Almost Zero Waste Children’s Birthday Party

Our youngest turned four last week and he asked for a party at home with friends. We usually give the children a choice between a family day out or a small tea party with friends at home. Our son chose a party with friends and I was determined to keep it as zero waste as possible, reckoning on having to make a few compromises of course.

A week or so before, we handmade some invitations at home. In the past, if I’ve had a phone number or social media contact for each parent, I haven’t bothered with invitations at all, but this time I didn’t even know two of the preschool friends that he’d asked to invite, so some sort of invitation was necessary. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of these because they contained children’s names and our contact details.

Some unused books and toys we repurposed for pass the parcel and party game prizes. We didn’t actually use all these in the end.

The day before we decluttered the children’s rooms and in the process found some unread, as new books and small toys that hadn’t been played with. We decided to use these for party game prizes and for pass the parcel. These were duly wrapped in newspaper, which then went back in the fire basket after use. Similarly we didn’t do party bags, instead we gave each child a balloon, a slice of cake wrapped in greaseproof paper and a build-it-yourself toy aeroplane. The aeroplanes were made of styrofoam unfortunately, about as nasty as it gets in terms of waste seeing as it never breaks down in landfill, but were packaged in paper. These and the balloons were the only things my son asked to have for his birthday party, so I was happy to make a compromise here.

The party food consisted of ham and cheese filled bread buns, cucumber and carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, apples, plums, bananas and kiwi fruit, crisps, fairy cakes and cheese stars with ice cream and cookies for pudding. We made the fairy cakes and cheese stars ourselves. The cookies and bread buns were bought in our own bags. The fruit and vegetables were bought loose, with the exception of the cherry tomatoes, which came in a plastic tub, and the cucumber, which came wrapped (why do they wrap cucumber?). The crisps, ham and cheese all unfortunately came in plastic, however the cheese packaging will be reused for cat litter and the large crisp bags were reused as rubbish bags in our small kitchen bin. The ice cream was in a tub, which will be reused for freezing leftovers or storing food.


The birthday cake was homemade to strict instructions from my son who asked for ‘a chocolate cake with chocolate icing, four candles, chocolate buttons and a smiley face on top’. The sweets for decorating naturally came in plastic bags, but I can live with that. Other decorations included a homemade banner by my youngest daughter, some daffodils and a lovely cloth tablecloth that was a Christmas present I’d been saving for spring. Plates and cups were from the cupboard and we didn’t bother with napkins. We saved any giftwrap that wasn’t torn for reusing and the rest will be used for packaging anything we sell online.

After the birthday tea, our eldest daughter performed a short magic show that she’s been working on and then we did a bit of face painting for the children who were interested. All in all, I think we did pretty well throwing an almost zero waste birthday tea party. Our son had an amazing time and all our guests seemed to have fun too, big and small, and that is the main thing.

What has been your favourite birthday party that you’ve hosted or been to? How do you keep a check on waste for parties at home?




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