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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.

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Simplest Ever Pancake Recipe (oh and they’re vegan!)

image

Pancakes are made of just a couple of ingredients and are essentially circles of fried batter (yum!). Yet they are considered a treat, despite the recipe being so simple and them being so quick and easy to make!

You would have thought that because the traditional ingredients are flour, cows milk and eggs, that therefore swapping out two-thirds of the ingredients from such a simple recipe may completely ruin it. This is why people assume that vegan pancakes are tricky to pull off.

However, that is not the case. Now, while there’s lots of recipes and you can have wholemeal flour, use egg replacer, make a ‘flax egg’, etc, we’ve found that flour, oat milk and oil, as it turns out, have exactly the same result when mixed together as the traditional mostly non-vegan ingredients.

This recipe is for a crepe style pancake which we prefer to the ‘American’ fluffy kind. The quantity of milk is variable, as with all pancake recipes, but you’re aiming for a slightly looser mixture, which will be easier to handle.

Ingredients

220g of plain flour
680ml of oat milk, maybe more to loosen
1/2 tsp salt
5 tbsp of vegetable oil, (or other neutral-flavoured oil) plus extra to cook the pancakes

Method

1. Add the flour and salt to a mixing bowl and make a well in the centre. Gradually pour in the oat milk, whisking as you go until you get a smooth batter.

2. Add the oil and whisk until smooth and combined.

3. Heat a tiny bit of oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add a fine coating of the batter to the bottom and tilt the pan so it spreads out into a nice circle (aiming for full pan coverage)

4. Wait for a few minutes while the batter firms up – when all the wobbly softness has gone, you can use a spatula under an edge to loosen it from the pan and see how its coming along underneath. Once golden on the underside, flip it!

You can use the traditional flamboyant ‘out of the pan and in to the air’ pan flip if you’re brave enough, or if you’re like me and that usually leads to pancakes on the hob, ceiling, floor, dogs head, etc, then a ‘spatula assisted turn over’ flip may be a better option.

5. Continue cooking until the underside is also golden.

6. Move onto a plate to keep warm while you cook the rest. (Or snaffle them quick so your plate is empty before the next one is ready – a la The Godwin House style). Enjoy!

To serve: dust with icing sugar, sprinkle with sugar and lemon juice, spread with jam, drizzle with vegan chocolate spread, add whipped cream and fresh berries, whatever takes your fancy!

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’tis the season to eat vegan chocolate truffles!

chocolate

These decadent and rich truffles have a chocolate ganache centre, perfect for an indulgent treat at Christmas. Making them is also great fun if you want a Christmassy activity to do with the children. You can choose your toppings based on what you like, we love coconut so we made coconut covered ones and plain cocoa powder rolled ones, but you could use chopped hazelnuts, or sprinkles or dip them in melted chocolate for a truffle with a hard shell and a soft centre.

It’s a super easy recipe with only two ingredients, the actual baking time is very little,most of the time is just allowing them to set.

Ingredients

  • 300g Vegan Chocolate or Chocolate Chips
  • 240ml Vegan Cream (We use Elmlea Plant, but you could use coconut cream or soya cream if you prefer)

Topping Ideas:

  • Chocolate Shavings
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Chocolate Sprinkles
  • Desiccated Coconut
  • Chopped Nuts
  • Dipped in Melted Chocolate

Method

  1. Break up the chocolate for the chocolate ganache and place into a mixing bowl.
  2. Heat the cream to a simmer and then pour over the chocolate pieces
  3. Leave to sit for around a minute to melt, then mix it into a chocolate sauce.
  4. Place into the fridge to set. This will take a few hours (2-3 hours, you’ll know it’s set when you stick a knife into it and it’s solid all the way down).
  5. When set, use a spoon to scoop out even amounts of the ganache and drop it into your chosen topping, then roll it into a ball with your hands. Place the truffles onto a parchment lined baking tray or a silicone sheet.
  6. Return to the fridge for the chocolate to set and enjoy!

These will last a week if you keep them in the fridge (well not in our house they won’t, but maybe in your house chocolate lasts a week)

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Christmas Cookie Bars

These cookie bars are a Christmas staple in our house and have been for years. The cinnamon makes the house smell all festive and you know it’s not long until the big day!

My mum and I would make them but instead of cutting the tray bake in to bars we would use biscuits cutters to cut out Christmas shapes to make them even more festive and so we could give them as gifts (it was totally not so we could sit on the sofa watching Christmas TV and scoffing a bowl of all the offcuts of cookie left behind by cutting out shapes)

This year I’ve made them with my toddler and we’ve adapted the recipe to be vegan and it’s also soya and nut free. Her opinion on them was that they were “yum yum”.

So here’s what you need:

Ingredients

  • 270g vegan baking spread
  • 160g caster sugar
  • 160g soft dark brown sugar
  • 2 tsp egg replacer and 4tbsp water ( you could make 2 flax ‘eggs’ if you prefer
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 380g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 110g rolled oats
  • 220g raisins

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C.
  2. Put the butter and both sugars in a bowl and cream together.
  3. Add the egg replacer mix, mixing well.
  4. Beat in the vanilla extract.
  5. Add the flour, salt, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon and oats to a separate bowl, and mix well.
  6. Then combine the dry mix with the butter mixture and beat until well mixed.
  7. Stir in the raisins until evenly distributed.
  8. Put the mix in a traybake tin, if it’s too thick and sticky thin with a little milk first (we use oat) .
  9. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown and firm. It will depend on the size of tin you used as to how thick your bake is, so check regularly to make sure it’s not burning.
  10. Once they are cooled you can take them out the tin as they are easier to cut in to bars when cool. (Or you can cut in to Christmas shapes to give them as gifts and then so you don’t waste anything eat the leftover bits like we did!)

Notes: You can do steps 2-6 altogether if using a food mixer as the ‘all in one method’ just don’t use a mixer for the raisins as we want to keep them whole so you get large juicy raisins in the bars.