Your first child’s first birthday is a big deal. However, I didn’t want my daughter’s first birthday party to be a big, wasteful affair.
When we started planning Sophie’s first birthday celebrations, we knew one thing for sure – we didn’t want to throw a traditional party.
Firstly, we couldn’t afford to do that (we have a very small house, so we’d need to hire somewhere). Secondly, she wouldn’t remember it. Thirdly, she’s not walking yet – very nearly but not quite yet – so she wouldn’t really get much out of it.
We also didn’t want to overwhelm her, so we decided to keep things simple, relaxed and small.
Though we don’t have a garden, we’re lucky enough to have a nice park just at the bottom of our road. We’ve seen people having kid’s birthday picnics down there and always thought that would be a nice thing to do.
Sophie loves the park – crawling around and exploring on the grass, looking at the trees and watching the dogs run around. We felt a picnic in the park with our immediate families would be perfect.
With that decision made, I set out to make it as eco-friendly as possible: no single-use plastic, little to no food waste, etc.
If I were more organised, I probably would have achieved this. In reality, single-use plastic did make an appearance, in the form of food packaging (I ended up buying a few packs of ready made picnic food).
So it wasn’t a complete success in terms of keeping it eco-friendly, however I am fairly happy with how it turned out.
Taking that particular goal out of the equation, it couldn’t have been any better. Sophie had a blast, as did everyone else – and the weather was fantastic!
What I’m proud of:
I asked our party guests to bring 1 or 2 items of food for everyone to share but to not go crazy, so there wasn’t much food waste (what was left was eaten that evening and the day after).
We minimised single-use plastic by bringing most of the food in reusable containers and using reusable plates, cups and cutlery (there were some disposable plates but they were made from card).
I had a go at making houmous for the first time (something I’ve been meaning to do for ages), along with a mint yoghurt dip, and my husband made guacamole – so no shop-bought dips in plastic tubs.
All cans and bottles (there were quite a lot) were put in the recycling bin and of course we took everything, including litter, away with us.
Sophie’s birthday party outfit was bought second hand (as is almost everything we’ve ever bought for her).
We didn’t buy many gifts for Sophie and out of the 4 things we did buy for her, 2 were second hand and 2 were bought new from a shop whose profits go to charity.
To avoid ending up with unwanted gifts (not that I’m ungrateful) cluttering up our house even more than it already is, we asked for money to put towards swimming lessons and a baby carrier rucksack (which we will buy second hand). Sophie still received a few toys, books, clothes and other things but not a ridiculous number – and most are actually really nice and I think will get used a lot.
We decorated the gazebo with some colourful bunting (it’s plastic but we’ve had it for ages and we’ll have it for as long as we’re alive – or pass it on to someone else to continue using it). I didn’t see the point in doing much else and I definitely wasn’t going to have balloons. For me, spending a nice afternoon with family was what it was all about, not staging it so we could get Instagram-worthy photos (I think we got some of those anyway).
What I’d do differently:
Plan the menu better and make more of it from scratch, so I wouldn’t have to buy food in unnecessary plastic packaging.
Ask people for second hand gifts – this might be a tough one to crack, as I don’t think everyone will want to.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. I let a few things bother me that I shouldn’t have – mainly failing in my attempt to keep the party single-use plastic free but also little things like forgetting to put the batteries in the bubble machine (I use rechargeable batteries for her toys that take AAs and they were in her walker at the time). I was annoyed with myself for not being more organised. It’s not easy when you have to balance your home and work life. I should give myself more credit.
As far as first birthday parties go, I reckon we did pretty well to keep its impact on the environment to a minimum. It wasn’t perfect but then neither am I.
If you have thrown an eco-friendly party (for any age), I’d love to hear how you did it.