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9 tips for a zero-waste birthday party

Published: 23 August 2017

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Zero waste party tips

Kids and parties produce a lot of waste. The most wasteful party of all is a birthday party – but does it have to be?

Waste champion Coralie Archer and her family of six are passionate about living a zero waste lifestyle. After attending an Auckland Council Waste Free Parenting Workshop, they’re determined to send less than one rubbish bin to landfill in 2018.

Coralie says one of their challenges with young children is how to plan a zero-waste birthday party. 

“Planning a party is not only a great way to develop our waste-free skills but it’s also a fantastic opportunity to show others how small changes can make a big difference.”

“We were pleasantly surprised by how supportive our guests were, and how easy it really was to be waste free at a party. By taking the emphasis off bringing presents, preparing all the food ourselves, using reusable tableware and preparing waste-free games we were left with only two sneaky bits of waste.”

Coralie’s zero-waste party tips

1. Ditch the balloons!

Put a big ribbon with a bow on your mailbox instead. Unlike a balloon it won't pop, and you can use it year after year.

Ribbon letterbox
Use ribbons instead of balloons

2. Use reusable cups, plates and cutlery and wash them

Ask family and friends to loan you a few extras. You save money, too.

3. Ask your guests to reduce the packaging and cards they buy

The amount of rubbish produced by guests is astounding. One of our guests gave our daughter a card that will be put away for her to read on her 18th birthday!

4. Don’t waste time and money on goodie bags

Most of the “goodies” are plastic rubbish that ends up in landfill. Instead, send your guests home with a piece a cake. A friend of mine sent her guests home with a plant for each family.

5. Don’t overdo the party food

Children are too excited to sit and eat properly; this results in heaps of food waste. Our party food waste went into our compost and worm farm and to our chickens and dogs. Remember to choose foods with recyclable packaging where possible. 

Party food
Go easy on the party food

6. Avoid hosted parties where waste goes straight into the rubbish bin

Yes, it is waste free for you, but the waste produced by a hosted party is massive. If you want to do a party away from home, then a picnic at a park is a fun option.

7. Keep the party simple

Avoid themed parties where possible – the merchandise is single use, costs a small fortune and ends up in a landfill. If you want a theme, then focus on a colour scheme.

8. Reuse candles from previous parties

Candles on a cake are the centre of attention for a few seconds. After they’re blown out they still have so much life left in them. We have used our first birthday candle for our three youngest children, and it was a great way to relive memories.  

9. Buy or make party games that can be reused

We reused plastic reusable Easter eggs for birthday games by filling them with goodies. They were great fun for egg and spoon races and treasure hunts which were also hilarious to watch! For ‘pass the parcel’, substitute wrapping paper for material and ribbon, which is much easier for the children to open.

Party games
Make party games that can be reused

Learn more about leading a zero-waste lifestyle

The Archers are currently working towards becoming a zero-waste household and are documenting their journey on their website to share the fun side of their challenge and also the inevitable slip-ups they will make along the way.

Follow their progress and check out their ideas and tips at Practically Green.  

Read more:

Waste