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My First "Zero Waste" Birthday Party

Karley turned 7 last month.

Look at how filthy she is in her cute little birthday dress, accepting a gift from a friend. Aww... a sign of a day spent happily in nature.

But, ugh... birthday parties. Amirite?!

I am a fan of friends and gatherings, and time spent outdoors, but I am not a fan of planning parties.
I don't enjoy running here and there spending my money on decorations that will meet the trash after 3 hours of use. I don't enjoy juice boxes with the little straws attached for convenience. I don't enjoy creating little treat bags full of the sugar and disposable junk that I don't want my own kids to have. I don't enjoy the mountain of packaging that comes from the gifts, and the store bought veggie trays and the ice cream cakes. Even that little number shaped candle irritates me. Yes, my kids are very close in age, but the first child wants a blue number 7 and the second, a pink.
Oh, and don't even get me STARTED on balloons. *shutter*
This summer, I decided that I was done going "all out" for the birthday parties. I decided that I would make a wholehearted attempt to throw my little girl a kick-ass, zero-waste birthday party. I mean, I had my fears about this decision. Just last February I was scolded by an 8-year-old for not having balloons at my sons' otherwise standardly wasteful birthday party... what kind of mother am I anyway?!
I knew I would have to push through the painful memory... 
We were gifted by nature with a beautiful sunny and warm evening for a birthday barbeque. Weeks before, she had decided that she would prefer to have a Hi-5 birthday, where friends bring $5 instead of a gift, which was the drum-circle-music to my hippie ears. 
My zero waste kids birthday party successes were these:
  • No disposable invitations. Thank you Facebook and Gmail.
  • No gift bags, though I must admit this is Karley's win
  • No juice boxes (or cheese strings, or yogurt tubes, or water bottles, etc.) I bought organic lemonade in glass jars and used my 250ml mason jars with metal straws - when the lemonade ran out we drank water *GASP* from the tap! 
  • I bought NO decorations. I hung some cotton bunting that I already had tucked away, the tablecloths were fabric, used washed and returned to my bins for my next farmer's market. 
  • No plastic, disposable cutlery and no paper plates or napkins. Yes, there were more dishes to wash, but we were happy to do it.
  • No party games. I didn't purchase a single donkey tail to pin. I thought that with a little bit of sun, several other kids and bare feet in the grass, they would not need the entertainment. I was right. Though I do love potato sack races.  :P
  • No treat bags! I asked my favourite local shop, Cavicchi's Meats, if they would allow me to purchase 20 ice cream cones, and hand out "coupons" to treat our guests to a free cone in lieu of a treat bag. Not only were they happy to oblige, they custom made some little coupons with Karley's name on them. <3 Ahh, local love. 
  • Local food. Much of the food purchased was from local small businesses. Cavicchi's meats, White Sails Bakery, D&Jo's Country Market, Juliens Bakery, and The Little Red Barn to name a few. Many of these places were happy to provide me with yummy treats and fresh veggies without the packaging. The gentleman at the Little Red Barn completed my purchase, then went and picked my cucumbers right off the vine for me so I didn't have to take one from the counter that was wrapped in plastic. I even pulled a few of our own carrots from the garden.

My zero-waste birthday fails... aka opportunities to grow:

  • The darn birthday candle. I asked a local beekeeper for some beeswax birthday candles, but not with enough time for him to produce... next year.
  • Food packaging. The ground beef for our burgers was packaged as usual. Same with our sausages. With a little bit more time and planning, I know that both of these places would allow me to bring my glassware to fill and avoid the styrofoam base/plastic wrap.
  • The hummus, the ice cream, and the box of cake brought their fair share of baggage to the party. Again, more planning would have taken care of two-thirds of this waste. (I'm not about to start making ice cream for 30.)
  • The timing. I was surprised to discover that I was just as busy with less waste as I would be without. More veggie and cheese cutting. More cleaning (I had to get all of the camping dishes ready to support the numbers!) 
  • The number of stops. Yes, I went to many local sources for my food, but it took more time, and wasted unnecessary gas.
  • The last-minute breakdown. The. Struggle. Is. Real. Just hours before the party, I panicked a little bit... will this party be boring? No games?! What was I thinking?! I broke down just before the finish line and bought a dozen bubble wands, a frizbee, and 3 kids plastic lacrosse sticks. And hey, they were on sale. Guess how many of them were used... #Fail

Not too bad for a first attempt I think. I'm proud of the fact that we had not a single extra garbage bag to drag to the road on Monday morning. I'm also proud of the fact that my little stunt sparked conversation and perhaps inspiration for others.

So I'm going to call it a win. 

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