How to have a Green Birthday Party

I celebrated my daughter’s birthday party over the weekend and it was a fun-filled and enjoyable event. When I was young, birthday parties were incredibly simple…I’d get a new dress (one of the few new clothes over the year that I could count with my fingers…one for Diwali, one for my birthday, and a few clothes as gifts over the year for weddings or festivals). I’d wear my new dress and go with my family to the temple for a special offering, and of course, at home my mum would treat us to an elaborate meal with “payasam” which is an Indian sweet pudding. I remember feeling incredibly proud.

Expectations of this generation are so much more. Birthdays are elaborate, with a lot of planning to be done. I’m not complaining, but I’m aware that the consumption of resources is definitely higher than what we used as children.

Here are my tips to CELEBRATE A GREEN BIRTHDAY for a new generation. These are the ones that I was able to follow last week:


1. Encourage your children to go for a simple, family based event, or a smaller group of friends, and then once in a few years, have a more elaborate party, rather than doing this every year. This will help to reduce resource use, and teach children to simplify.

2. Send email invitations instead of paper invites to save paper.

3. Inform guests in the email invite you’d like to be eco-friendly, and request hand made birthday cards. It’s a great way for children to show their creativity.

4. A no-gifts policy would be great. If your kids are not yet mature enough to say no to gifts, request in the invitation for less/reusable/recyclable packaging

5. Use the back of used poster paper (that children may use for school projects) for various cutouts and party decorations. I was able to use several bits of poster paper accumulated over the years to do the “Happy Birthday” sign as well as the other characters which I drew in line with the party theme.

6. Recycle paper printed on one side to do all the party planning, shopping lists etc.


7. Use biodegradable cups, plates and spoons made from vegetable matter. I was able to get ones made with corn and yam. I put a polite little label on the juice table requesting visitors to reuse the cups during the party to avoid wastage. Often enough, several cups are used for refills and that’s a wastage of disposable cups.

8. Borrow any extra party costumes or decorations from your friends, relatives or neighbours, as it’s a one-off event.

9. Recycle any packaging you accumulate in the party preparations such as carton boxes, plastic packaging etc.

10. Avoid helium balloons. Helium balloons mostly use foil that can be swallowed by wildlife, like plastic. Use natural latex balloons which biodegrade and cause less harm if disposed of correctly  .

11. Avoid carbonated drinks.  Carbonated drinks unhealthy because they contain large quantities of sugar, calories and caffeine.Recent research reports from the United Kingdom say that the common preservative used in carbonated drinks which is sodium benzoate can switch off essential parts of DNA, which may bring on premature aging and trigger diseases associated with old age.  Use fruit juices with the least possible preservatives, colouring and flavourings. It’s good on the children’s health, and good for the environment, as we encourage less use of chemicals that ultimately pollute our air and water.
10. Home made food is anyday preferable, as you can control the ingredients. Offer fresh fruits as appetisers, and healthy home made party food. Parties are becoming an excuse to serve unhealthy junk food like pizzas, crisps, carbonated drinks. If you’re pressed for time, simplify the menu and make it wholesome. This also reduces the use of unnecessary resources (such as in pizza packaging, cartons, paper napkins, mini sauce packages, aluminium foil etc)

11. Give pencils made from FSC certified sustainable plantations, if activities are planned using pencils. Stabilio is one such brand.

12. As prizes for party games, support a human or environmental cause. Eg. I was able to distribute bookmarks and calendars by the Foot and Mouth artistes in Singapore as prizes. Or perhaps you could find a gift made of recycled materials.


13. Send thanks using email.

14. Preserve any gift wraps, if gifts have still been gift-wrapped despite your request to guests for leaving out unnecessary packaging. Cut out the edges with the cellotape and send for recycling. The remaining gift-wrap can be arranged nicely for future use. When I did this, I also got to admire the beautiful artwork in some of the gift wraps. It’s seems such a waste to rip open gift wrap and dump it in the bin without a second look.

15. Distribute leftover food with guests(using returnable containers), or have it the next day.

Some more ideas, which I’d love to implement next year or for the next celebration.

1. Have a no gifts policy. You could come up with innovative ideas for implementing this.
- Request guests to bring money donations. Your child may want to donate the entire to a charity, or say for sponsoring an animal in the zoo or on WWF or say an organisation like BOS. Your child may want to use a part of the funds for one big gift that he or she would like and donate the rest. 

- You could use an online service such as www.echoage.com which manages the donations for you.
- Or you could ask for hand made gifts for children, using stuff they have at home.

2. Use recycled paper napkins to sandwich between plates. I have heard of Seventh Generation recycled paper napkins, and went looking for them, but couldn’t get them in the last minute. (I did away with paper napkins completely and noticed that guests managed to use cloth towels provided and their own handkerchief pretty well. Only a few needed to use the napkin box.)

3. Use beeswax candles as opposed to petroleum based ones..and reuse them next year. This is something I need to search for.

4. Use organic colouring in the birthday cake. I could not provide the cake maker organic colouring as I could not find this in Singapore. But hopefully, a little bit of search would help me get it in time for the next party. I would love to go organic on many of the other ingredients, such as fruits and vegetables too.

5. Use markers with non-toxic ink. I used markers for making my decorations. The permanent markers contain toxic chemical compounds such as xylenee and/or toluene.

6. Return Gifts – I gave reusable folders with notebooks and Stabilio pencils. But I’d love to get something with a stronger environmental message, such as books made from recycled paper. Little pots of plants make for excellent, planet-friendly gifts which help children understand the value of nurturing.

EcoWALK is a journey. Keep innovating and trying, and get better and better each year in the quest to save resources and using ones that harm the environment less. Would love to hear if you have any ideas too.


These are some of the ideas you’ll find in the free 160 page e-book on this website called “A Quicklist of 1001 Steps to Save the Planet “  which covers a range of topics from actions that you can take at home, at the workplace, within the community as well as ways to influence government policies.


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Posted by on Dec 4 2008. Filed under Consumerism, Green Festivals/Events. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “How to have a Green Birthday Party”

  1. [...] had a quick scan on the internet and found a number of ways to have a greener birthday party, like here, here, and here just for examples. First, decorations. Once I realised how many options there [...]

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