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Throw a Greener Birthday Party

Parents can make their next kids shebang an earth friendly affair with these eight tips from a family owned eco company

Being more eco aware has been a growing daily focus for moms and dads in southeast Michigan. But have you considered applying that green philosophy to your child's birthday party festivities?

For a handful of easy tips, we turned to Dr. Nadereh Afsharmanesh, the director of sustainability at Earth Friendly Products. Based in Illinois – and with items available in local stores – this family-owned company specializes in earth-friendly paper products (all recycled) and cleaners (never tested on animals). Her tips work for kid and adult parties – or even holiday parties, housewarmings and eco-friendly weddings.

Invitations. Consider a simple phone call to invite guests, an email invitation – or purchase seed invitations, like the beautiful ones from Botanical Paperworks. After the party, the invitee can plant the invite in his or her garden and have a living reminder of the party.

Party supplies. Forgo expensive, disposable cartoon-covered cups and plates and use real dishes. The environmental impact of washing dishes with an eco-friendly dish detergent like Earth Friendly Products' Dishmate, is far less than adding a bag full of plastic cups and coated plates to landfills. Considering using an old sheet for a tablecloth, too: Put out markers and allow the kids to decorate their place at the table.

Decorations. Paper balloons are far more eco-friendly than Mylar or plastic balloons – and last longer. Kids can also make their own "balloons" with eco-friendly bubble solution and large, reusable bubble wands. Use flower petals, colorful leaves or blossoms that you gather, rather than plastic or paper confetti. Who doesn't want to be showered in flowers?

Food. Don't overdo it on the food so anything is wasted. Remember, kids are more consumed with playing than eating at parties! If you have leftovers, encourage guests to take them home rather than throwing the food out. Put out pitchers of filtered water rather than individual bottles of water.

The cake. Nothing says love like home baked goods. Baking the cake yourself allows you to control the ingredients – and let your inner Julia Child shine through. It also saves a trip to the store, where the sheet cake will likely be encased in plastic packaging – and more expensive than a homemade confection.

Games. Games don't need to involve paper, plastic or other disposable items to be fun. Try "old fashioned" games like Red Rover and Musical Chairs for low-impact fun.

Party favors. Rather than spending money on cheap, disposable dollar-store items, consider one item with meaning and place it in a re-usable fabric bag – not a plastic bag. Favors can be as simple as homemade baked goods, potted seedlings or seed packets, or another small well-made item that a child can cherish, like polished stones.

Clean up. Turn clean-up time into game with your kids after the party has ended. See who can gather the most dishes, sweep the fastest or pick up the most wrapping paper. Reward the participation with a family movie night to wind down the celebration. Try to only use eco-friendly cleaning products to wipe up, like Earth Friendly Products' Parsley Plus multi-surface cleaner, which leaves a fresh clean scent and no bacteria behind.

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