Sunday, 14 February 2016

A simple children's party plan for healthy food and minimal waste

Birthday parties are usually rife with waste - cleaning up a mountain of things like disposable plates, cups, plastic cutlery, napkins, drink containers, wrapping, balloons and cling-wrap afterwards. But it doesn't have to be that way!

Today was Hugh's 8th birthday.  Because we are exploring waste as a homeschooling topic, he was super keen for his party to be simple, fun and as waste-free as possible.  He helped to design the food plan and it was almost plastic and waste-free.

Hugh decided on a bike party with simple home made fare. He made and decorated his own cake - a sugar-free choc-banana cake (although the little bit of icing and decorations he added on top were sugary)

His request was for a party of riding bicycles and playing together around the village green, and for simple homemade treats and a BBQ with friends.  As a mum, I was delighted. I love helping my kids organise celebrations, but this one was particularly easy-going - very little organisation from me needed at all. Hugh made and distributed the invites, wrote the food plan, helped shop, baked and decorated the cake...

This was Hugh's plan to reduce party waste....

  • Instead of party bags, take fun memories home
  • Instead of poppers, streamers or balloons - have it outside in nature - nature's decorations.
  • Instead of disposable plates, napkins, spoons - use reusable cups, mugs, plates etc
  • Instead of cling wrap use beeswax cloths and robust, reusable lidded containers
  • Instead of packaged food, offer home-made food (we slipped up on the bag of snakes/jelly babies and the soft bread for the sausages because I was told... real bread doesn't wrap).
Hugh's menu

  • choc-banana cake - made from our own bananas, organic flour, local honey, coconut oil...
  • home-made spicy pumpkin dip with carrot sticks, sourdough bread
  • organic popcorn with honey, butter and cinnamon
  • homemade biscuits - organic flour, local honey, ground sunflower seeds, organic oats, butter, cinnamon
  • watermelon
  • BBQ sausages - sourced locally without the plastic trays
  • tap water 

Spicy pumpkin, capsicum, chick pea and sunflower seed dip with local organic carrots and local sourdough rye bread.

The tablecloth is a piece of fair trade fabric from a local fabric store - I have used it over and over for parties and stalls. The $2 disposable plastic party table cloths are unnecessary.

Organic GMO free popcorn - drizzled with melted butter, honey and cinnamon was super delicious.

The aim was to keep the waste to a minimum at the party, but also that the ingredients for the home-cooked food generated little waste. We used as much produce from our garden and the neighbouring farmer as possible, local paper-wrapped bread, ingredients scooped into our own containers from the organic co-op.

Hugh didn't want to waste present wrapping either - he carefully opened presents so he could reuse the paper another time.  We tried to cultivate a tradition at home of using cloth and ribbon to wrap presents. We simply fold up the ribbon and cloth for next birthday, or it gets used in a sewing project. If we are giving to someone outside the family, we make the wrapping part of the present, use a recent painting one of the kids has done, or wrap in cloth and kindly offer to take the cloth back home again.

Cloth present wrapping. This can be part of the present, like a sarong, scarf or table cloth - or a collection of cloth wrappers that are used over and over. This particular piece is destined to become beeswax cloths this week, with hopefully enough for a skirt for Maia.
It was one of the most unstructured, simple birthday parties any of my kids had ever had and was the least waste-producing. When I asked how he enjoyed the afternoon ... with a huge smile on his face, he yelled "the BEST birthday party ever!!!!!'  Fantastic.


  1. Hi, that was great to read! I have 3 children and am trying to change from my gung-ho "BUY EVERYTHING" to make and borrow. We buy our minimal consumption of lollies from the shops where they sell them in bulk. I have decided to combine my 3 kids birthdays into one outdoor party for friends and to have a small cake and singing at home on each individual day. Thank you for lots of great ideas and inspiration. Xandra

  2. Great ideas - thanks Hugh for some inspiration....! We will definitely be looking at cutting consumption every day in our family too!!

  3. I did this same thing with my son for his birthday when he was little and he had so much fun.