Waste Free

Can you have an eco-friendly birthday?

Apologies from me, I was supposed to post this yesterday but I was busy travelling home after a little break in Devon. That just means you get two posts today! This guest post was written by the lovely Gemma from @Gem_Eco_Arky. There are some really awesome eco-friendly birthday ideas in this post so definitely check this out. Especially, if you are like me and have a birthday coming up!

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I definitely think so.

September begins a busy season of birthdays within our family and friends network, which made me think about whether it is possible to have an eco-friendly birthday. Birthdays vary in importance for people and so the level of celebration may be different. There can be several considerations that need to be made for birthdays to make them more eco-friendly, but I do think you can make more sustainable choices and still have great celebrations.

Cards and Wrapping

  • Choose cards made with FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) certified paper either new or recycled. This will mean the card is made from 100% recycled fibres or responsibly sourced new pulp. You may also find cards made from a combination of the two.
  • Avoid glittery cards. Glitter is essentially microplastics which can easily make their way into the environment when they are sent to landfill.
  • Handmade cards are another great option (either making them yourself or sourcing from a small business). By making cards yourself you can be sure of the materials that are used, you may even be able to reuse old birthday cards.
  • A final card option could be an electronic one, this could work well for family and friends that live further away.
  • Brown paper is one option for wrapping. It can be decorated to make it look more interesting using ribbon and other types of recyclable decorations. You can also get paper tape to seal the gifts.
  • If you’re feeling more creative, other types of paper can be used. Interesting options include old maps, sheet music or newspaper.
  • Fabric can provide a great material for wrapping gifts. Japanese Furoshiki is the art of wrapping using a square piece of fabric.
Handmade card


  • One way to reduce waste when it comes to gifting would be to buy less.
  • Instead of giving a physical gift you might like to consider giving an experience or a day out. There are so many different options for these now and you are sure to be able to find an experience for anyone.
  • A slightly different take on giving a gift could be to pledge to do something nice for someone. What you offer depends on the recipient.
  • When giving gifts you hope the gift will be enjoyed and wanted. Asking people what they would like, or need can be one way to do this. Online wish lists can be an easy way for people to share their ideas.
  • If you decide you want to buy a physical gift for someone you can make careful choices of more sustainable items. There are so many wonderful local businesses these days, this offers you the chance to not only choose sustainable gifts but to support the local economy rather than big business. Many of these items will be handmade and could possibly be more unique and special.
A gift of slippers made from recycled materials


  • Go with reusable decorations. Birthday bunting and banners are great for reusing if carefully packed and stored away. There are some great companies out there offering these types of products. They can be a little costly to begin with but will last a little while, balancing out the cost in the long run.
  • Make your own. In doing this they can be designed to fit whatever the theme or colour scheme of the party. They could also be personalised. Make sure to select materials that can be recycled or composted, or design them for reuse.
Paper reusable party decorations


  • Avoid disposable partyware and opt for reusables. You may find it is possible to hire plates, glasses etc. in your local area if you don’t have enough of your own. This may involve a little washing up so see if you can encourage friends or family to help with the clear up.
  • Try to select foods with packaging that can be recycled or even try to find foods that are packaging free. Also, think carefully about how much food you need so that you avoid too much left over. Offer the leftovers to guests as they leave to avoid any waste.
  • Think carefully about party entertainment. Try to select activities that avoid waste products or use more sustainable options instead.
  • Think about how to deal with any waste created at the party. Have a way to collect recycling and possibly food waste.
A system for waste collection from a recent party

Party bags

  • Party bags can be a key part of children’s parties (and also big kids’ parties). Choose paper bags rather than plastic as plastic bags are tricky to recycle.
  • Avoid including balloons or plastic toys or bags of sweets. You could buy loose sweets or buy in bulk to reduce the amount of plastic.
  • Seeds or books can be great options to include as gifts because they will hopefully last longer – these can often be bought in bulk quantities for a much lower cost.
  • Source plastic free gifts/toys – soy wax crayons, colouring books, wooden toys etc.
  • Instead of having pre-prepared items it could be that guests make things during the party which they can then take away with them. There are many different ideas out there to fit a variety of themes and age ranges.
Filling decorative bottles with sand as a gift to take home

It may not be possible to have a fully eco-friendly birthday (due to factors such as cost, accessibility, need, time etc.), but any small swap is a good step. Every change we make will have an impact in the long term. Maybe try one or two of these ideas the next time you are celebrating a birthday.

About the Author

A little about me: I’m a mum of two, in my thirties. I’ve recently left teaching to pursue a career in Digital Marketing. I’ve increasingly become concerned about the environment and our impact on it over the last 18 months or so. I love sharing small sustainable swaps with people to help them see it can be relatively easy to live an eco-friendlier life.

It isn’t just birthdays… check this out to see how you can have a sustainable Easter too!

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