Birthday Celebrations: Creating Real Memories and Traditions While Minimizing Your Environmental Impact: Part 1

This is a post I'm super excited about because we love birthdays in our house and we really love making them feel special. I know it's not everybody's thing but the beauty of birthdays is that they don't need to be wildly over the top or exhausting in order to be memorable and they definitely don't need to be a major blow to the environment either.

Here's some things to think about as you celebrate your loved ones throughout the year. 

A plush green dragon, plush snoopy, and well loved plush teddy bear wearing handmade party hats sitting behind fabric wrapped birthday presents


Forgo: Traditional Giftwrap

Wrapping paper is meant to be torn to bits and tossed and since a lot of gift wrap is made with mylar which decomposes down into microplastics it ends up in our waterways and in turn in a lot of our wildlife (and us).

What To Try Instead:

When it comes to wrapping there's a lot of great options out there... tea towels, hand dyed fabrics, old paper bags you may having lying around, book jackets from kids books, fabric napkins for tiny things, pillowcases or tablecloths for things that are extra big or fabric that's been made with the intention of being used for giftwrap like this from One Canoe Two. This is also a great time to take a look through your kids toys and see if there's anything fun you may be able to attach on to the gift.

Constellation fabric gift wrap with Shellington from Octonauts tucked in and another photo featuring hand dyed pink fabric wrapped around a gift with a hand painted woodslice featuring mountains and wildflowers as a present topper   


Forgo: Store Bought Birthday Cards

What To Try Instead:

Make your own photo books! Grab some watercolor paper and paint a cover, then fill it with printed photos from the year (Canva is a great place to create your pages for free and it's super user friendly). The fun thing about creating your own photo book is that you can add a homemade birthday card and when you put it together it can end up right in the middle of the book so they become little treasures that we can hold onto forever.

If you're short on time choosing a book you know your loved one will adore and writing on the inside cover is a great choice too. 

Forgo: Traditional Cake Toppers That Will Go Straight To The Trash

What To Try Instead:

The best cake toppers are toys, fresh fruit and florals. Every time. They never even make it to the trash. When it comes to toys, my kids get a kick out of seeing one of their favorites on top their cake and then it goes back to being played with. Bonus, we don't have to run out and buy anything new.

three images of cakes decorated with fresh fruit

Forgo: Disposable Plates and Napkins

The reality is that disposable paper plates and napkins are terrible for the environment. They take an enormous amount of water to produce (as much as 8 gallons a plate according to and can't be recycled. 

What To Try Instead:

Build up a collection over time of some vintage dishes, even if it's just some special salad plates to have cake on, a little something special will go a long way to make your celebration memorable. If you tend to celebrate birthdays with a lot of friends and family over having a stash of reusable bamboo plates on hand is another great option. They tend to be made to stack well and take up very little space while also being supremely durable. Check out what United By Blue has to offer if you're in the market.

a felt birthday banner with fabric wrapped gifts behind topped with toys and a plush snoopy in a party hat

Forgo: Disposable Party Decorations

Traditional party decorations are meant to go from celebration fun straight to the landfill and aside from the money spent many of those decorations will be around long after you're gone if ya know what I mean. 

What To Try Instead:

This is one of the most fun places to start I think because it allows for a lot of creativity and and lends itself well to collaborating with your kids. There's also something really special about pulling out birthday decorations made over the years that hold real memories. 

Felt birthday banners and birthday crowns are a terrific place to begin. You can DIY them on your own or check Etsy. 

This is also a great opportunity to peruse the garden and take clippings from your yard. Greenery doesn't have to be used exclusively at Christmas and fresh greenery is a surefire way to make a great impact (Bonus: It's a great opportunity to make your kids apart of the preparation and learn about the native plants in your area).

For Juner's first birthday I made up party hats by wrapping paper around cardboard cones to make them more durable and 4 years later they are still like new and the kids get a kick out of them. We also took some old plastic bottles and turned them into birthday lanterns by covering them with kite paper and dyed coffee filters we had laying around.

Another way to skip the traditional party décor is to come up with your own birthday traditions. In our house we do a birthday tree (I'm planning to write a special post about it in the next few weeks). Essentially we love it because it's personal to our kids and it adds an enormous amount of magic and excitement at their birthdays.

Juner decorating her birthday tree with handmade ornaments that represent little things about her throughout the year and Juner standing in front of her birthday tree in an astronaut helmet with her tree all decorated

Forgo: All The Excessive Gift Giving

What To Try Instead:

Something to read
Something to wear
Something they need
Something for fun

and mayyyybe some kind of activity, going for a hike, taking a little day trip, going to a fun gym or playground you don't make it to often... or maybe starting a garden together.

It doesn't take much to make someone feel special and loved on their day. To create something your kids will remember when they are all grown up. To have little bits and pieces from your celebrations be things that they want passed down to them one day. The traditions and little rituals you create are what make it special for everyone. 

More coming soon,

Juner and Bec

P.S. This is just the first of a few birthday posts in the works, sign up for emails to stay up to date 

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