How to throw an eco-friendly party (with a giveaway)

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Felt party hats from GreenPartyGoods.comIs it possible to throw a child’s birthday party (or any party for that matter) without piling up mounds and mounds of trash? The answer is most definitely YES. Throwing an eco-friendly party (or green party or nearly zero-waste party) is actually probably easier than you think. Like any party, it just takes some planning in advance.

Here are some tips and ideas to get you started planning your next eco-friendly bash.

1) Invitations: Consider electronic invitations from Evite, which is what we did for my daughter Ava’s recent 4th birthday party, or EchoAge. Both options save paper and trees. If you have to have paper invitations, check out seed embedded paper (that you can plant) from Green Field Paper or Botanical Paperworks or others, so your invitation is reused and recycled.

All compostable tablewareZero-waste party table sign2) Tableware: One of the biggest waste creators at a party is the tableware – the plates, cups, napkins, bowls, and eating utensils, and even the table cloths. All of this plastic stuff (made from oil) gets used once, then ends up in the landfills where it doesn’t degrade. You can avoid the waste and plastic altogether by using reusable tableware, which may be cost-effectively purchased from a restaurant supply store. If you enjoy throwing parties and do so often, this might be the best way to go. Another option is to use compostable* tableware which is often made from corn, potatoes or sugarcane. Thanks to Green Party Goods we had compostable plates, cups and utensils in pink (for all of the kids) and I bought additional compostable tableware from EcoCycle, where Amy is so proud of the compostablesthey offer up a zero-waste event kit. Unfortunately the kits are only available locally; they do not ship them. EcoCycle provided me with table signs and boxes/bags to collect the compostables. After the party, I dropped them off at the EcoCycle facility to be composted. We collected recyclable items separately and took them back to my house to put in our recycle bin.
*It’s worth noting that many of the compostable tableware requires the very high heat of an industrial composter (not a home composter) to effectively decompose.
If you need table cloths, consider using an old sheet (check out Freecycle or thrift stores) or a piece of fabric in the color or theme of your choice. My mom whipped up a couple farm-themed tablecloths in no time for Ava’s party.

3) Decorations: Children’s birthday parties often mean lots and lots of balloons which are not good for the environment. Most are not biodegradable, are bad for sewage treatment plants, and are bad news for marine wildlife as well. As an alternative to balloons, one could decorate with Chinese lanterns or felt banners (both of which are reusable). Recycle Your Day has a tutorial on how to make a paper bag pinata. Or you could have your party at an outside location (at least during the warmer months) and let the natural scenery be the “decorations” and avoid artificial decorations all together. We held Ava’s 4th birthday party at a local farm where the kids had the option to feed and pet animals, have a pony ride, play in a giant tree house, and more. They loved it! Parks make a great setting for children’s parties too. We’ve had two of Ava’s previous birthday parties there. Outdoor parties are a great way to get kids connecting with nature.

Ava’s 4th birthday party - 6/21/08Kids at Ava’s outdoor farm party, eating with compostable plates, cups and utensils4) Food and Cake: When planning your menu, try to keep foods as healthy, organic and whole as possible. Avoiding prepackaged, preservative-laden foods is healthier for your guests and better for the earth since there’s less packaging involved. For Ava’s party I went with a fruit salad, a carrot salad, my version of confetti salad, a green salad and crackers. Instead of a cake, I made cupcakes using a healthier recipe sweetened with applesauce and honey, but my frosting (which my mom and I used to try to make the cupcakes look like pigs) included a lot of powdered sugar. I know, tsk, tsk, but ya can’t win ’em all. The good news is that the food coloring I used to dye the cream cheese frosting was plant-based (from beets). You can buy natural food coloring (and avoid artificial colors) at most health food stores.

5) Gifts and Wrapping Paper: When it comes time to wrap presents, think recycled or reusable materials first. Encourage your party attendees (as I did) to wrap their presents using newspaper or cloth. My friend Julie took the cloth suggestion one step further and made her own zero-waste wrapping “paper” by naturally-dyeing play silks a lovely shade of pink. The play silks are like a bonus present and provide unlimited imaginative play.
You also always have the option of politely declining presents. Kids often have so many toys that it won’t bother them to make presents optional, suggest books only (used books are even better) or request no presents at all. Another idea is to ask for donations to a charity in lieu of gifts. Let your child choose the charitable organization.

Party favor bagsFelt birthday crown6) Party favors/hat: I wanted to stay away from cheap and/or disposable party favors/hats and bags for the kids. Thanks to Green Party Goods, we received a felt queen’s crown for Ava’s big day (and you’ll have a chance to win one below). They also carry felt party hats.
Since I wanted to avoid plastic for our goody bags, I picked up some mini canvas bags from Hobby Lobby as well as some craft paint. I painted a pig and each child’s name on the bags. You could also buy a yard of fabric, cut it into squares and make your own bags tied up with a ribbon.

Party favor recycled crayonsThen for filling the bags, I bought some groovy recycled rainbow crayons* from Art 2 The Extreme, an Etsy store. In keeping with our farm theme, I printed up Party favor mini coloring booksmini coloring books of farm animals on recycled paper. I also wanted to include some sort of treat, but I wanted to avoid sugar and artificial colors, so I included a box of organic raisins for each child. That was it. Simple, but fun and no junky little plastic toys to end up in the landfill.

Party favor raisins

Another neat eco-friendly party favor idea is to give polished stones or geodes. They are natural and great for imaginative play. Check out Etsy for other unique and/or recycled/eco-friendly favor ideas.

*Other Etsy stores that sell recycled crayons include: IvyLane Designs, Butterfly Brain and Ferret Bento.


7) Thank you notes: Again, these can easily be done without trees by sending electronic thank yous. If you feel the need to send them in the mail though as I did (what can I say, I’m old-fashioned), use recycled paper/cards. We made our thank you notes and Ava stamped them with a new stamping set she received for her birthday. I think it’s important for children to be involved in the thanking process and she really enjoyed creating cards for all of her friends.

Looking for more green party ideas? Check out Nature Moms Blog’s Eco Friendly Birthday Party post.

Now on to the giveaway…

Win It!

Felt Queen Crown Felt King Crown

Collapsible baseball girlCollapsible baseball boyThanks to Green Party Goods, I’m giving away one felt queen or king crown (your choice) and 10 collapsible baseball figure party favors. To be eligible to win, simply visit Green Party Goods, take a look around, come back here and leave a comment letting me know what your favorite thing is. That’s it! (If you want to link to it, Twitter it, or Stumble it, especially if you found this post helpful, I certainly won’t object, but that’s not required to enter to win.) The deadline to enter is 11:59 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 7. The winner will be selected by and emailed, so be sure to include a valid email address or link to your blog so I know how to reach you. Good luck!

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113 thoughts on “How to throw an eco-friendly party (with a giveaway)”

  1. Neat idea for a giveaway! I am loving all the pirate gear on the site–the ship, etc., is fabulous!

    We went to a green birthday party earlier this summer where the birthday girl’s mama asked us all to bring our own flatware, and she also made a no-gift request.

  2. I need a crown for my little prince! 🙂
    I really like the birthday banners (esp. the one with the stars) and I’m also digging the fancy folders in the green gifts section.

  3. What a great idea! Not only can you throw a green party, but at the same time teach your kids (and their friends) about it as well.

    And I’m all for no party favors! I hate all the junk that comes in the goody bags. Most of the time I just turn around and “donate” it to the school’s treasure box. I’d rather give gift cards or a t-shirt or a hat in theme with the party!

  4. Great tips Amy! I like to buy my Ava mostly felt things so this was a great link to get.

    I love the Felt Daisy Purse Goodie Bag.

    Thanks again as I will certainly be using this place in the future.

  5. Well I am pleased to see that I managed to figure out a few of these on my own for the kids’ parties this past spring. Now I’ll be able to leave even less of a footprint when we celebrate life’s joys. Thanks!!

    And the queen’s crown is so perfect my daughter 🙂

    I love the variety of party favours and gifts available on the site. I’m thinking I might need to head back over there for some gift needs…

  6. Great article! I like the moire cups on the site- i was going to twitter it but i’m still getting used to that site.

    You have some great ideas here! Thanks for the article.

    Keep up the great work on the blog!

  7. Excellent post! I’m throwing my birthday party this weekend, and I’m glad to see I’ve managed to do a few of these. We have cups that can be reused, will be using our regular plates, and got a bunch of cloth napkins really cheap.

    OTOH, I didn’t do very well on the gift bags :(. Thanks for the ideas for next time, though!

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  9. What a great party! It leaves kids and adults happy and not over-crazed. I myself am always wondering what to do with those goody bags full of candy and plastickey toys. I hear other parents complain about them, but everyone seems to hand them out!

  10. looks like an awesome party. love the farm idea, wish my kids had summer birthdays for that kind of fun:-) maybe we’ll do a fall-farm party this year…hmm….thanks for all the great ideas! i always like to give “goody bags” that are useful or part of the party. once i made capes for all the kids and they wore them for the superhero party!

  11. especially like your loot bag ideas. I’m tired of the plastic crap that comes home in them. lollies aren’t so bad, but the other junk is a pest.

  12. Love their felt pirate ship, and all the pretty, colorful tablewear.

    Having had the privilege of actually being at the party, it was so much fun, and the kiddies had a blast. I loved the plates and bowls that were used as well.

  13. Thanks for the good party ideas. I really like the felt crowns, especially since they are reusable. Saves the environment & checkbook!

  14. I love the wooden toy stove. (What can I say, I dream big! Maybe we’ll get it for her for Christmas.) It’s so much cuter and more streamlined than a clunky plastic one!

    I never thought about the balloons! We threw Suzi’s party in May. I had a bunch of smallish glass plates since we were doing light snacks and cake, and borrowed a few more from my MIL, along with a bunch of spoons and forks and glasses. Then we bought reusable plastic plates and cups for the kids. We did use paper napkins, but that was pretty much the only trash. Parties can be so wasteful, and I feel like we did pretty well, but we did have balloons. I just never thought of something as cheerful as a balloon being harmful!

  15. I am in love with the felt goodie bags! And with my wee one’s birthday coming up, this is right on time for me. I’m particularly fond of the Felt Rose Purse and it would be great for a nature/green-themed party.

  16. I’m here! I’m here!
    Those are quite, quite charming crowns and party favors and I would be honored to host a royal bash with that!
    HOWEVER, Green Party Goods has something that I covet dearly.
    I don’t know what it is about these guys but I do believe they are better than diamonds!


    I run all over the internet chasing them!

    Thanks so much for offering the lovely giveaway and thanks to Green Party Goods for putting me in a highly desirous covetous state.

  17. Wow, they have some really great products, and I love that they are all eco-friendly! I had to look at the dog toys… my pups would love the fetch ball!

  18. What a great post! I like the children’s furniture puzzle – I can’t believe they fit all those pieces together so cleverly.

  19. All the products are great. Don’t you jus love their Goodie Boxes and Felt Bags? I love them!

    Thank you for the giveaway!

  20. I love it! Both of my sons are in various sports, so I think the sports favors are fantastic. The new “Shadow Flowers” Place mats are lovely. One could sure set a gorgeous table with their items. Please enter me in your delightful party giveaway. Many thanks, Cindi

  21. Wow, what a great site! I love their colorful napkins but I would have to say the Felt Jungle Finger Puppet Bag is my favorite. A bag and a toy all in one!

  22. I love the birthday banner with starts. This is a very timely post, as we’re planning our little guy’s 1st birthday bash. We’ll keep it small, but thanks to your ideas, we’ll also try to keep it green. 🙂

  23. I’d love the cotton festive banner – thats something you could use over and over again. Thanks for the giveaway!

  24. The Amazing Furniture Puzzle is, umm, amazing! : ) I like all the Folk Toy furniture and really the prices are great!

  25. I’ve bookmarked this site! My daughter will be having her first birthday party in August and I think that the Multidots plates will work wonderfully! I love that they are eco-friendly! Thank you so much for putting the word out there about this company! It’s awsome!

  26. Another option for the goody bag (when did goody bags become the thing for kids parties??? we never had them when I was a kid) is to let the kids decorate their own bags and use them for reusable lunch bags for school (or picnics if you homeschool. Being allowed to eat lunch as a Picnic on the Floor was always a big treat for me as a kid.)The kids get a craft/activity and you elminate the worries about the questionable materials that could be in your kid’s lunch box.

    I like the ATTITUDEimals Monster Pet Dog. It reminds me of my favorite recycled product – my one-eyed rescue dog.

  27. THANKS!! I am planning my son’s bday party and was looking for this site. I knew about it but forgot the URL! I really wanted some eco and SAFE plastic silverware and some more friendly decorations! I think that their furniture puzzle is so amazing, but my kids are a little too young for it! I’d love to win the crown and have a little king come September! Thanks!!

  28. I think the finger puppet party favors are a great idea. I know thats something my son would actually come home and play with. Thanks-great site.

  29. The monster teddy bear is so odd looking that it’s adorable! Very unique!

    There are a lot of fun toys on the site. I was very surprised.

    Thanks for the give away!

  30. What an awesome resource! Kids parties, with all the technicolor decor, had often seemed a lost cause for going green.

    I have an additional suggestion: I came across these great compostable plates, that, shockingly, are *actually* compostable! :-9 They’re made from one thing: leaves. And some steam to shape them. That’s it. And amazingly, they’re quite tough. I’ve reused some 10 times. Apparently they can even be used in the oven! Haven’t tested that yet.

    For more Vererra plates, mosey over to this article:

  31. Great article, and of course our favorite suggestion of yours is giving polished stones or geodes as an eco-friendly party favor. Along these lines, which we enjoy, is a beach day collecting our own stones polished by nature. That might be fun as a plan-ahead day before the party!

  32. Wow… so many cute things on that site. My favorite would either be the recycled plastic sand play set or the children’s toy croquet set – hard to chose between those two. Thanks.

  33. I love the felt crowns because we can use them for each child’s birthday or special days. I would want the boy crown because my daughter won’t care that it’s blue but the boys won’t wear a pink crown.

    Also, I fell in love with all the elegant plates. I would want to use them all the time!

  34. My favorite thing is that they’re located nearby. So when I forget to plan my party until the last minute, there’s still a chance for me to go green!

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  36. Thanks Amy – what great suggestions! I might also suggest Bamboo party wear, which is completely compostable. I have also discovered that Chinet brand paper plates are compostable in a home compost bin. Those are our new table-wear for parties – I just keep a separate plastic bin for the used plates (and paper napkins) and toss them in my tumble composter.

    Oh, and please PU-LEASE enter me in the drawing! Those crowns are GREAT!

    Have a great vacation!

  37. The recycled sheet metal flatware is fantastic! What a great idea. And I love the corn plates. tinawittmer(at)yahoo(dot)com

  38. Thanks for that great post…I enjoyed reading it and will be trying some of those things at my son’s 1st birthday party next year. I’ve also bookmarked Green Party Goods, as I love their Felt Hats Polka Dots and the Plaid and Stars banner.

  39. I am planning my daughter’s 4th birthday party and have been looking into how to incorporate more ‘green’ themes. I love the wooden party favors on this site, especially the bee jumpropes, too cute. Also love the felt party hats.

  40. The item I liked most of the site was the recycled plastic tea set. The colors were nice and it looked like a cute set for a little girl.

  41. My daughter’s birthday is coming up and I’m sure she would love a queen crown. There are quite a few other cool items on the site, but I especially like the felt Bixby The Dog goodie bags. Thanks!

  42. Its a nice post about online shopping because Online shopping is fast becoming the most preferred mode of shopping whereby shoppers can reap the advantages of Internet shopping from the luxury of their homes.

  43. I got so tired of searching for eco friendly party alternatives that it prompted me to start my own business. I wanted to provide other busy parents with a store that provides a unique combination of products, to make it easier to host an eco friendly kids party. Please check it out at All the wooden party favors and gifts are made of wood that comes from sustainable source, and I have tried to source products made in the US where possible. All the cotton gift bags and decorative banners are all handmade in the US too. Now I just need to try and get the word out there….

  44. I absolutely adore the felt birthday banners and hats. looking for some green ideas for my son’s first birthday and so many great ideas – excellent blog!!

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