How to keep your birthday parties green!

bday ckeI hardly blinked and my kids’ birthdays were staring me in the face again! Besides the celebration of the two amazing days that they arrived, I knew it also meant lots of planning… for parties, presents, treats, favors and everything that goes with their big days.

I also knew that I didn’t want to get sucked into the vortex of waste… something that seems to go hand-in-hand with any celebration!  So, was I able to keep it green? You bet I was, and here’s how:

  • Gifts – only one gift each:  a new bike.  The outgrown versions will be donated to a charity so some deserving kids can ‘get their pedal on’ too!
  • Party – hosted at home, I pulled out all the dishes, the cups and glasses, utensils, serveware… every last thing.  Use of disposables: NONE!
  • Wrap – all wrapping paper was recycled, gift bags were flattened and saved, along with ribbons and bows.
  • Decorations – yes… I tried to talk my kids out of balloons, but they insisted… so I insisted on the biodegradable versions and they will be properly disposed of.
  • Waste – there was none.  At the end of the night, I asked my husband if he had taken out the trash… he said he hadn’t, but there wasn’t one piece of trash that was added to the can during the course of the entire party.  Even the cake box… recycled!nyln bag
  • Party favorsjust like last year, no plastic junk here!  I instead opted for drawstring tote bags (picked up at the local craft store for $1.99 each!).  They’ll get used by the kids again and again!
  • Treat bags – everyone at my kids’ schools traditionally brings a treat bag for their friends on the day of their birthday.  Instead, we gave their friends a recycled paper mini-notebook and pen.

Each year I seem to get a little better at this!  For every choice you make, there IS a greener, more environmental option… don’t let yourself go down the usual road just because it’s what you’ve always done.  That’s a route you don’t need to take.

Remember, “green parties” are NOT just for St. Patrick’s Day or politics!

Up, up and away the balloons go…

This weekend our family enjoyed a fabulous day of art and culture at an event called Parade the Circle.  It literally brings art and culture to life when participants create interpretations of famous works of art and their artists through costumes, music and some of the most creative props I have ever seen.

balloon-pileAfter the parade the activities continued in a large park and we were enjoying the event until I noticed them dismantling the six enormous balloon arches that were used in the parade.  By ones, twos, (SEVENS!), groups of balloons took to the sky… and I simply thought “Oh no.  Someone make them stop!”

I’ve always been leery of balloons for the simple fear of my kids choking on one of them.  But there is also an on-going debate about the environmental effect of balloons, and that is what concerned me with this event.

The balloon industry argues that, because they are made of latex, they biodegrade at the same rate as an oak leaf and have no effect on the environment.  But environmentalists will disagree that the concern isn’t so much about their biodegradability, but the effect they have on animals that mistake them for food and consume them once they burst or come back down to ground.  Animals also become entangled in the strings and ribbons that are still attached.

Studies of marine animals that have beached themselves have turned up digestive systems blocked with deflated or partial deflated balloons, suggesting that they actually beached themselves to get out of their painful misery.  That’s all I need to hear.

While I’m not suggesting that we all swear off  balloons (because my kids would definitely be bummed!) I am suggesting that we take responsibility in just four simple ways:balloonbird2

  • Keep balloons indoors
  • Never purposely release them into the sky
  • When they are outdoors, weight them down to prevent “escape” and
  • Detach the strings and simply dispose of them properly when you’re finished with them

Everyone loves a parade and every kid loves a balloon, but what goes up must come down, and it’s a landing that can have a harsh and destructive reality.