10 Ideas for a Greener Birthday Party or Baby Shower
Use electronic invitations instead of paper ones.
Make your own decorations from recycled materials instead of buying them. Here is an idea for easy streamers made from recycled paper. Or you could try something more elaborate and creative, like making a train out of appliance boxes for her son’s birthday party, as my sister-in-law once did.
Keep the celebration small and intimate. It's easier to use and wash real dishes with a small crowd. As long as I have enough dining ware (or almost enough -- you can always borrow a bit) to serve my guests, I find it's very easy to just run an extra load in the dishwasher after the party.
Make your own party food, which is almost always healthier and eco-friendlier than using store-bought food.
If you serve food with disposable dining ware, stick to finger foods, like sandwiches, chips, brownies and cupcakes. Then at least you don't have to worry about cutlery.
Or, even simpler, don’t serve a meal. Schedule the party at a non-mealtime (10:30 am, 3:00 pm, 8 pm) and just serve fruit and dessert.
Give gifts in reusable gift wrap, and save any gift wrap you receive that could be reused for future gift-giving. You can also make the gift wrap part of the gift. For example, you could wrap a baby gift in a baby blanket.
Think outside the box when it comes to gifts: consider giving or asking for used or homemade gifts, charitable donations in lieu of gifts or even no gifts. I regularly pick up used toys and books at thrift shops to use as children’s birthday gifts. I reserve the ones that look new to give to folks that may not be so hip with a used gift. My sister’s kids always give mine either a hand-me-down toy or a toy picked up at a thrift shop for their birthdays. I have been to baby showers where all we did was visit together while preparing meals to stock the new mom’s freezer. Instead of buying gifts, we all pitched in for the cost of ingredients. It’s also wonderful to give and receive homemade gifts whenever possible.
For children’s parties, give a simple inexpensive party favor that will actually get used rather than a bag of trinkets. What parent doesn’t hate those cheap squishy plastic toys and horrible pencils wrapped in plastic that are impossible to sharpen? I’ve given out a notebook and crayons (back-to-school supplies were on sale at the time) labeled with each child’s name. My sister-in-law once gave each child a single baseball (bought in bulk, they cost less than $1 each) after a sports-themed party. A friend sent my child home with a delicious homemade treat.
If you have games or activities, try to use eco-friendly materials. In my opinion, baby shower games are almost always a poor idea, but if you have games, at least use eco-friendlier materials (and not disposable diapers and individually wrapped candy bars). Children's activities and crafts can also easily be designed around recycled items or materials already on hand.
For additional ideas on greening your celebrations, check out Eco-novice's Green Holiday Series (Eco-novice)