Eco-Friendly Party Options (Hint: Experiences & Wish Lists Are the Way to Go!)

When it comes to birthdays, choosing eco-friendly options like recycling programs or experience gifts can have a long-lasting, positive impact both psychologically and environmentally.

We live in a small town, so my daughter’s school encourages inviting the whole class to birthday parties because it fosters a sense of community and togetherness. So, when it was time for her third birthday, we did just that; we invited 22 students plus parents to join us. The party was a little crazy with so many toddlers running around (and my daughter mostly hiding because she was overwhelmed by all the attention), but everyone was so kind to spend their Saturday afternoon with us, and everyone brought a gift. 

When the party was over I was shocked by the amount of trash one toddler party could create, and the majority of it was wrapping paper. Then, when we got home, my daughter started opening the toys, which generated more heaps of trash from all the toy packaging. Not to mention, the toys themselves. My daughter doesn’t really play with dolls, but she received several, so now we have toys sitting around collecting dust, and she won’t play with any of them. The event left me feeling torn– of course I felt joy over the generosity of our friends and family, but I also felt awful knowing we were responsible for contributing to a growing waste problem. I was determined to do better for her next party, but how?

The Research

Each year 5 billion pounds of returned goods end up in landfills, and 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped into the oceans.

Researching toy waste uncovered some astonishing facts according to the websites The World Counts and Retail Dive. The toy industry uses more plastic than any other industry; for every $1 million in revenues, the toy industry uses 40 tons of plastic. This year (2022) the US spent $63+ billion dollars on toys, and 90% of toys are made of plastic. Plastic contains harmful and hormone disrupting chemicals hazardous to children. In 2022 8+ million tons of plastic waste was dumped in the oceans. And the production of toys has been linked to sweatshops and child labor. Over the holidays, 45% of gifts get returned, and while some of the gifts end up back on store shelves, 5 billion pounds of returned gifts end up in landfills.

Solutions for Busy Parents

Fortunately, when it comes to toys, more and more eco-friendly options are becoming available. Many companies are beginning to offer recycling programs or use toys made from sustainable or recycled raw materials. In 2018, Lego, launched its first sustainable Lego bricks made from plant-based plastic sourced from sugarcane, and they will begin phasing out single use plastic packaging by 2025. The Mattell Playback program aims to keep toys in play and out of landfills, LeapFrog Electronic Waste mail-back program recycles LeapPad products, and L.O.L Surprise! partnered with Terracycle to offer a free recycling program for products, accessories, and packaging. Places like Toybrary in Austin have a toy lending library that lets you check out and return toys, making it a very eco-friendly way for kids to enjoy new toys. Toybrary offers different membership options, letting kids borrow clean, new toys while you save space and money. For packaging or wrapping paper waste, Terracycle has Zero Waste Boxes available for purchase that you can put out at your next party. All you have to do is find the box you need, fill it up, and return it with the prepaid shipping label. They take care of the rest! Instead of filling trash bags with wrapping paper and packaging, fill up a Terracycle Zero Waste Box!

Alternatives to Physical Gifts

Lots of parents are tired of all the stuff, so they’re choosing experiences instead. 

A 2014 article in The Atlantic reported on the behavioral economics of buying experiences rather than things. In fact the journal Psychological Science revealed research showing we gain more happiness and longer-lasting happiness when we spend money on experiences. There are benefits to fewer toys too. A 2017 article in Psychology Today cited a university study that suggested kids with more toys have a reduction in quality play. In other words, kids with fewer toys have more imaginative and creative play. So skip the toys and opt for experiences instead.

“Gift recipients are more appreciative of gifts they explicitly request than those they do not.” 

That’s according to a handful of different research studies, and reported in The Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. One way to avoid unwanted gifts is to use a gift registry or wish list. Over 70% of moms surveyed by Partydip said they loved gift registries for kids because it takes the guesswork out of gift buying. With Partydip you can create a wish list registry full of gift ideas, including toys and experiences! You can include a link to your wish list with your digital invite, or provide a link to your wish list by text or email if someone asks for gift ideas. When you share your wish list, your guests can quickly and easily shop directly from your registry, making gifting a breeze for you and your guests. 

Lessons Learned

We’re entering into a much more eco-friendly time for parties and gifts. 

Here’s what I learned and how I plan to make next year’s birthday party much more eco-friendly: Toy companies are getting on board with the circular economy; they’re offering recycling programs, plus safer, greener products for kids. With Partydip, parents have the ability to choose eco-friendly decor and use Terracycle's Zero Waste Boxes for party waste. Smart parents and their kids are also creating wish lists and sending them with their paperless digital party invitations because kids are happier with the gifts they personally pick out, and those gifts are less likely to end up in the landfill. Finally, asking for experiences instead of things leads to more happiness because you’re creating memories, and those memories don’t end up in the garbage; so make sure you include a few experiences on your Partydip wish lists.

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published