it makes it easier for her to look for sustainable things rather than scouring random stuff. She draws inspiration from sustainable event planners such as Nose to Tail events and Pinterest. Things you can plan for decorations are
- Sustainable decor - Rajashree has never let sustainability be a reason for her parties to go soft on the decor; she says she reaches out to places that make sustainable decor and finds items that match her theme.
If she cannot find what she is looking for, she reaches out to organizations like Oh Scrap madras and Use Me Works to make sustainable decor (using upcycled fabrics); she says they are always happy to help her out!
- Go DIY- Other than buying sustainable decor, Rajashree also loves doing DIY! Arguably the most fun option, Include your kids and make fun decorations using recycled papers, old sarees, cardboard boxes, empty bottles, etc. We are talking about beautiful paper flowers, Paper fans, paper pom poms, a cool party backdrop, fun bottle lights, and amazing cardboard photo booths!
- Reuse -Look for something that can be reused! Rajashree has reused the poms-poms she bought for her first son's birthday, even on her second son's birthday, which is seven years apart! Also, she keeps lending it out to her friends, who just love using it!
Her basic idea is to buy something that does need to be thrown away after one use; think cloth buntings, backdrops, and fun cloth pom-poms; these decorations can be stored, reused, and even lent out to other party planners.
- Rent it out!- If storing things is a problem for you, Rajashree suggests renting them out! It also comes with the advantage of a wide variety of options that you can choose from. Borrowing out decor from your acquaintances is also a good idea. For renting out decor, you can try- Take Rent Pe.
For food, Rajashree usually hires caterers who come to the venue and cook food for the kiddies, but for small parties, she cooks at home, taking help from her friends (homemade mini pizzas are a favorite!). While planning the menu for your party, some things to keep in mind are-
- Loose over packaged - when given a choice between packaged food and one that is unpackaged and fresh, go for the latter. Packaged food produces a lot of pollution unturn that by choosing locally available options, for, e.g., while buying bread buy it freshly made from a local bakery instead of a packaged one, it might even be tastier!
- Pop in mouth- serve food that does not require much cutlery; you can think of finger foods and chopped fruits. The idea is the kids eat as they go about doing the activities and reduce the requirement of cutlery.
- Sustainable cake- Rajashree buys her cake from - Gobble Cake, a baker that practices sustainability. You can also look for bakers located locally; usually, a quick Instagram search can produce the desired results!
“How are paper cups even sustainable, amma?” Wonders her son on finding out paper cups were being used at an eco-friendly party (yikes!), don't make this mistake at your party; instead, do :
- The traditional way - serve food on a banana leaf! Make sure you don't leave the leaves around after use; instead, put them into compost and create some tasty manure for the trees!
- The edible way- Have you heard of cutlery that can be eaten? Yes, you heard it right! Eco-friendly and tasty this cutlery does not leave any waste! Some stores you can check out are - Thooshan, edible pro.
- The metal way - use reusable steel plates and glasses to serve food! If you don't have enough steel cutlery, you can rent it from places like Adamya Chetana foundation, which gives steel utensils for free while charging a small deposit fee, and it has a huge bank of steel cutleries!
If you don't have a steel bank in your area, ask locally located event planners, and they will be able to help you. You could also rent it from friends and acquaintances or create a mini steel bank of your own!
Rajashree has always made it a point to specify in her invites that no gifts were to be brought to her party “at our son's first birthday, we got so many toys that still lie around not being used, making us strictly against toys or any gift for that matter” Her most evident worry is that most of the time gifts won't be what you need, you can counter that by -
- Sending out a gift list of what your kid needs and would like to receive ( do mention skipping the wrapping paper!).
- In a material world - don't want to remove the surprise factor from gifting? You can share with your guests a list of sustainable things and what you would like the gifts to be like; you can even specify the material of the gifts.
- Party favors?- party favors should take forward your idea of sustainability; a pot of saplings or a fun goodie bag with candies and stuff that the kids might need should be your party favors!
Pro tip- you can never go wrong with a book as a gift! (Unless they’ve already read it, ofc)
Above everything, the kids will never forget the experience that they had, so Rajashree has always planned activities for kids that will be fun and drive home the idea of sustainability.
Some of the fun activities she has had at their parties are - pot decoration, best out of waste, and making sandwiches or flower tiaras, among others.
Some things you can keep in mind while planning a birthday are-
- Blaring noise is passe - music is fun, but that does not mean it should harm the birds and annoy the neighbors, reduce your noise pollution by opting for smaller-scale speakers.
- Go old school - remember the endless hours of hide-n-seek and relay races? Who says they cannot be party games? Increasingly fun and with no requirement of props, old-school games are the best party events!
- DIY Tables - let your guests get creative; indulge them in a fun day of making tie-dye t-shirts, pot painting, or jewelry making! The creations can also be sent home as party favors. Two birds with one stone!
The only waste that goes out of Rajashree’s parties is food, which is very minimal, taking forward the idea of a zero-waste sustainable party! The food waste is also countered by giving it out to neighbors or the guests to take back home with them! Some tips from our side are:
- RSVP- While giving out invitations, ask for a confirmation of their food preferences so food can be made or ordered as close to the requirement as possible.
- Lovin the leftovers- Manage food waste by asking kids to take the leftover food back home and maybe add in a Lil extra to share with their family members.
- Keep neatly labeled trashcans (wet/dry/recyclable/non-recyclable) around the venue, and keep reminding your guests to throw the waste as labeled on the can. And send out the collected waste to a recycling plant in your area.
Planning a sustainable party can be fun and not to mention a very fulfilling experience; if you are worried about going wrong somewhere, Rajashree says - “take the step today! You might not do everything right but take the step forward!” and after reading this article you now know what steps you can take to keep your Invitations Decorations, Food, Cutlery, Events, Gifting, and waste management sustainable! Go on celebrate in a way that makes both the earth and your kid happy!
Let us know in the comments which ideas you found to be the most interesting, and hit us up with any more ideas you have!
Written by Sheetal Shriyan