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Sometimes we make green living more complicated than it should be. The concept is simple – a natural lifestyle should come “naturally,” shouldn’t it? But our disposable mindset and obsession with consumerism can make it tough to live simply, especially when it comes to kids’ birthday parties.
Birthdays are a lot of fun, what with all the cake, gifts, invitations, balloons, decorations, activities and games. But the amount of waste generated from a single birthday party is shocking and can be a real eye opener to our individual carbon footprint. So, what can a parent do?
It all comes back to keeping it simple. With the world becoming more environmentally conscious, it is time to adopt eco-friendly ideas for our birthday parties too. After all, if we are celebrating the fact that a child has spent another year on this planet, it is important that the celebration should not damage that same planet in any way.
Before we move on to some specific ideas to make birthday parties more green, let’s consider what we can do in our everyday lives to ensure the least negative impact on the environment. It starts with ensuring that children develop an appreciation for the planet and a desire to protect it and that is best learnt when they are young.
-Lead by Example: Kids tend to look to their parents for advice and follow their example instinctively. When teaching your kids about an eco-savvy lifestyle, the most important thing is to show them by actively living it. Simple things - turn off the water while brushing your teeth, turn off lights when leaving a room, unplug appliances that are not in use, open a windows for fresh breeze instead of turning on the air-conditioner in moderate weather, etc. Make sure that your whole family is involved in the eco-friendly efforts you teach your children.
-Shopping Trip: The next time you head to the grocery store, take the kids along for the ride. Explain your choices - why you buy seasonal fruits and vegetables, food with the least preservatives, cleaning products that are not harmful to the environment etc. Make sure you use paper or cloth shopping bags though!
-Activities to learn about the Environment: To help children understand and respect nature and the environment, it is good to introduce them to outdoor activities. These activities could be anything from walks in the park with your toddler, getting messy in mud, days out on the beach, making 'natural' works of art, etc.
-Be ‘Green’ wherever you are: Don’t limit the eco-friendly attitude to your household. When you are out and about, teach your child to throw away wrappers and litter in waste bins instead of on the ground. Always bring reusable bags instead of constantly buying plastic ones. Teach them to respect all forms of life, even stray dogs and cows.
Children are impressionable and need to learn eco-friendly habits early to make the biggest impact. By encouraging your children to conserve water, energy and resources, reduce waste and protect the environment, they are well on their way to living greener lives.
1. Invite fewer. Keeping the party small is a good move not only to reduce waste but also to ensure your child does not feel overwhelmed with too many guests. Keep the guest list limited to close family and friends your child is comfortable with.
2. Invite greener. Rather than send out paper invites, opt for greener options. Send invitations online or through Whatsapp is super easy and a phone call to everyone on your guest list makes it that much more personal. If you really want to hand out paper invitations, opt for those that are recycled or creatively make invites out of newspaper collages, scrap paper, etc.
3. Decorate green. While balloons may look nice, they are a big environmental hazard as balloon waste ends up in landfills, water supplies and even in the stomachs of sea turtles that mistake them for jelly fish. Instead, decorate with streamers made out of newspaper, signs made out of reusable items and decorations created from old fabrics or craft paper.
4. Eat friendly. Food production is an important part of green living. Opt for freshly made, simple, healthy and child-friendly dishes at your child’s birthday party, like idlis, sandwiches, green salad, basic chaat, etc. Keep portions small to avoid wastage by the kiddos. Replace fizzy drinks with fresh juices and water.
5. Serve smart. One of the biggest areas of waste at parties involves what is used for serving the food. Skip paper plates and plastic cups and instead use re-usable dishes or opt for biodegradable disposable versions. Give each child a creatively decorated glass with their name on it to be used through the party rather than taking fresh glasses every time. I recently went to a birthday party where they had edible cutlery! The kids loved this fresh, innovative and eco-friendly take on a casual party!
6. Green projects. Kids like to “do something” at parties. Pick a project that is environment friendly, such as painting pottery or a planter, finger painting, decorating a re-usable cup, creating a collage with used CDs, or painting a canvas bag. This is a great opportunity to reuse items to create a nice take-home project. Younger kids can be given homemade play dough to mould into any shape that their creative minds cook up!
7. Skip loot. Many people opt to give a return gift to kids; usually bags filled with lots of… junk. Candy that the parents really don’t want the kids having and plastic toys that will break within days. Instead of having take-home gift bags, consider a green project (see above) that they can take home instead. If you want to give away prizes for games, cut down on the awful plastic and go for books, board games, stationery etc.
8. . Often the gifts themselves are a source of waste at parties, especially if your children already have more toys than you can store. Talk to your child about asking guests not to bring gifts or inviting guests to make a donation to a children's charity in lieu of a gift. If you're hosting a family party, ask relatives to give "activity gifts." An outing with a favourite uncle, lunch with grandmother or a play date with a young cousin will create lasting memories.
9. Games. Some of the best-loved party games require little or no materials. Hopscotch, musical chairs, four corners, passing the parcel, etc. require minimal supplies and have engaged party goers for generations.
Even if you can't manage to make every aspect of the celebration earth-friendly, know that even small changes make the world a healthier place. And really, a better planet is the best birthday gift you can give to a child.
Here are some of the party shopping stores in Hyderabad where you will find eco-friendly party items like paper streamers, paper banners, etc. You will have to hunt carefully though, do not get lured by the bright colours of all the plastic ware that is on sale in these stores!
1) Party Hunterz (Banjara Hills)
3) Party Needs
5) Creative Events and Party Store
Sheeshmahal Theater, Ameerpet, 040-23414454