Feature

How To Throw an Eco Birthday Party.

G Magazine

Kids parties don't just have to be about excesses. You can make your organic cake and eat it too.

Birthday boy

Credit: iStockphoto

Ideal for party favours. Organic Cotton Finger Puppets are made from 100% organic cotton by gifted artisans in Peru and are available from www.ecopartybox.com.au. They are fairly traded and eco friendly.

Credit: Eco Party Box

annieB's PlayPalace™ is made of 100% Indian cotton. http://www.anniebs.com.au/

Credit: Annie B

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No six-year-old wants a sackcloth-and lentil-themed party. Is it possible to have an eco-friendly birthday party that's still colourful, exciting and memorable? The answer is a definitive yes.

The basics

Organising an eco-friendly birthday party is probably going to involve more than a quick trip to the supermarket. But harried parents needn't fret. With a modicum of forward planning and a bit of ingenuity, it won't be arduous. Probably the most important thing is to keep your basic principles in mind.

The principles behind eco-parties are the same as those that underpin all green living—we want as much as possible to be sustainable, local and greenhouse-friendly.

For example, if you're serving food look opt for re-usable crockery and cutlery that can be washed and put away for another occasion. If this isn't possible, consider palm leaf plates or E-vites, or electronic invitations are all the rage these days and they essentially do the same thing as the paper version.Instead of snail mail, you send a template or custom invitation to your guests' email accounts. Guests can respond by electronically checking their names off the list and can even see who else plans to attend.

If emails aren't your thing, though, consider opting for recycled paper.

There are plenty of places to source eco-friendly invitations that are perfect for handing out around the school playground.

2. Choosing a venue

Piling party food on a table in a local park and hanging decorations in a nearby tree is a great way to set the party mood, give kids the space they need to run around and avoid too much fuss.

Canberra mum of three, Katie Ward, says she can't stand the idea of driving out of town for a two-hour party.

"I make a point of it," she says. "We try to pick somewhere really local like the oval or park so people don't have to drive."

Australians have one of the world's highest per capita rates of greenhouse gas emissions, partly because of our intensive use of cars for urban transport. So keeping your events within walking, riding or public transport distance is a great way to make a difference.

Still, if you're feeling a little more adventurous look for places that offer a chance to introduce the kids to nature.

3. Decorations

Traditional party decorations such as balloons have attracted bad press in recent times for their environmental impact. Although latex balloons are biodegradable, some environmental groups have raised concerns about the risk of animals choking on balloon fragments.

If you'd prefer to use an alternative, consider a kind of recyclable paper balloon that originates in Japan. For example, origami. They make great recyclable balloons and you can have a lot of fun with the kids making them.

And instead of paper streamers or other decorations that end up in the bin, you might want to invest in the kind that can be re-used year after year.

Sydney-based firm Annie B's makes colourful bunting in gingham and stripes that would look great in the branches of a tree or on the back fence. Their PlayPalace fabric cubby house would also work well at a party. Founder Ann Anderson says the 100 per cent cotton material is dyed using an environmentally sound process with zero effluent discharge, thanks to a reverse osmosis system in the water treatment plants where recycled water irrigates around 60 acres of prime cultivated land. (www.anniebs.com.au)

Eco Party Box also has a range of eco-friendly, reusable bunting for children's parties as well as weddings and other celebrations.

4. Party bags

No kid's party these days would be complete without a party bag as the guests head home. Too often, these are plastic bags filled with junky plastic toys and lollies.

If fingerpainting no longer features on your kids' curriculum, try getting them to decorate brown paper bags. Alternatively, you can order a more indulgent, professionally constructed bag from Brisbane outfit Biome. They will put together a paper bag filled with goodies such as pencils from recycled material, popcorn and a fairtrade hemp bracelet.

You can also purchase organic cotton finger puppets from Eco Party Box which are sourced from Peru and are fairly-traded.

5 Gift ideas

Just about all the party arrangements are been well within your power to control as a parent. But what about the presents your guests bring? Is there a way to avoid excessively packaged, battery-powered or short-lived plastic toys?

"Every time after the party, I'm always so disappointed as I fill rubbish bag after rubbish bag with boxes, plastic wrappers, and plastic packaging!" says Karen Cheng, a Perth designer and mother of two who has a long-running blog about the joys and challenges of being a parent (www.karencheng.com.au). "Perhaps I could have a theme that justifies asking parents to buy a gift that is wooden or paper or fabric like puzzles, wooden trains, wooden cooking sets and books?"

Katie Ward and her husband Toby have a different approach. They ask guests to think about giving a pre-loved book or toy that's in good condition, rather than buying something new. That way toys that other kids have grown out of, such as a bike, are given a new lease of life instead of being relegated to the shed or thrown out. "People love it," Ward says. "And they sometimes bring really good things, like garden toys or dolls houses."

Tracey Yard is going to give the idea a go for her two-year-old son's birthday. "We're having a family do and I've thought that instead of bringing a gift, perhaps the other kids could bring a toy they don't play with any more and give him that instead."

Of course, we each have to find our own level when it comes to the eco-credentials of our kids' parties. But whether you go all out or incorporate just a few eco-party ideas, both your kids and the environment will benefit.

Kids Culture

The Conscious Life Festival is thrilled to offer the hugely popular ‘Kids Culture’ event as part of this year’s festival once more. Kids Culture is a wonderful opportunity for you and your children to join with other like-minded individuals to celebrate all things ‘Kids’. Our children have an integral part to play in the evolution of a peaceful and unified world and as such we must strive to parent our children consciously and mindfully.

Click here for more information