Now, check the eco-friendly quotient of the parties you organise!

Eco-friendly birthday parties are possible if you can plan a little. Pic courtesy: Sindhu Rao

So, the little tyke is turning a year older. As a parent who is expected to throw a stellar birthday party, you are perhaps neck deep in planning. Should you throw a party at home or at the clubhouse? Should you take the little one with his friends for an outing to an amusement park or to his favourite fast food restaurant? What should be on the menu? Should you keep it a small gathering of close friends or throw a big bash? So many options… The last thing on anyone’s mind is the ecological footprint of the upcoming party.

Sheesh! These environmentalists are mental aren’t they? Once in a year can’t one let go and throw a half-decent party for a kid? Can’t a kid have some fun? What difference does it make anyway?

Well – what if you already threw an eco-friendly birthday bash and perhaps there was no way to know that? Now you can! Take the quiz below and find the green rating of your birthday party on scale 0-10 (1 point for bold bulleted points, 0 for others) :

1. Invitations:

  1. You dutifully deliver the paper invitations personally or over mail.
  2. Invite people over phone or personal visits.
  3. E-invites sent over email or facebook.

2. Food:

  1. Order most of the food from outside. Most of it is what kids like to eat (junk food like chips, cake, deep fried snacks and pizza).
  2. Cook all the food at home. No junk food. Even if you order from outside, you are careful about where you order from and the quality of the ingredients used.

3.Drinks:

  1. Cola
  2. Pre-packaged juice in tetrapaks.
  3. Homemade lemonade or fresh juice.

4. Cutlery:

  1. Paper/plastic or styrofoam plates. Plastic spoons.
  2. Arecanut/ leaf plates with some steel/disposable cutlery.
  3. Steel plates and spoons. No disposable cutlery.

5. Napkins

  1. Paper napkins.
  2. Cloth napkins.
  3. No napkins. Kids can wash their hands in the wash basin and use the common towel.

6. Waste generated at the party:

  1. All waste is mixed and collected in a bag.
  2. Waste is segregated into dry and wet. Dry is sent for recycling and wet waste is composted or put out separately for collection.

7. Decorations

  1. Shiny ribbons, balloons, caps, masks, streamers, party poppers, noisy trumpets etc.
  2. Some balloons may be. Some paper crafts and stuff you made with your kid for decorations and games.

8. Gifts

  1. The kid expects gifts. The more, the bigger, the better.
  2. You let guests know what your kid will prefer as a gift. You specifically ask for no plastics in the gifts. And no wrapping paper.
  3. None

9. Return gifts

  1. A little plastic toy with a handful of candies in a plastic bag.
  2. A Thank you note with a toy or a book. No plastic bag.
  3. None

10. Party, what party? Your kids never had one. They don’t know when they were born. You would rather take them to an orphanage or plant trees on their special day.

  1. a. Agree. (Award 10 points for this)
  2. Disagree.

Scoresheet:

>10: Eco-terrorist: You are very passionate about your carbon footprint. You produce virtually no waste from your parties. You will do fine when world runs out of oil and there is no plastic. Heck you don’t even have parties. If you do, you carefully consider whom to call for the party… It could be the people who see eye to eye with you on your eco-friendly living methods or the friends of your kids. Sadly the intersection of the two categories is often an empty set.

Your parties strictly have no junk food, no disposable cutlery and no plastic decorations. You compost your food waste and recycle the waste water after dishwashing the party cutlery. Your friends are slightly terrified to come to your parties. Loosen up a little. Existing on this planet means there will be a footprint however small to all your activities. Humour your friends. Let them wear a party cap. Sometimes.

7-9: Environmentalist: You strike a fine balance between having a fun but eco-friendly event. Your parties produce a minimal amount of plastic waste. Waste is often segregated. Your parties produce virtually no non-recyclable waste that may go to landfills. Food is mostly healthy with some or most of it cooked at home. Your friends still like you. Actually they have fun at your parties… And admire how you go green without compromising on the fun and frolic element.

3-6: Sentimentalist: Well – all this environment talk is okay, but…. Perhaps one can let go once in a year and have a fun filled birthday party? Don’t they have rag pickers to take care of the waste? Plastics can  be melted into brand new roads and paper can be recycled no? And who has time to wash used dishes of 50 people? Please! I would rather live with the waste I generate once a year than suffer through all this eco-nonsense and lose my sleep over it.

Truth be told, you never gave serious consideration to the waste that a party generates. Look around. You would find a lot of paper/plastic plates and paper cups dumped on the road sides/ drains giving Bangalore its current name – garbage city. Imagine a city with 8.5 million people. If all celebrate their birthdays like this, even if ONCE a year, will cover all the city and its outskirts in trash. This is trash which is non-recyclable and will take hundreds of years to break down.

0-2: Mental: You are living in a virtual world my friend, which is as shiny as the plastic you used in the party, but the real world we live in is as toxic as the pollution it will create for the next 500 years. You think birthday parties produce gifts, not trash. You probably have never heard of the phrase ‘waste segregation.’ You don’t think of your trash once it is out of your house. Your trash is out of sight and therefore out of your mind.

Will amusement quotient of eco-party be low?

Will the kid enjoy this kind of eco-friendly, low carbon footprint party? Well, most kids don’t care as long as they get to play with their friends and don’t have to do homework that day. You can have a smaller ecological footprint for your party for your kid without letting go of the fun element. Sure this requires some work. But going green isn’t rocket science. Start now! Look at the list below. Make your next birthday bash a zero-waste affair.

Birthday party checklist:

  1. Invitations: It is completely free and much easier to set up a facebook event and have guests RSVP. Save paper by getting rid of paper invitations or minimize them for those who are not computer savvy. Call people to invite them home.

  2. Food: We want our children to live long healthy lives right? Then we need to stop using cheap junk food as reward and to associate it with happy occasions especially on birthdays. Home-cooked food tastes better anyway. With some planning, one can make pizza or cakes from scratch with minimal effort. One can also order healthy and organic home made cakes and savouries from many local entrepreneurs in the city who have started catering to the rising demand of healthy party food.

    Junk food v/s homemade items

  3. Drinks: Aerated drinks are empty calories and they have caffeine which is not good for children. Freshly squeezed fruit juice is much healthier than the packed juices.

  4. Utensils: Paper/plastic plates and cups are non-recyclable as they are laced with food waste. While arecanut plates are biodegradable, they are a better option for travelling. They can be used as back up when one runs out of steel plates. Steel plates on the other hand can be reused for many years. If washed in bulk or in dishwasher, water usage can be kept low. Many caterers also rent out steel cutlery for events along with the food. You don’t have to do the dishes then!

    1. If you are forced to opt for disposable plastic/paper plates, remember that it is certainly not the best option, but you could dispose the food waste in the plate separately and dip the plates into water before disposing as dry waste. That way, they may have some recyclable value.

    2. Do not use styrofoam plates. They cannot be recycled easily.

      Disposable plates v/s reusable plates

  5. Having a couple of towels in the washroom works fine for home parties. Or you could buy nice cute looking handkerchiefs as return gifts for the little kitties!

  6. Waste: Party waste can be segregated at source. Provide separate trash cans for food and non-food waste. Label the trashcans appropriately. Assign a helper or an attendant at the trash stations to help the guest sort their waste before disposal. Finally, if you stay in a community which has proper backend for waste, you have nothing more to do. Else, you may need to tie up with a piggery or a cowshed owner to dispose your food waste or compost in your backyard. Plastics, if generated in small quantity and unsoiled with food waste can be dropped at the nearest Dry Waste Collection Centre. The rejects or mixed waste or non-recyclable portion of the waste should be a small quantity – around 10% or less of the total waste volume. This will go to the garbage truck and then to the landfill. Every party event, one must try to minimize rejects.

    Mixed garbage v/s segregated garbage

  7. Accessories: Most party decorations like streamers and caps are made of plastic and are of the non-recyclable variety. Opt for decorations of flowers that can be composted with organic waste or go for decorations made only with paper or spend some time with your kids preparing them at home from flowers, paper and natural fibres from bamboo or coconut. You could also reuse some of them next year.

    Plastic flowers v/s real flowers

  8. Give eco-friendly gift ideas to your guests. Is this cute or what? – Neil’s bday

  9. Think of an eco-friendly gift like a steel bottle, a wooden Channapatna toy or a book. Could you have a game or a lottery, where kids can win a small gift? Without the plastic cover, of course!

  10. Please celebrate birthdays because it is your kid’s special day!

Let your kids also know that many kids in this world do not have the luxury to celebrate their birthdays. Our kids are a privileged and pampered lot. They can have fun but they need to spare some thought towards the environment. As parents, our duty is to make the world a better place for them and not fill it with trash at the excuse of having a party. When they grow up, they will thank you for leaving the world a cleaner place!

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About Shilpi Sahu 4 Articles
Shilpi Sahu is a techie, running enthusiast, SWM advocate and an amateur artist, all rolled into one.

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