Kids parties are full of wonder and excitement. It is amazing watching the kids run around full of energy and laughter. Fun aside, you may have noticed the elephant in the room at these wonderful events; the waste. Waste is prevalent throughout parties. Whether it is for convenience or entertainment purposes, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid. I have come up with five strategies to help you lower your waste impact at your next party. As an added bonus, they may even save you a few dollars!
One – Food
Food is at the heart of any party and is a great way to share cultural dishes, special treats and of course to provide a special cake for your child. It is challenging to determine how much food to provide. Perhaps an unexpected guest or two will attend, or the children may be hungrier than usual! Most of us will err on the side of caution and over cater. This leads to the first source of waste – food waste. There’s no need to worry about the environmental cost of unconsumed treats, as there are options to mitigate against this!
The first defence is taking an esky or cold bag if you are at an external venue. This allows food to remain cold until served. Once guests have finished eating, leftovers can be packed away to keep them food safe. This prevents food going off and ending up in the bin.
The second strategy is to collect any food scraps for home composting, worm farms or to feed your chickens. Provide guests with a bucket or tub to enable easy disposal of uneaten food. At the end of the party, the food scraps can be composted or fed to your worms or chickens. If you don’t have these options at home, one of your guests might be able to take them home. Another option is ShareWaste. It is a great website that connects you to people in your area who are willing to take your food scraps.
By taking these simple steps, you will be stopping food waste from entering landfill. This is an important step in reducing your methane gas emissions (a potent greenhouse gas which contributes to climate change), which result from food rotting in landfill.
Two – Prizes
Party game prizes are always a crowd favourite! The kids get super excited at the prospect of bringing home a new toy from pass-the-parcel. However, it’s hardly a surprise that this is another significant source of party waste. Toys usually come packaged (frequently featuring plastic) which often isn’t recyclable. They also take resources and energy to create.
There is a really simple way to have fun toy prizes at your party without the waste; buying secondhand! You will be amazed at what you can find on Gumtree or Marketplace that are suitable for a party. People often sell bundles of matchbox cars, dinosaurs, figurines, and books which all make fantastic prizes. The benefits of secondhand include no packaging, preventing them from entering landfill, and as a big bonus, they are substantially cheaper than buying new toys!
I have used secondhand prizes for years including books, matchbox cars, animal figurines, and Lego mini figs. The guests don’t notice they are secondhand, and all had a wonderful time playing with them. I have been at other parties where the hosts chose to buy secondhand prizes with equally good results.
Three – Party Bags
Secondhand toys are not only great for prizes, but also make a great accompaniment to any food you wish to include in your party bags. For the bags themselves, secondhand is also a great option. My friend recently did this, by saving party bags when her children attended various parties. She then had enough bags to reuse at her son’s party. There was a great array of colours and patterns for the children to choose from! I am currently doing the same thing to build a stash for our next party!
Secondhand stores, Marketplace, your local Buy Nothing Group and Gumtree are also great places to search for party bags.
Four – Crockery
Disposable plates, cups, bowls and cutlery are a big contributor to waste at parties. It is fantastic to see single use plastic disposable options getting the thumbs-down from society, with paper and plant-based plastic options more readily available. Although these options are much better than their plastic counterparts, they still contribute to waste and the use of energy and resources. Disposable items are appealing from a convenience point of view, however, if you have the capacity to switch to reusable, you will be making a big difference towards lowering your waste. Reusable is much easier at home as you can stack the dishes ready for washing as you go. However, it doesn’t take much effort to go reusable at an outdoor or external venue as well.
We did this for my son’s party at a park. I visited my local secondhand stores and purchased a bulk amount of pre-loved cutlery and crockery, packed it into a big tub and took it to the park. When guests were finished, they placed their dirty items back in the tub for an easy pack up and return home.
In addition, we used soda stream bottles to make sparkling water and had a refillable water jug for tap water. This saved on the countless single use water bottles that are normally used at outdoor parties. For something sweet, we purchased a few two litre juice bottles for guests to pour into reusable cups, again reducing plastic from smaller individual bottles.
To assist in transporting items, I found a cupcake container on Gumtree to safely bring the cake, and also located a secondhand cupcake stand to display the cakes.
Although there was more washing up, it didn’t take a lot of effort and I felt it was worth it for reducing waste. If you have the party at your house, I am sure a friend wouldn’t mind lending a hand to do the dishes while the kids play! I have done this for friends before and it was nice to chat while working.
Now that I have a collection of reusable crockery and cutlery, I have leant items to various friends for their parties. This has helped to increase the mileage of my collection and I will continue to use them and loan them out into the future.
Five – Presents
Presents are a tricky one to manage. They are ingrained into our culture, that when one attends a party, they must bring a gift as a social etiquette. It also brings joy to the birthday child to receive thoughtful presents. However, when you have several guests, the number of gifts, and the associated wrapping and packaging can easily become overwhelming. For the first five years of our children’s parties, we have simply put ‘no gifts’ on the invitations. I would say 90% of people are happy to not bring a gift, and the kids still get two-three presents to open. This significantly reduces the associated waste. I also love this option, as it provides families with a reprieve from spending yet more money on another party. The costs of gifts do add up. I talk to the kids about how this helps the environment, and that they will still receive gifts from family and won’t miss out. They have reacted positively to this arrangement so far.
For attending other parties, we purchase good quality secondhand gifts. It is amazing to see how many toys are still in their original packaging on Gumtree and Marketplace, as they were unwanted gifts at another party. Even though this gift appears new, it is not contributing to the production of another new item and the associated packaging. Purchasing this way is also often substantially cheaper.
If you are not comfortable with these options, another great avenue is buying a toy made from recycled materials. For example, Green Toys has a great assortment of toys made from milk bottles.
When our kids are a little older and can understand the concept, I would like to bring in a new gift idea of collecting a donation for charity in lieu of a present. I think this is a great way of teaching the kids to be grateful for what they have and to value giving a gift to someone else who is in need.
These five strategies have helped my family to reduce our waste at parties for a number of years. I plan to continue using them, and will look for new ways to further eliminate waste. Just like all my sustainability tips, pick what will work for your family, and know that you are playing your part to make your local impact on the planet.
If you have any other ideas to reduce waste at parties, I would love to hear them in the comments below.
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