Trash the Party Favors: An Update to BYO to Birthday Parties

Zero Waste in the Burbs

Yesterday was the first birthday party my sons and I have attended since I wrote about BYO to Birthday Parties.  In that post, I talked about taking your own plate, cup, utensils, and napkin in order to eliminate the waste you create at a birthday party.

More importantly, I wrote about how I had not been able to refuse the little gift bag that most kids distribute at the end of the party.

Well, mission accomplished!  We left the party yesterday sans gift bag!  It was much easier than I thought it would be.  Here’s what I did:

  1. On the way to the party, I had a talk with my sons about the little gift bag.  Keep in mind that they are almost five and three and a half years old.  I told them the things that come in the bag usually break in the car ride home, and then they are sad.  I asked them if they agreed, and they both said yes.  I told them that the things in the gift bag just create more trash for us at home.
  2. Next, I told them we were going to practice saying, “Thank you, but no thank you.  I don’t need one.”  My youngest wasn’t excited about this, but he joined in after he heard his brother saying it.  We practiced saying the phrase in the car a few times.
  3. Before leaving the car to enter the party, I reminded them that we weren’t going to take the gift bag home.  I made both of them recite what we were going to say to their friend if she tried to give them the gift bag.  Both rattled off our little phrase, “Thank you, but no thank you.  I don’t need one.”
  4. At the end of the party, we said goodbye to their friends and walked out to the car without picking up the gift bag, a plastic character cup filled with erasers and other stuff.  Simple. As. That.

No one complained.  No one cried over a cup they didn’t get to take home.  No one even remembered that there was a gift bag.

Gift Favors: Let’s Trash Them

Birthday parties are not about receiving stuff, especially for kids.  Parties should be about community, family, friendship, and fun.  Parents don’t drive their kids to parties hoping for an AWESOME gift bag.  Kids don’t go to parties because of the AWESOME gift bags.  Parents take their kids to parties so they have a chance to mingle with other parents and allow their children an opportunity to build relationships with their friends.

While the intention is good-natured and generous, it doesn’t change the fact that these gift bags are a waste of everyone’s time, money, and resources.  Parents spend money to make them, remind parents and kids to take one before they leave, and then probably feel a little resentful when they have ones leftover.  It’s not a resentful feeling directed at the kids or parents; it’s a resentful feeling because now they have to deal with all of this extra stuff.

How can we avoid this feeling?  Just trash the idea of  gift bags and party favors.  The kids don’t need one.  The parents don’t want one.  No one will look down on you for not having one.  And if they do, should you really be concerned about it?

I’m convinced that the more parents see other parents not dolling them out at the end of the party, the more likely they will feel empowered to do the same.

Alternatives to the Traditional Gift Favors

If you’re convinced that a gift favor of some kind must be given to the party-goers, here are some ideas for an alternative to the traditional, trash destined, trinket gift bag:

  • cloth bags or mason jar with bulk candy, snacks, fruit, or cookies
  • a decorated cookie
  • a packet of seeds or homemade seed tape
  • a seedling started in cardboard toilet paper rolls to plant at home
  • a book from your over-filled bookcase of children’s books
  • a kid-sized apron (DIY or bought) that they decorate at the party
  • homemade jams, preserves, or salsas
  • unwrapped artisan soap
  • or, use your imagination and creativity to create something that is waste-free, biodegradable, or reusable

Birthday parties don’t have to be wasteful.  If we, as the adults, can remember that kid parties are about building relationships and memories and social skills, then we can decide not to make them about getting stuff.  After all, we are the adults in the room.

Remember, be part of the solution, not part of the problem.




Zero Waste in the Burbs
Use your creativity to create an alternative to the traditional party favor that just ends up in the trash.



More about Shannon

Hi! My name is Shannon, and I'm on a mission to reduce the amount of waste my family creates, live a little slower, and embrace all that life has to offer. I'm glad you're here because that means you're interested in reducing waste and slowing down as well. I hope you find some inspiration in these posts that inspire you to make changes in your own life and community. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

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