How to throw a zero-waste birthday party
And be your own Captain Planet
The militant moms on the school Whatsapp group had just issued a diktat of dos and don’ts: no processed sugar, no packaged foods, no single-use plastic, no thermocol decorations. Try telling a four-year-old that he’s about to have a balloon-less, zero-waste birthday party with no icing on his cake without being deemed the worst parent on Earth. You can’t.
So you cave and unleash a Chhota Bheem-themed birthday party — and the wrath of 30 women scorned — upon yourself.
It is close to impossible to earn your “Best Mom/Dad ever” fridge magnet while being environmentally conscious. You can’t cancel return gifts and extravagant birthday decorations without being met with an unreasonably high pitched “I hate you.” At least that’s what we thought until we came across Green Utsav, a Bengaluru-based initiative run by Rishita Sharma which organises zero-waste events. “Throwing a zero-waste party is about making small but significant changes. The thumb rule is to minimise the stuff that can only be used once,” explains Sharma. In just under three years, Green Utsav has organised over 150 events, from kiddie birthday bashes to corporate celebrations. With a little help from her, here’s how you can throw your own zero-waste birthday party.
All-fun, zero-waste birthday party ideas
A creative e-invite that gently persuades guests to RSVP saves you from having to spend the next week eating leftover pav bhaji. You could even set up an online gift registry so that you’re not staring at yet another photo frame/coffee mug/scented candle that smells like Odonil. Look up Canva, Evite, Paperless Post, Smilebox, and Simplytoimpress to design and write your perfect invite. Sharma says, “Instead of buying new gifts, we encourage our clients to BYOB (bring your own board game/book) instead.”
The satisfaction of tearing away wrapping paper is hard to match, but if all we do is rip it apart, there must be smarter alternative? Cloth bags and newspapers are less harmful than the shiny wrapping papers at your local stationery shop. “You can add a personal touch by painting on the cloth bags or newspapers,” adds Sharma.
“Animals often mistake balloon fragments for food and choke while trying to consume them. Many dolphins, whales, and sea turtles die every year after ingesting balloons, which can resemble jellyfish — a regular food source. Even land animals that graze on vegetation can accidentally ingest balloon parts,” reads a report released by PETA. If that doesn’t make you swear off balloon decor, not sure what will. Go for cloth decorations instead of thermocol or plastic. “Outsourcing sustainable decor from rentals is a good idea if you’re unsure where to start,” says Sharma.
The Indian idea of hospitality means you order for 30 people when serving 20. Preparing meals at home and serving them in reusable containers would be the ideal scenario, but if your MasterChef skill set hasn’t kicked in yet, ask caterers to deliver food in reusable boxes or just carry your own containers when collecting food.
“Avoid plastic bottles, paper cups, plastic and styrofoam disposables. Use steel cutlery instead. You can rent them out from different cutlery banks or borrow extra cutlery and crockery from friends or neighbours. If reusable alternatives are not an option then opt for leaf bowls, areca nut plates or bagasse (sugarcane fibre) disposables,” suggests Sharma.
“For large scale social gatherings keep reusable glasses at the water station, and if you’re comfortable, ask guests to bring their own tumblers or steel bottles,” she adds.
“Responsible disposal plays a major role in minimising harmful waste,” Sharma says. We agree, and that’s why investing in a compost bin is a good start to acing an environment-friendly, grown-up party. Get your guests to dump all the food waste into it. “Or into a soil pit if you’re blessed with a patch of green,” she pipes up.
If you’re gearing up to host a kiddie birthday party, stay clear of plastic bags with generic ‘return gifts’. “Since party favours are a norm, most people end up buying small plastic knick-knacks that add to the waste problem,” says Sharma. Gifting a potted plant, used story books, seed pencils will teach kids eco-consciousness early and rank you high on your sustainability quotient in the parents circle.
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