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There's nothing more fun than spoiling your kids on their birthday.
As the father of two little angels myself, I certainly get a thrill watching their eyes sparkle in the light of birthday candles and scrunch closed as they make a wish. Not to mention watching them jump around at the prospect of opening their presents.
Birthdays are celebrations for parents, too. They offer a chance to reflect on how our lives have changed over the year. Why shouldn't we treat the family and bend the usual rules a little?
These days, however, more parents are wondering if throwing a great birthday bash means you have to put aside your hard-won green principles.
It's certainly true that the thrill of a party does seem to fade when you spend the rest of the afternoon clearing up mounds of plastic packaging.
But no six-year-old wants a sackcloth- and lentil- themed party. Is it possible to have an eco-friendly birthday party that's still colourful, exciting and memorable? The answer is a definitive yes.
Organising an eco-friendly birthday party is probably going to involve more than a quick trip to the supermarket.
But harried parents needn't fret. With a modicum of forward planning and a bit of ingenuity, it won't be arduous.
Probably the most important thing is to keep your basic principles in mind.
The principles behind eco-parties are the same as those that underpin all green living—we want as much as possible to be sustainable, local and greenhouse-friendly.
For example, if you're serving food look opt for re-usable crockery and cutlery that can be washed and put away for another occasion. If this isn't possible, consider palm leaf plates, which are biodegradable, and involve no chemicals or synthetics during manufacturing.
Here are some tips to help get you started.
Spreading the word
If you're going to have a birthday party, you need some way of inviting guests. Paper manufacturing uses large amounts of water and energy and creates pollution that you can help limit by going electronic rather than traditional with your invitations.
To cut down on paper waste, send guests an email or text message to make sure they all know the time and place for the festivities.
E-vites, or electronic invitations are all the rage these days and they essentially do the same thing as the paper version.Instead of snail mail, you send a template or custom invitation to your guests' email accounts. Guests can respond by electronically checking their names off the list and can even see who else plans to attend.
If emails aren't your thing, though, consider opting for recycled paper.
There are plenty of places to source eco-friendly invitations that are perfect for handing out around the school playground.