It’s always wonderful to gather for birthdays, have a play, enjoy lovely food and of course cake. It’s such a memorable time for the kids, friends and family to celebrate. Approaching party time with plastic free and zero waste habits is fun and rewarding.
Here are some zero waste party prep ideas from our lovely zero waste friend Mavournee Georgeson…
FOOD & DRINK
Zero waste food often means getting back to basics and offering simple, whole foods which everyone should appreciate. When shopping for party goods remember your own cloth shopping and produce bags, jars and containers. If in doubt, keep it simple and make more of one thing rather than adding more choices.
Fresh popcorn from kernels is an affordable snack you can make bucketloads of and season yourself. Buy kernels at the bulk store, heat a spoon of coconut oil in a saucepan on the stovetop until melted. Put a layer of kernels just to cover the bottom of the pan, pop the lid on and wait for it to pop! It only takes a few minutes, so listen as it slows down for the last few kernels to pop and pour straight into a big bowl and season with sea salt or cinnamon. Repeat until you have your desired amount. If you have lots leftover send it home with guests or store in airtight jars. (Be mindful with littler kids and popcorn for choking.)
Home made hummus and smashed avocado are easy, loveable vegan dips. Serve with raw veggies and home made crackers. There are lots of easy cracker recipes online like this one but you can cheat by thinly slicing up baguette, drizzling in olive oil with a sprinkle of sea salt and popping in the oven until just golden. This is quick and can be stored in airtight jars or containers until serving.
A basket of sourdough rolls next to the dip and vege plate means people can pop something on the roll if they like or have them plain. You can’t do much with leftover made up sandwiches or rolls but this way you can freeze the leftover bread and use the veg and dip for salads. Remember to purchase fresh bread in your own cloth bag or paper.
We made a pumpkin hummus here with roasted pumpkin, dried chickpeas from the bulk store soaked, rinsed and boiled until soft, unhulled organic tahini, olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, a splash of water and squeeze lemon juice. To save time soak and cook chickpeas* in advance and freeze until you are ready to make the dip fresh.
*To extend zero waste skills reserve the water from cooked chickpeas (called aquafaba) to make vegan meringues.
Home baked treats like Anzac biscuits, carrot or banana muffins and of course the birthday cake! Making a big pile of power balls is a healthy, yummy treat that lots of kids are into. Gather and Feast has lovely recipes, particularly an easy chocolate beetroot cake or Naked Seed Nutrition for treat recipes and other wholesome food.
If you don’t have all the resources to bake at home you could borrow from or bake at a friends house who has all the equipment. If you are time poor or don’t like cooking, order baked goods and pastries plastic free from bakeries.
Beeswax candles are a plastic free, non toxic, alternative for the birthday cake and also look super cute, you can get them here
Big bowls of whole fruit in season like bananas, mandarins or apples are easy to grab and add to the display. Organic produce usually have no plastic stickers and look out for specials on whole boxes of fruit. In Summer slices from whole watermelons are always a winner!
Provide water with lemon slices and cucumber, or fresh juice in bulk (Prodjuice have a great service where you can order bulk cold pressed juice and they’ll even lend you a 10L glass dispenser with a pouring tap for the day). A collection of recycled glass jars are great for filling with juice, use a chalk marker to name each cup! If you’re not partying at home you can ask guests to bring their own water bottle.
Scraps, skins, peels, muffin cases and maybe paper napkins will hopefully be the only waste created, so provide a container to take to compost at the end. Remove any plastic stickers from fruit or veg before serving to avoid digging around for them afterwards in the scraps.
EXTRA Things to consider
This spread is vegetarian, but if you are incorporating meat, cheeses or deli goods like olives, take along your own container when shopping for these items.
Avoid disposables, use what you have at home, borrow from friends, hire or find second hand options for cups, plates and serving ware. Washable cloth napkins are great, but if you don’t have enough or choose paper napkins, Who Gives a Crap paper towel is plastic free.
Thrift stores often have the sweetest vintage and cotton napkins, find a selection of patterns and colours for a fun mix. Embracing zero waste can mean softening the inner perfectionist and the need for everything to match. If you end up with lots, let your friends know you are the keeper of napkins for their next parties too.
Relax the idea of a theme and create the party based on what you already have on hand. If the kids have something like a character they adore perhaps just feature this on the birthday cake.
Reusable paper hanging decorations, cloth or hessian flag bunting and fresh native flowers are good choices. If celebrating at home moving your house plants into arrangements works well. Leafy branches or fallen palm fronds are a textural way to fill space.
Display your food and cake beautifully. Big bowls of fruit or a even couple of clusters of pineapples serve as their own decoration.
Some bunting options are available here
Choose paper bags and fill with bulk store treats. There are loads of choices in bulk for dried fruits, sweet treats, nuts and crackers. A few mini classic home made cookies is also a nice option. These sweet bags have dried banana, dried mango, sultanas, chocolate chips, chocolate frogs and yoghurt frogs. All sourced from bulk stores and the local wholesfoods store.
If you are having larger numbers or it’s not in the budget, consider not offering a party bag, it’s often more than enough to enjoy the food and cake and fun at the party.
Online options like Paperless Post or a Facebook invite are great or even a group text will do. That way you can send changes and updates quickly and easily and paper need not be wasted!
It’s amazing the books, toys and treasures to be found second hand on local buy swap sell sites, gumtree and at thrift stores. There are also lots of ethical stores and brands for new books, clothing and gifts for play and craft. Wrap gifts in the kids paintings or reusable cloth wrap.
Experience gifts are also awesome like a day at the Zoo and can be a good suggestion when the Grandparents ask.
If you feel your kids have more than enough of everything they need perhaps ask for no gifts on the invite, no plastic please, or suggest a second hand gift (often these are the most treasured!)
Keep it simple. A few of the classic games are always fun and usually minimal waste and low preparation. Some ideas sack racing*, musical statues, dancing, face painting**, pin the tail on the whale, limbo and a bean bag toss.
*Purchase and reuse coffee sacks -for Northern Beaches locals, NewLeaf nursery has a big pile for $4 each. They can then double as your compost blanket at home
**If you want to get creative you can make your own face paints. An instructional is available here
Words & Images by Mavournee Georgeson. Follow Mav on Insta for more zero waste tips: @mavournegeorgeson