Green Tips: Birthday Parties

Green Tips | October 12, 2019

Birthday parties are a great opportunity to celebrate another year with family and friends, but they can also generate a lot of waste. Follow our tips to “green” your next birthday party!


Paper and paperboard contribute 68.1 million tons of waste to landfills nationwide, the largest percentage of municipal waste in the United States. Instead of paper invitations for your next party, try sending an email invite, or consider services such as evite or Paperless Post to avoid using paper invitations. If you decide to use paper invitations, use invitations made from recycled paper, or reuse paper already laying around the house.

Party Supplies

Many parties rely on single-use, non-biodegradable items such as plastic plates, forks, spoons, and knives. Over 30 million tons of plastic products are produced in the United States yearly and 91% of that is never recycled.  It is estimated that by mid-century, plastic in our oceans will outweigh sea life.

There are several good workarounds for avoiding this waste. Try using durable and reusable flatware and plates if your party is at home. If you are having a party at a destination, let the destination know you will be providing your own materials and bring them home later to wash. When using a dishwasher, run the dishwasher on a full load. Another option is to buy disposable plates and utensils that are biodegradable, or able to break down in the environment. These may be made of palm leaves, bamboo, wood, or corn starch plastics

For party decorations, avoid plastic streamers and balloons, which end up in the waste stream and can damage marine life. Instead, make party hats and decorations out of recycled paper or found items. Creating your own decorations can be a fun craft to incorporate as a party activity.

Goody Bags

Goody bags are often a source of waste at parties. They may contain non-biodegradable plastic items, such as plastic toys, that can amuse the partygoers momentarily but are quickly thrown out. 

In order to reduce this waste, try a handmade crafting activity at your party that children can do themselves, such as fingerpainting. Click here for an environmentally friendly-finger paint recipe. Another project could be built using bendy-yarn. For a homemade bendy-yarn recipe click here. Several sites such as offer a large variety of craft projects. 

Or send attendees home with something they can use long-term, such as native plant seeds or reusable water bottles. If you do decide to have a goody bag, use a paper or cloth bag.


Children’s toys are also often made of plastic. Fortunately, there are some very good ways to avoid receiving unwanted plastic gifts:

  • Ask for gift certificates to your favorite stores.
  • Have a swap-party in which each child brings a gently-used book to contribute. 
  • Partygoers could be asked to make a contribution to a charity instead of a gift.
  • Give and ask for experiences rather than material items. 

Food and Drinks

New Yorkers produce 3.9 million tons of food waste every year. To reduce this waste at your next birthday party, try these simple tips:

  • Make the cake yourself from local ingredients. This will also avoid excess packaging. 
  • Avoid single-use juice boxes water or soda cans and have large pitchers of beverages instead.
  • If you decide to get your party catered, support your local businesses!
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