Tips for a Zero Waste Kid’s Birthday Party

So I can barely believe Oliver is a year old. I know people say that time flies but holy cow – what just happened?! Well, here we are. This past year has been nothing short of amazing. He has truly filled a void in our lives that we never knew existed. He’s funny, gentle, sweet, and quirky. His personality is so unique and wonderful. We are so, so lucky.

Zero Waste Party

I knew far back that his party was going to be very simple. Sometimes less is more and to keep not only the waste in check, but the stress in check, simple was the only way to go.

The key in planning a waste free party without driving yourself crazy is to first think of all of the stuff that generally makes having parties so wasteful. And seriously, this couldn’t get any simpler – just replace all of the waste causing items with reusables. Whoa – did I just blow your mind. We’ve traditionally gotten accustomed to throwing these elaborate, expensive parties with gobs of balloons, streamers, themed disposable plates, napkins, cutlery, plastic party favors, mountains of gifts, and more. But let me assure you, parties don’t have to be that way and in my honest opinion…shouldn’t be that way. I can’t think of a million other ways to show your  child they are cared for on their birthdays.

So to break this down, here are my tips to making your parties trash free, hassle free, and full of fun!

Skip the Disposables


Zero Waste Party

I’m talking about the plates, cups, cutlery, napkins, etc. Don’t waste your money on things that go into the trash. Instead, use real plates, real glasses, real cutlery, real napkins. It looks way more put together and it’s completely waste free.
Now before you start with….”I don’t have that many glasses, plates, etc. I don’t have the money to go buy new things and that just takes of up space….” I know this and I’m not suggesting that. My husband and I only have 4 plates, 8 glasses, and about 6 forks. So how on earth did we manage to feed 25 people? Simple….
Have you seen this amazing graphic by Sarah Lazarovic. I use this as a guide to ensure I make my events as less impacting at possible.
I used all of the plates, cups, and silverware I had, even used my pint mason jars first. I then asked some family members to help with additional silverware and my mother in law loaned me her crystal party plates. Perfect – and didn’t cost me a penny!

Provide Plant-based Food

Zero Waste Salad


As you already know, my husband and I eat a primarily plant-based diet. We made potato salad, spinach and walnut salad, grilled veggies with spinach pesto, and I made two pies. We didn’t make a cake for the party since Ollie had already consumed two cakes this week. Ok not the entire cakes but still enough that my heart rate increased watching him eat it. I figured he is 1, he will not care or remember if he got a third cake during his party. He’s way more concerned with climbing onto everything he can.

Zero Waste Pie

Why plant-based? Plant based food has less of an environmental impact and is easily found without packaging. Simple as that.

Now, I do realize that everyone doesn’t make the same dietary choices as we do – and that’s perfectly fine – so I mentioned on the invitations to bring a side dish. That also helped save us quite a bit of money as we weren’t entirely feeding 25 people out of our own pockets.

Try BYOG (Bring Your Own Gear)

As I was finishing the final touches before guests started arriving, my mother mentioned to me that my party reminded her of church luncheons when she was little. Disposables were never used at those functions so you were always expected to bring your own plates, cups, and cutlery. We used to do it this way people!

Have a Compost Bin

I had our big outdoor garbage bin hidden during the party so people wouldn’t instinctively scrape their food in the garbage. I instead put a labeled compost bin next to the buffet tables with a spatula making it simple for guests to scrape off their uneaten food. 
A few of the dishes that were brought contained meat so I had a separate bin for that which we buried later.

Set up a Dirty Dish Drop-off Location

Yes, this is the most inconvenient part of throwing a party with no disposables but I have to say it went very smooth. A couple of family members volunteered on their own to collect people’s plates and did all of the dishes before I even realized people were finished eating. My grandmothers, aunt, and Mother in Law had them all finished in 5 minutes. 
If you don’t have a group of family members fighting over doing the dishes, set up a few bins with soapy water for guests to place their used dishes. This will help make it easier and quicker to thoroughly clean them all later.

Keep the Decorations Minimal

Zero Waste Party

Do the decorations really matter? Are you trying to impress your child or the parents attending the party? I’m simply asking these questions because I asked myself the same ones to which I realized the decorations were more about impressing the adults.

Skip the balloons (I know the golden number balloons are trendy but ugh…), the plastic table coverings, plastic party favors, and streamers altogether. They are not necessary.

I kept Ollie’s decorations very simple! I made a couple banners with scrap fabric and decorated our chalkboard wall. When I look back on my childhood birthdays I can assure you, I never remember the decorations, just the moments with family and friends who chose to spend my special day with me. THAT’s the important part. NOT the stuff!

Divert the Importance Away from Gifts

I don’t want Oliver to only associate birthdays with presents. Instead, I want him to think of the people who care about him the most who will be spending time with him. I want him to remember His grandfathers playing with him in the dirt or his uncle trying to teach him how to dance – I can say that was funny to watch!
This year, we very explicitly stated that we did not want any gifts for Oliver, instead, we chose to put together a time capsule to be opened on his 18th birthday. We asked family members to write him a heart felt note so that he could read it when he’s getting ready to start his path to adulthood.

You could also start a college fund or have money donated to a charity in your child’s name. There are many alternatives to the traditional gifts. I’ll have to write another post about those in the future

The party went wonderfully! People had a good time eating great food, playing washers in the back yard, and spending time with the little man of the hour. 
“Collect moments, not things,” continues to be the quote by which I live my life. Not just for the planet but for my soul as well. We need to appreciate the true important parts of life and ignore the disposable. 

3 thoughts on “Tips for a Zero Waste Kid’s Birthday Party

  1. Pretty! This was a truly wonderful post. Thank you for your supplied advice. All of these ideas can be helpful if you want to make a memorable birthday party.

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