Sustainability made simple

11 Eco-Friendly Summer Birthday Party Ideas

summer birthday party ideas
Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / ThorstenF

Birthday parties are so much fun, but they can create a lot of trash — you can change that. Keep it eco-friendly with these summer birthday party ideas.

Birthday parties are a great time to meet up with family and friends and celebrate together. However, waste is easily produced due to the amount of disposable and single-use items used, such as decorations, flatware and silverware, and party favors.

If you want to have an eco-friendly summer birthday party, it’s pretty simple – just rethink some of the less sustainable party elements . Try to eliminate plastic and other non-biodegradable materials (balloons, for example) and use tableware that can be washed and reused. You can also get creative with the activities, and even choose ones that benefit the Earth.

Check out these ideas on how to throw an eco-friendly summer birthday party.

1. Eco-Friendly Fabric Bunting Decorations

Fabric bunting is easy to make.
Fabric bunting is easy to make. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Foxy_)

Instead of buying paper or plastic bunting for your decorations, which break easily and often get thrown away after one use, you can use fabric bunting. It is stronger than paper and plastic bunting and can be washed and used again.

An eco-friendly option is to make your own bunting using old clothes or fabric scraps. Simply cut some triangle shapes from the fabric and sew the seams with a sewing machine. Then attach them to a long piece of cotton tape by sewing across the top of each one.

Alternatively, you can make bunting without using a sewing machine — simply don’t sew the seams of the triangle shapes and then use glue to attach them to the cotton tape.

2. Environmental Art Decorations

Use dried, pressed leaves for decorations.
Use dried, pressed leaves for decorations. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Hans)

Streamers, balloons, and glitter are all designed to be used once and they are usually not biodegradable. But if you feel like your birthday party will not be the same without some decorations to brighten up your home or backyard, there are some eco-friendly things you can use to get yourself in the party mood.

Use fallen leaves to create some hanging decorations. Collect fallen leaves from your yard and gently wash them and then press and dry the leaves. Next, take a long piece of natural twine and some wooden clothespins and peg your leaves at intervals along the twine. You could hang your leaf decoration horizontally like bunting, or cut shorter lengths of twine and hang it vertically, for example from the branches of trees in your yard, if the party is outside.

3. Make Your Own Pinata

Reusing and recycling will make your summer party more eco-friendly. Instead of buying a pinata, you could make your own using a cardboard box. Simply outline your chosen shape (such as a cactus or a slice of watermelon), on one side of a large cardboard box and cut it out using a cutter. Then draw around it on the other side of the box and cut it out, so you have two pieces that are the same shape. Next, cut some long pieces of card, around 10cm wide, and use these to make the sides of the pinata. Fix them in place using masking tape.

Next, you can use homemade, natural starch paint to paint your pinata. Boil a cup of potatoes and then puree them in the blender. Mix in one and a half cups of boiling water. Sieve out any lumps using a fine-mesh sieve, then add pigment ink to make the color of your choice. Make sure you cut a door in the pinata to let the contents fall out. You can even fill them with sustainable treats, like homemade vegan gummy bears  packaged in recycled paper or tissue.

4. Reusable Tableware

Perhaps the most waste produced at birthday parties is from paper plates and plastic cups which get used once and then thrown in the trash. There is an easy way to solve this problem: just use your regular plates and glasses from the kitchen. If you are worried about your flatware getting broken, you can always rent a kitchen set.

On the other hand, you can buy biodegradable kitchen sets, which means less cleaning up. Though it’s still better to use reusable plates and cups, biodegradable options are preferable to single-use plastics or cardboard. Biodegradable flatware is made from a range of materials such as bamboo, palm leaf, wood, or sugar cane (such as this set available on Amazon**).

5. Ditch the Straws

Paper straws are a good alternative to plastic straws.
Paper straws are a good alternative to plastic straws. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Ekologiskt_Skafferi)

Plastic straws are the 6th most common type of trash found in the ocean and they can’t be recycled due to their small size. So plastic straws end up in landfills, or they often find their way into the ocean. This type of pollution affects marine animals and birds, who ingest the plastic, thinking it is food. As their body tries to digest the plastic, harmful chemicals are released which can kill the animal.

So the best solution to this problem is to simply not use drinking straws. However, if you’re having a summer birthday party, drinking straws can be a nice touch — luckily there are some eco-friendly options available made from bamboo, metal, paper, or vegetable fibers like veggie straws, available on Amazon**.

6. Send E-Vites to Your Summer Birthday Party

Rather than sending paper or card invitations, you could simply opt for e-vites. You could design your invitations using a greetings card website, or simply send a message via chat to your friends and family. This will be more eco-friendly than using recycled paper or card invitations.

7. Skip the Party Favors

Homemade, eco-friendly treats are a nice touch.
Homemade, eco-friendly treats are a nice touch. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / mandarinMD)

Party favors came into fashion about twenty years ago. They are small gifts given to guests at the end of a wedding reception or party, such as candy, popcorn, cupcakes, alcohol, or keyrings. All of these things come in non-biodegradable packaging and the items themselves may often end up in the trash as well. So you could just not give favors at the end of your party, and perhaps even donate the money that you would have used on the favors to an environmental organization of your choice.

If you really want to give party favors to your guests, there are a few eco-friendly options such as a small potted succulent plantd for each guest or some homemade, organic treats in compostable paper bags.

8. Make Your Menu Organic, Local and Seasonal

Make your menu vegan for a sustainable fest.
Make your menu vegan for a sustainable fest. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / aheriberto10)

Now for the most important part of your eco-friendly summer birthday party — the food! Plan a menu of your favorite foods: maybe tasty strawberry sandwiches, buffet-style Mexican food or a barbecue (try our vegan BBQ sauces). Try to go vegan to make it extra eco-friendly and make sure any fruit or vegetables that you buy are seasonal and local as often as possible to reduce your carbon footprint.

Finally, consider the packaging that any foods that you buy come in — try to cook things from scratch to reduce waste and buy dry products like rice or pasta from stores where you can bring your own reusable container and refill it in the store. An easy way to do this without creating too much work for yourself is to make the party a potluck, so everyone brings a dish from home.

9. Do a Solar BBQ

Solar powered barbecues reduce your party's carbon footprint.
Solar powered barbecues reduce your party’s carbon footprint. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / RitaE)

Traditional barbecues which use gas or charcoal may be delicious, but they aren’t the best for the environment. Luckily there is a solution to this which will keep your carbon footprint low. Solar barbecue grills capture the sun’s energy and convert it into electricity. They have multiple functions, for example, not only do they barbecue food, but they can also boil, steam or bake it They can reach high temperatures and can even be used on cloudy days. Check out the GoSun sport, available on Amazon**, it is portable so can be used when camping too

10. Have a Summer Birthday Picnic

Solar lights also function as a decoration.
Solar lights also function as a decoration. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / Devolk)

Make the most of the summer weather by having your party in the backyard. You can even encourage guests to bring their own picnic sets and lawn blankets to share. Decorate the backyard with your homemade bunting (see number 1 above) or learn how to make your own DIY bubbles without glycerine, to entertain the kids. Serve finger food so that cutlery doesn’t even have to be used — which means less dishes to deal with later.

If you are expecting your party to last until after sundown you will need to light up the backyard. Try some outdoor solar lights, which will brighten up the yard. There are a variety of styles available such as lanterns, path lights which you stick in the ground, string lights and security lights which are extra bright and waterproof.

11. Compost your Food Waste

Use food waste to make compost.
Use food waste to make compost. (Foto: CC0 / Pixabay / melGreenFR)

Set up a waste sorting area for guests to use during your party. You could have a compost bin for food and biodegradable waste, a recycling bin for any paper and card and a final bin for other landfill-bound waste (but with any luck, it’ll be empty at the end of the party).

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