A Reason For Non-Consumers To Celebrate

by Katy on August 12, 2008 · 9 comments



My niece turns four this weekend and I am going to be hosting her par-tay right here at the Non-Consumer International headquarters. (Okay. . . my house.)

It’s going to be spectacular.

Will I be renting a bouncy house with farm animals?

Not bloody likely.

It’s going to be cheap, green and fun, fun, fun. Oh yeah, and cheap.

Here is how it’s all coming down:

Evites: Free online custom invitations. You can use one of their cute templates or download your own images. Yeah, they have advertisements, (My son’s birthday invites memorably had a Victoria’s Secret ad) but the price is right. No postage, no actual material goods used and an excellent last-minute resource for the procrastinator in all of us. 

Party Favors: My sister bought bags of new with tag Beanie Babies at Goodwill that amounted to about ten cents apiece. Each child will get to pick one out as their take-home favor. (I actually would like to start a no party favors movement, but that’s a different blog entry.) 

Pinata: A Dora The Explorer pinata bought at Goodwill for $3. Could be made from scratch. (Side note. A friend who is a teacher gave me a pinata tip years ago. Divide the goodies into plastic bags. Then when it breaks open, everyone gets an equal amount and there should be no tears.)

Cake and Drinks: We’ll make cupcakes from scratch. (Extra points for composting the paper liners!) Drinks will be lemonade made from concentrate served in Fiesta Ware mugs.

Dishes, Cutlery, Napkins, Tablecloth: All real. Nothing disposable. (I hate paper plates with a passion so white-hot it dare not speak its name.)

Presents: All gifts from Aunt Katy are second hand. I simply keep an eye out all year, and as a result, they’re rockin’ cool. (She’s the only girl of her generation of cousins and is fun to buy for, even if it’s only at Goodwill.)

Wrapping Paper: Gift bags. It’s all about the gift bags. Endlessly reusable, I love, love, love them. (I did an all gift bag Christmas last year, and it was so wonderful to not have the depressing crumpled mess of wrapping paper to deal with on the 26th.)

Entertainment: There is a great playground a block from the house. We’ll walk over for a few organized games, but mostly I expect general mayhem.

Whew. . .  Living the simple life sure sounds exhausting. 

Many just go the route of renting out a birthday location, but I consider that to be giving up.

I know people who have requested no gifts for their kids’ parties, but I just don’t have the heart for this. Maybe some day, but I’m not there yet.

All of these ideas can be tweaked, and probably improved upon.

Just because you’re having a kids’ birthday party doesn’t mean you have to let go of all your ethics of green living and frugality.

How have you addressed the birthday party issue in your family? tell us about it in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

LeAnna August 12, 2008 at 7:39 am

That pinata tip is a GREAT one. Sounds like a pretty great party! My little one is only 1, so for her birthday, we had a potluck picnic in the park. I did rent the shelter so we’d have our claim staked, but I maybe wouldn’t have had to…didn’t have a backup plan, though, if they were all occupied (which they were, that day, including us.)

I drew an invitation and photocopied it three to a page. Said folks could bring whatever they wanted for food and fun, but no gifts (because she’s ONE, she wouldn’t know the difference, and we have more toys than I even want to THINK about in that playroom!) We did end up getting a used board book, which I could appreciate. All in all, not bad, but I know they just get harder from here on out, if the goal is ethical celebration. 😛


Alison August 12, 2008 at 11:03 am

I’m curious how you handle birthday gifts throughout the year — especially for kids’ classmates and others who aren’t necessarily aware of the compact. I was comfortable doing this for my kids when they were young (e.g. giving recycled toys for Christmas), but feel like it’s tougher now…


mb murphy August 12, 2008 at 12:50 pm

I did a ‘No gift” party for my daughter when she turned 8. We had guests bring dog or cat food for the local animal shelter. Sarah got a real kick out of lugging in all the food she had collected from her party. They even printed her picture on their newsletter. It turned out to be, dare I say, better than presents!


Jo August 12, 2008 at 9:21 pm

Speaking of party favours, my daughter’s best friend sent home jonquil bulbs in beautifully decorated brown paper bags on her autumnal eighth birthday. She and my daughter are now 13, and in the last week, here in our southern Australian Spring, those jonquils bloomed in our front yard for the fifth time. Now that is a party favour that keeps on giving. For my 3 year old daughter’s birthday in September (also Spring) I will be distributing some of the hundreds of self-sown annuals that pop up in my garden each year, potted up in some of the hundreds of plastic plant pots under our house, fetchingly decorated with ribbons and raffia. We’ll see how that goes down. (possibly, in a couple of years’ time, there will be some irate parents whose front gardens are overrun with self-sown forget-me-nots, love-in-a-mist, valerian, calendula…)


Christy August 13, 2008 at 8:54 am

I have done a “no gift” party for a 7 year old and a 10 year old. The 7 year old asked for book donations for her favorite library and my 10 year old asked for food donations for a local pet shelter. My 7 year old felt great dropping off her donation and loves to search for books that she donated. My 10 year old almost broke into tears when she delivered the donations to the shelter because the shelter workers expressed such an appreciation for what she did. My kids both learned that giving is really better than receiving. As for party favors, my 7 year old gave away flower seeds, clay pots, and paper bags of dirt tied with raffia. I love the bulb idea!


Heather August 13, 2008 at 9:01 am

We celebrated my son’s 4th birthday two weeks ago. We did a kitchen food theme birthday – I got the idea from Family fun (http://familyfun.go.com/parties/birthday/feature/famf0303_cookingparty/famf0303_cookingparty.html).

We asked his friends not to bring birthday presents, but instead bring food for our local food shelf. The kids had so much fun stacking the cans and boxes. They built towers and castles and then knocked them down.

I made chefs hats from tissue paper and poster board. The kids decorated an apron, which they were able to take home.

Then the kids made their own lasgana for dinner. I had all the ingredients on the table and they scooped what they wanted into small reuseable bread tins.

It was a great party without all the unneeded toys!


Linda August 13, 2008 at 2:59 pm

We don’t have birthday party every year for my 6 years old daughter. It’s is also a great way to be non-consumers.


Alexis August 13, 2008 at 11:22 pm

At the end of September, we will officially inaugurate birthday party tradition with my son’s 2nd birthday. (Last year was just a family luncheon since he didn’t know the difference.) You offer some helpful perspective. I don’t want to get caught up in the pressure of over-the-top parties. We were thinking:
homemade cake (maybe cupcakes-they’re easier t0 serve)
homemade lemonade

The cloth tablecloth, I can do, but then here’s where it gets tricky. If we’re at a public park with toddlers, I can’t see us walking around with cutlery and real plates, (we don’t have any plastic or fiestaware ones) and I’d really like to keep all my cloth napkins. I suppose we could buy a set of real “partyware” at goodwill and reuse it each year.

I was debating the party favor idea. I’d never even considered it before, but then we’d attended a few parties and I realized this was de rigeur. Is it based on some sort of idea of fair exchange, like you need to somehow compensate the guests for bringing gifts, and cake and lemonade aren’t enough? Is it always expected? Will I get blacklisted from all future parties if I don’t give away party favors?

As for pinatas, I have a personal peeve against encouraging small children to bash a likeness of an animal or person to smithereens, so that’s off the table from the get-go.


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