Let me start by saying that I am not here to preach. Often I see eco-living articles and ultimately end up feeling guilty that I’m not doing enough. Now more than ever, life is busy and stressful and full of anxiety, so worrying about the environment and the future of the planet can feel more than a little overwhelming.
Our mission at Little Kits – a new Tring-based business providing children’s party decor for hire – is two-fold. Firstly, we aim to reduce the stress and time that party planning takes for busy parents. Secondly, we want to make it easier for you to “do your bit” to be kinder to the environment. Small changes that mean your party doesn’t produce bin bags full of waste that’ll spend a few hundred years languishing in landfill.
Our children have just been through one of the hardest years of their little lives, so I’m also not here to strip the joy from their birthday parties at a time when they need it most. You don’t have to whisk the kids to a wholesome woodland and get them planting tree seedlings to have a party that’s more eco-conscious (unless of course that’s what they want).
You can still have the fun and the colour and the cake and the superhero/dinosaur/unicorn/fairy (*delete where appropriate) theme that they want, without making the environmentally-friendly part the main focus. In fact, the kids needn’t even know it’s a “greener” party if you don’t want to make it a thing. Here’s how…
Switch to paperless invitations
We’ve all sent an eager child into school clutching a handful of party invitations in the blind hope that they might actually end up in the hands of the parents they’re destined for. We’ve also been that parent who has lost the sacred bit of paper that by some miracle made it home, only to disappear into the black hole of the kitchen bits and bobs drawer. Cue awkward messages on the school WhatsApp all-round.
Digital invitations cut out the unreliable middle people and the parental anxiety in one fell swoop, as well as being an eco-friendly option. A simple text message or email is enough to give date, time, venue and any instructions. There are various design apps available if you want to get more creative, or if you haven’t got time for that (who has?!), Little Kits offers paperless, personalised invitations to match each of our six themes, which can be sent via email, text or WhatsApp. Easy on you and the environment!
Ditch the throwaway decorations
Decorations can really make a birthday party feel extra special – particularly when said party is taking place in the homes we’ve been locked down in for the best part of 12 months. You want to make it look festive and different to the norm, but how can you do that in an eco-friendly way? As a general rule, avoid foil, plastic, latex, glossy or coated paper and anything with mixed materials as these cannot be recycled.
And yes, that does include balloons. I know, I know, kids love them and they’re an easy win. I’m certainly no saint when it comes to my history of balloon-use. A giant helium-filled number or a floor full of balloons to burst is always met with pure delight, but the fact is they wreak havoc in the environment. Even “biodegradable” latex balloons can take years to breakdown and that’s if they don’t get caught in the stomach of an unsuspecting sea bird beforehand. But I said I wasn’t here to preach, so I’ll just leave that thought there!
There are ways to make a party pretty without using disposable, and often tacky, decorations. Fabric or paper bunting, streamers and garlands that can be reused or recycled can look really effective and much more stylish. If you don’t want to clutter up your home, or if your child wants a specific theme and you think you won’t get much re-use out of the decs, you can hire in the complete theme from Little Kits. Our party decor kits come with everything you need to create a beautiful party, including backdrops, Happy Birthday bunting, themed bunting and decorative table dressings and props. Everything is collected after the party for another family to enjoy, leaving you free of clutter and waste.
Choose reusable over disposable tableware
Nobody wants to present their best bone china to a bunch of heavy-handed six-year-olds and it’s so easy to order a pack of cheap, throwaway plates from Amazon. I get it because I’ve done it! But I’ve also experienced that niggling feeling of shame when sweeping a tableful of barely-used novelty plates into the bin.
I think we’re all aware these days that one-use plastic is a no-go, but in actual fact paper plates aren’t much better. Recyclable plates can’t actually be recycled if they are covered in food (go figure!) and lots of paper cups are laminated to stop leakage, again rendering them unsuitable for recycling. Compostable plates are the best of the disposable bunch, if of course you actually make the effort to compost them.
For the most environmentally-friendly approach to parties, the key is the simple switch from disposable to reusable. Whether that’s using crockery you already have, borrowing a mish-mash from friends and family to make up numbers or hiring in for the event. Little Kits packages not only include long-lasting, reusable bamboo or plant-based plates, cups and bowls, but also all the other tableware you’ll need to present the party food, curated by us to match your chosen theme with style. Hire it, enjoy it and return it, producing absolutely zero waste.
Cater to your numbers
How many times have you slaved over a chopping board, churning out sandwiches that are left curling at the corners come the end of the party? We’re probably all guilty of over-catering, worrying that there won’t be enough to satisfy the little vultures circling the buffet table. Only make what you need. If you have 10 children, one sandwich each is enough. Don’t offer five varieties of crisps or order a cake that feeds 50 if you don’t need to. Avoid individual drinks with excess packaging and just make a big jug of squash.
Keep it simple, cater to your numbers and you’ll easily avoid too much waste. Everyday foods can be presented in a creative way to make them more interesting to the kids without you reaching peak stress levels before the party has even begun. You’ll be surprised how appealing a plain cheese sandwich is when cut into the shape of Batman’s head, or how a bag of humble Walkers Bugles is wolfed down when presented as T-Rex Teeth.
In every Little Kits party decor package we include a free guide to quick, easy and eye-catching party food to match the given theme. Nothing is overly complicated, we just get creative with basic foods (this is sometimes as simple as giving them a quirky name), making it fun for the kids but also ensuring you only make what they’re actually going to eat. We also include the relevant sandwich cutter in every kit, as well as reusable food labels.
Pick your party games wisely
Organised fun is some people’s worst nightmare and you might prefer to freestyle it and let the kids run wild, but if you do want to play games there are plenty of traditional ones that don’t need props and therefore avoid waste. Don’t give out plastic toys as prizes and if you opt to do Pass the Parcel, wrap the layers in old magazines or brown paper rather than glittery gift wrap that can’t be recycled.
Use garden games you already have or create a scavenger hunt to keep the kids busy. At Little Kits, we offer an add-on party game package that includes three classic games to match each theme that can be hired, then returned after the party. As with everything else, the emphasis is on recycle or re-use – and where possible, avoid giving yourself extra work!
Banish party bag tat
There isn’t a parent in the land that doesn’t loath party bag tat. Sticky yellow men and bouncy balls, tiny bottles of bubbles and obscure superhero figurines – all of which hang around the house before going in the bin and, ultimately, landfill.
The fact is, you could probably do away with the party favours completely, after all you have just fed, watered and entertained the little darlings for two probably quite hair-pulling hours, but that might feel a bit mean. I’m also not going to suggest sending them home with just a packet of seeds either, because you want your kid to keep their friends (joke!), but there is a middle ground.
Ditch the cheap plastic bits and annoying bobs and opt for something useful and keepable. Books or games are a lovely alternative, and with a slice of birthday cake thrown in they are more than enough. At Little Kits, we offer two party favour options depending on budget. Little Kits Create are pre-packaged craft activities in keeping with the party theme, while Little Kits Treats are small, reusable canvas pouches filled with sweets. A lovely, tat-free alternative to the usual plastic-filled goody bags.
So, there you have it – six steps to achieving a low-waste children’s party that is fun-filled, super-stylish and low-stress. Happy Partying!!
Beth Roberts is co-founder of Little Kits, a Tring-based business that supplies complete children’s party theme kits for hire across Herts, Beds & Bucks. Lovingly handcrafted and curated to remove the stress of party planning for busy parents. Everything is reusable and nothing is wasted, so it’s kind to the environment too. Create a beautiful party to be proud of in no time.
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