A very zero waste birthday

Johanna's card: Abby found a shark onesie on Amazon that she really wants.

Johanna’s card: Abby found a shark onesie on Amazon that she really wants. This is as close as she’s going to get. ūüėČ

Abby is now 17, and you guys, it seems like just yesterday I had cleared my calendar on my birthday — her due date! — and then had to wait an additional 8 days because even then she had a mind of her own. Not that I’m still bitter about that AT ALL. (Oh, wait …)

Wow, starting off with a tangent, that’s never a good sign.

So. About birthday parties:¬†Eric and I have never been up¬†for that. We were minimalists before we even knew what it¬†meant, and that whole ordeal is just not something we wanted to be a part of. I mean, good for parents who have energy and, like, gumption to throw parties for their kids.¬†We just choose to forgo all that.¬†The presents, the waste … the effort. It’s too much.

What we HAVE done in the past: Slumber parties or barbecues with friends (… surprise! We have cake!), inviting a friend to come with us to a musical (Johanna is my theater buddy), and birthday hikes, again with a friend or two (I don’t know, that’s what Abby wanted to do last year). If it does get out that it’s a birthday activity, I¬†just say¬†that homemade cards are fine, but the present is the experience. It’s kind of weird for people (well, at first, our friends are used to us now), but everyone generally goes along with it. Which we appreciate.

Now that my grandma's awesome orange tupperware has a huge crack in the lid, my half-gallon mason jar has stepped up to the task of getting chicken.

Now that my grandma’s awesome orange tupperware has a huge crack in the lid, my half-gallon mason jar has stepped up to the task of getting the meat counter chicken.

So my kids don’t really know what a true party is, that’s what I’m getting at.¬†Not that we don’t have some traditions. The birthday girl (or boy, I guess, we do have Eric) always gets to pick dinner and dessert. Baby books get dusted off and stories get told. We’re lucky enough to have both sets of grandparents and Eric’s brother and family¬†in town, so they make up our party roster, coming over for dessert and singing.

That’s the background.

Here’s how¬†we celebrated Abby this year:

Most of her “squad” were on vacation or working, but she did have a few friends¬†available in the afternoon, so she organized a trip to the lake and a picnic lunch. One friend brought her paddle board and another a “floatie.” Abby packed everyone a lunch — she made sandwiches and a fruit salad, got out the picnic plates and our silverware, couldn’t find a cooler so she just used all the lunch boxes we had. I was proud of her, truth be told.

“You’ll have to tell them I bought popcorn chips and strawberries in a clamshell,” Abby just said, reading over my shoulder.

Yes, I’m getting to that.

This was not an entirely zero waste affair — I gave her my credit card to go get the groceries she thought she’d need, but all she ended up with were those two items above, opting to just use what was in the refrigerator. “You can’t get strawberries in anything but a container,” she complained.¬†She also wants me to add that one of the girls brought a box of henna and another a bag of chips and some candy.

But props for the reusable picnic settings, the water toys they already owned, and using the¬†food we had in the fridge. Abby also doesn’t actually have¬†a swimsuit … and her friend brought her one for the day. Additional props because they let Johanna come along, and she had A BLAST. Not gonna lie, the chips were huge here — those have been low on the ground and we’re all going though withdrawals.

I've always had the option of bulk animal crackers for cheesecake crusts ... until now. This was the smallest package I could find.

I‘ve always had the option of bulk animal crackers for cheesecake crusts … until now. This was the smallest package I could find.

“Ten out of 10 stars, would recommend,” said Abby just now of her party-by-the-lake.

They got home around dinnertime; Eric made a pot of jambalaya, which was the gift that keeps on giving, as we fed our family and her friends, and then ate leftovers the next two nights. Dinner was pretty zero waste: chicken in my jar, bulk rice, produce that came home in my bags, homemade chicken broth. Canned tomatoes, but at least aluminum is recyclable. We also had raw veggies and watermelon to round it out.

Some of the friends who could make it to the lake couldn’t make it to dinner, but we picked up a few others who could do dinner but not the lake. We also had Eric’s parents and brother’s family, and my parents over for cheesecake. I hadn’t thought that one through — one cheesecake and 15 people. It all worked out because Eric cut the pieces small. We offered it with “blueberry sauce,” which was just the jam left over from my last canning session.

The cheesecake wasn’t too bad on the zero waste front, either. Cream cheese in cardboard and foil — both recyclable. Sour cream in plastic, recyclable but plastic. Eggs from a friend (hi, Beth!) via my favorite mother-in-law (hi, Joni!). Up until now, we’ve had bulk animal crackers that have been by go-to on the cheesecake crust front, but wouldn’t you know it, they discontinued those. So I got a small package of organic animal crackers and just gave that one up.

The rest of the evening was spent sitting on the patio, watching a very intense game of HORSE. She got some lovely homemade cards from her friends and everyone seemed to have a good time.

What a blurry, terrible photo! Unfortunately, it's the only one I have ...

What a blurry, terrible photo! Unfortunately, it’s the only one I have …

The end, I guess, until we get to Johanna’s birthday in December. ūüėČ

Next up: Peaches!

3 Responses to A very zero waste birthday

  1. My kids have had parties but little did I realise that when they are little it means you get inundated with so much stuff, the kids loved it of course but so bad for the environment. So they then only had occasional parties and I also stopped buying all of those evil little plastic junk pieces that go in the lolly bags, I did it once and realised how bad they are,never again. But my kids kept bringing the bags home from other parties! Now they are older it so much better. Your party sounds great by the way!

    • It is definitely easier the older your kids are! We still have some issues with that because Johanna is 11 and still in that party-zone age, but overall, I can’t complain.

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