By Lilian Presti, Naturally Savvy.com
Tribune Media Services
These days, aren't we all trying to be a bit more green? We're trying to recycle more, create less waste, eat natural foods, and walk and cycle more. So why not take it one step further and throw your child a green birthday party?
As conscientious parents we recognize that it is our responsibility to teach our children to do their part to reduce their footprint on the world. What better way than through an event they host that is traditionally very wasteful?
If you and your child are game for the challenge there are many aspects of a party that can be "greened," and in so doing will save the planet from the large mound of garbage that inevitably collects as a result of these annual festivities.
Why not go paper free this year and send out invitations by e-mail? Many online websites abound such as evite.com allow you to invite and track attendance through e-mail.
Another option is simply the old-fashioned approach of phoning up all guests and letting them know they are invited. Not only does this save on paper and cost, it also adds a personal touch to the invitation, and it gives you an opportunity to explain your green theme.
Depending upon your child's age, loot bags may be customary parting gifts. If you want to avoid distributing dollar store trinkets to guests, consider offering an edible or useful gift. Some ideas include recycled coloring books, bee's wax or soy crayons, or natural soaps.
Additionally, you can offer guests a very green gift such as seeds or a sapling that they can plant and watch grow. This will allow them to witness the beauty of life before their very own eyes.
If you want to leave them with something sweet, consider baking some treats yourself and wrapping them up in a natural, non-bleached paper towel, tied with a colored string.
Including take-out food as part of your party is one of the biggest contributors to waste. The packaging, plastic utensils, small packets of condiments, cups, napkins, and plates from the party can create more waste than a family of four produces in more than two weeks.
Instead of take out foods, make your own food, asking close family and friends to help out by bringing their favorite home-cooked dishes.
Plates and cutlery
Though it is more work, opt for real plates and cutlery instead of the disposable variety. It may take more time to clean, but it will send the message that protecting the environment is worth the effort.
If the thought of the cleanup has you stressed, consider using the money you saved on invitations, food, and disposable items to hire a young person in your neighborhood--maybe your babysitter or another eager teenager--for a few hours of help.
On the flipside, if disposable is in fact the route you decide to take, opt for biodegradable cutlery and plates. Many varieties are now available made with materials ranging from cornstarch to potatoes and even grasses. These wonderful inventions break down fully in composts or landfills, removing all green guilt.
Rather than paying for a party at a theme park or movie theatre, think about activities that don't require energy and water resources. If the party is during summer months, head to a park in your neighborhood after mealtime and games. Or if you have a yard, the party can take place there.
Birthday gifts are another area that can go green. With wrapping paper, excess packaging, and inappropriate gifts, extra garbage is sure to be created. To avoid all these waste pitfalls, you can request that guests participate in a donation of a reasonable amount of money--perhaps $10--towards a larger group gift in lieu of a bunch of individual gifts. This way, your child gets something that they want and guests are spared the hassle of shopping for a gift.
Another great option exists at www.echoage.com, where parents can invite guests to contribute whatever dollar amount they want to the pot. Half of the money is used to buy your child a gift of their choosing, the other half is donated to a charity of your child's choice. Not only can everyone watch the charitable funds grow online, but the exercise also demonstrates the values of contribution and sharing.
In recent years, parents around the country have continued to raise the bar on birthday parties, spawning an entire industry that now revolves around it and leaving many other parents to feel as though simple, home-based parties are declasse. Yet, in the spirit of being green, parties that "keep it real" earn top points.
Being green doesn't have to be difficult. In fact, in many ways it makes life simpler and refocuses us on our priorities. And best of all, by taking the time to engage in green activities we can demonstrate a respect for the Earth's resources to our children, hopefully fostering their own appreciation for the world they live in.
Lilian Presti is a Registered Nutritional Consultant and Naturally Savvy's pregnancy and pediatric nutritionist. NaturallySavvy.com is a website that educates people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com.
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