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Tips for a Plastic Free Children’s Party

The party bags, the food, the wrapping paper, the balloons, the decorations – children’s parties are full of plastic. Deflated balloons, plastic party favours, glitter, confetti, discarded party bags and throwaway tableware.

We decided that there had to be another way, we want to celebrate and mark our children’s birthdays with a really enjoyable day for them, but without compromising our principles of low waste living.

Making a children’s party plastic free may seem like the impossible, but once you have done one and have figured out what works for you, then next time you’ll have some things ready and know what to do. (For instance, if you make some decorative bunting, you can hang it up every year). So in the long run it will likely work out cheaper and easier, plus its more personal, and you’ll be helping the planet too!

It’s also an opportunity to educate your children – if they observe all the throwaway items at a party, they grow up with an expectation that this is what a party looks like, you can show them that there can be another way. Most guests will be supportive of your low-waste choices and many may not even notice the difference. After all the kids still get cake and treats, and they still get to do the activity – be it swimming, party games, picnic, bbq, etc.

Here’s some ideas and tips you can use to minimise the waste at your next children’s party.

Invitations

If you want to avoid paper completely, then you can use email, text, or messaging apps rather than sending hard copies (to the parents not the children themselves, depending on the age of your child).

Instead of opting for plastic wrapped mass produced invites, why not try making your own, you can choose recycled paper, Kraft paper, print them, handwrite them, get the kids to decorate them, paint them, whatever you want.

P.S If you wish you could include a note on the invitation that this will be a low-waste party and why, so everyone’s onboard from the outset.

Plastic-free decorations

  • Bubbles: stretch a coat-hanger into a circular wand, dip it in a tray of detergent and water and wave through the air for giant bubbles
  • Hang large sheets of paper/ an old bed sheet for a finger painting wall
  • Bring colourful rugs and cushions
  • Fresh flowers in old jars
  • make your own bunting, from fabric or paper.
  • And if your party is outside, perhaps you don’t need decorations at all.

Plates, cups and cutlery

One of the changes a lot of people make is to switch from plastic to paper tableware, but dirty paper plates can’t go in the recycling bin. A better option would be to invest in a set of bamboo or stainless steel crockery that can be reused each year.

If building your own kit is out of your budget, there are options to rent party kits or you could ask family/friends or even the guests to bring plates and drink bottles.

Say no to straws or use reusable straws that you can wash up afterwards, and your own children (and you) can use throughout the year. Our Kids love their silicone and bamboo straws.

Table cloth and napkins

Bring a fabric tablecloth and napkins — if you don’t have any, try repurposing old sheets and towels.

If you have to use a disposable cloth, look for some butchers’ paper which can double as a canvas with a few art supplies thrown on the table.

Food

  • some plastic free snacks could include: Melon slices, fruit platters, baked goods from the bakery (these usually come in paper bags, or you can use your own containers), chopped fruit and nuts from wholefood store/ refill shop
  • serve finger food
  • bring food from home to the party or store in reusable containers until the party – no clingfilm needed!.
  • try and make as much as you can yourself, using raw ingredients you can purchase plastic free and turn them in to yummy home made cakes/treats, breads and desserts.
Home made cakes in silicone cases so no waste!

The Party Bags

Let’s be honest, it’s usually a bag of plastic tat that is lovingly played with for each of the nine minutes of its lifespan. An additional source of stress and expense for parents, but a firm favourite with most children.

One option is to simply not do them, but if your children cannot compute having a party, and not having party bags, then here are some ways to avoid buying and giving out plastic bags of plastic bits.

The bag itself – instead of plastic bags, opt for paper bags – you could decorate and customize these to the theme of the party, or for each child. You could select fabric wraps and give Furoshiki a try, or if you want a simpler option use recyclable cardboard boxes.

If you’re feeling crafty you can make bags from newspapers or magazines. (This is something my mum used to do if we didn’t have gift bags for someone’s birthday.) And if you’re a whiz with the sewing machine, then making your own your own fabric bags from old t-shirts or pillowcases could be an option.

gifts – this is not an exhaustive list but you could include any of the following;

  • mini pencil or chalk packs in carboard packets,
  • dice
  • wooden pencil boxes (customised for each child)
  • mini jigsaws
  • washi tape
  • silicone straws
  • fabric finger puppets
  • activity books
  • seeds (add a mini terracotta plant pot they can decorate)
  • playing cards
  • fabric pencil cases/purses
  • second hand books or small reading books
  • jars of homemade playdough
  • melt down old broken crayons and use silicone moulds to reshape them in to animals or initial letters

food gifts – usually a slice of the birthday cake and a selection of sweet packets, with the plastic count even higher than the sugar content. Some alternatives or some more sustainable ways to buy can be:

  • wrap the cake in a paper bag instead of plastic wrap
  • you could also include homemade treats to avoid plastic packaging
  • If purchasing edible goodies from a shop, you could try your local refill shop and put them in separate paper bags or celllose food bags (which are biodegradable) mini jars or tin foil, which is at least recyclable (basically anything but clingfilm or plastic food bags!). Our local refill shop has vegan fizzy sweets,.
  • If your shopping in a super market or want something a bit healthier, look for snacks without plastic packaging, such as Bear YoYos (which come in paper packets in a cardboard box) raisins are also almost always available in cardboard boxes too.

Presents

Gifts might be the hardest part of a plastic-free party. If you do want to reduce waste with gift you could:

  • ask for money instead, or get guests to contribute towards one substantial present for the child (eg. bike or climbing frame), or ask for donations to a charity instead
  • suggest some more sustainable toys – such as wooden or bamboo, and ethical/sustainable toy brands.
  • suggest preloved gifts, or a toy/gift swap
  • ask for experience-based gifts, like a trip to the zoo or ferry tickets, or a contribution to one substantial present.
  • let guest know that no wrapping is necessary, or suggest fabric or recyclable paper wrap.
My toddler helped wrap and decorate the paper wrap for her brothers presents. We used washi paper tape so it is fully recyclable.

Avoid…

Balloons – Sorry to be the fun police but balloons are a no-no, whether they’re ‘biodegradable’ or not.
If they break free and fly off when they come down they are a risk to wildlife, as birds or marine animals can eat them. And even if they don’t, they will spend years sitting in landfill.

Instant landfill– Please think twice before doing a sweep of your local Pound Shop or the ‘tat’ section of a toy shop. These toys break within minutes and there is nothing that can be done with them other than put them in the bin.

Slime – This is such a ‘thing’ right now and I know kids love a pot of slime, but most commercially available pots are just stretchy slimy blobs of plastic. If you have to have it, then have a go at making your own (recipes can be found online – pinterest is your friend!)

Glitter – Glitter is essentially a micro-plastic and when you can finally get it off your hands/face/every conceivable surface of your home and even some inconceivable places, it gets washed down the sink and passes straight though the filtration systems and on out into our waterways. If glitter is a must, then there are eco-friendly glitters available.

Remember, going zero waste might take a few attempts, but the key is to do what you can in the time you have, then refine your approach next time.

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Plastic-Free Picnics

Now that the summer weather has officially arrived and restrictions are easing, we’ve started thinking about going out more, or you know, going out at all! (I think my son was surprised that there are more than 5 people in the world!) After over a year in shielding we had to have a good think what we would need to go out and about now we have two small people in tow, if we wanted to go to the beach or for a picnic.

So here’s our tips & ideas for a sustainable summer, including my Top 10 Sustainable Swaps & Product Recommendations.

Tips & Ideas for Plastic Free Picnicking

  • Make your own dips & salads, rather than buying pre-prepared ones in plastic packaging from the supermarket. A great homemade hummus recipe is this one from The Pesky Vegan. You could even have a go at making your own crackers or pittas to dip in your homemade sides.
  • If you’re having soft drinks, choose options from cans or glass bottles, rather than plastic bottles, we love cordials as you can stretch them so much further by diluting with water. If you want to you could give making your own cordial a go (extra hippie points if you forage your own elderflowers 😉 – seriously though foraging is great fun, but only forage for small amounts from areas with plentiful supply and only if you are 100% certain of what the item is and that it’s edible. Here’s two great articles on foraging for beginners from National Geographic and BBC Good Food.)
  • You can get some great snacks for on the go from your local zero waste shop or refill store, popping kernels for making your own popcorn, or choose from a selection of nuts and snacks like spiced chickpeas, banana chips, etc. You could also use their assortments of nuts and dried fruits to make your own custom trail mix.
  • Avoid ice in bags from the supermarket, by making your own at home in silicone ice cube trays (we have tons of these from making and freezing portions of baby food for when our daughter was weaning), or freeze bottles of water use a coolers in your picnic bag, they’ll keep your picnic nice and chilled and your drink will have melted en route and be lovely and cool. You could also try frozen grapes which will cool drinks and make a great snack when you’ve finished.

Top 10 Sustainable Summer Ready Swaps

1.Reusable Straws:

Plastic straws generally can’t be recycled, so straws have to be sent to landfill, where they take a long time to degrade, can leach chemicals like BPA, break down into microplastics, and can be ingested by wildlife. There are however several alternatives:

Stainless Steel Straws are washable, and much more durable. They are BPA free and unlike plastic will not interact with and leak chemicals into the drink you are consuming.

Bamboo Drinking Straws can be reused hundreds of times and can be composted at the end of their life cycle. Our bamboo straws are an eco-friendly and sustainable solution to plastic, made without the need for any harmful pesticides or chemicals.

Silicone Straws tend to be light and durable, these ones are made from 100% Pure Food-Grade FDA/LFGB certified Silicone, they come with a lifetime guarantee from ecoLiving!

2. Travel Cutlery Set:

Avoid the traditional plastic cutlery of picnics past and invest in a reusable travel cutlery set, made from bamboo or metal which you can carry on you for takeaways, work lunches, food on the go etc. They’re stylish as well as sustainable and it stops all that waste of single use plastic going to landfill.

bamboo travel cutlery

3. Reusable Water Bottle:

Instead of endless plastic bottles, opt for a reusable stainless steel or glass bottle. They are durable, and you can find ones that maintain the temperature of the drink inside, so you can have a refreshing drink throughout the day. They’re great for around the house as well as out and about, where you can refill them with water – look out for councils or shops that are part of the refill scheme.

Our Reusable Glass Bottles are made from BPA free and fully recyclable materials and provide a clean and pure drinking experience.

4. Lunch boxes

Picnics and packed lunches are massive sources of plastic waste – from the plastic lunchboxes themselves, to plastic tupperware, ziplock pouches, clingfilm, snack packs and individually wrapped plastic food packaging.

Avoid the plastic lunchboxes and opt for a stainless steel version, or one of our Huski Home rice husk lunchboxes, made using the by-products of the rice industry. Many lunchboxes have sections, so you can do away with the individual tupperware and snack packs and put your own products in loose. If you do want Tupperware you can opt for glass or glass/bamboo combo versions. Or why not store snacks in reused jars, we have snacks in old curry sauce jars that we’ve cleaned and relabelled.

5. Wax Wraps

Similarly you can avoid the clingfilm and plastic packaging by choosing wax wraps for your sandwiches and other homemade goodies.

food wrap

6. Takeaway Cup

Whether you want a hot drink or an iced coffee, a fruity tea or just juice, taking a reusable travel cup with you let’s you ditch the disposable and many have the benefits of being insulated or double walled to keep your drink at the right temperature for longer.

7. Travel Wash Set

A great choice for the holidays we are now allowed on, whether you’re desperate to jet off or you’re choosing a Great British Staycation, maybe even just for long awaited visits to far away friends and family – a travel set is a great option for you to be low waste and avoid all those plastic travel miniatures, without having to take your full bars from home in individual tins.

safety razor

8. Sun Cream in Tins/Refills

Yes this is now an option, some zero waste shops are now able to offer sun cream refills and the majority will likely have aluminium tins of sun cream available. I find the tins are easier to get the sun cream out of rather than faffing with the spray bottles that don’t work unless they’re completely upright.

9. Toothbrush Case

Great for when you’re away from home, bamboo toothbrush cases keep your brush clean and hygienic. We have both adults and children’s toothbrush travel cases in the shop.

10. Reusable Bag

Keep your picnic out of plastic and opt for reusable bags to carry your stuff on trips out or for shopping. Fold up, cotton or net bags are brilliant for stashing on you so you don’t have to pay for plastic bags if you do any impromptu shopping.

This organic cotton bag is a great choice as it folds up small but is spacious and stylish.

Be sure to check out the shop for our featured products that can help with your zero waste needs.