“Green” gift bags can be a great way to involve your birthday child in party planning – and to teach him or her to be more responsible about taking care of the environment. Use the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s pledge as your guide: When creating gift bags, think: reduce, reuse, recycle.
The key to greener party favors is not only to find gifts that will be used (and not thrown away), but also to pick trinkets that aren’t wrapped in wads of plastic – and to avoid packing them in novelty throw-away baggies.
Here are a few ideas to get you thinking “greener.”
Paper goody bag
Let your child color a paper bag for each of his guests. Fill the bag with homemade treats, like cookies or mini-muffins, or pack it with a few candies. Alternatively, involve your birthday guests in the fun – have them color the bags during the party, then stuff your homemade treats or simple goodies inside while they’re eating cake.
Pick out classic, inexpensive card games, like UNO, to give as party favors. Most are wrapped with little or no plastic, inside a cardboard box. Let your child wrap the games in a colorful hand towel or washrag, tied with a fabric ribbon.
Make a big batch of oatmeal or chocolate chip cookies, granola or a mix of pretzels, marshmallows and candies to give away as a treat. Help your child place a handful – or more – of the treats in the center of a kitchen towel. Bring all of the sides together around the filling and tie with a fabric ribbon. Guests will love having a treat to take home from your kitchen!
Toilet paper treasures
For the ultimate in reusable party favors, create a toilet paper “bouquet” for each of your guests. Use colorful fabric to wrap around the outside of one toilet paper roll. Cover the roll completely. Let your birthday child create a boutique using candies of various lengths – like lollipops, licorice and Tootsie Rolls – using the covered toilet paper roll as the vase.
For an easy giveaway, pick out puzzles for each guest. Puzzles, which are made of paper and sold in cardboard boxes, come with zero plastic. Plus, your guests are sure to use them over and over again. They’re inexpensive, too. You can find a variety to choose from at your local dollar store.
Socks make for a simple bag for candy goodies. Stuff a pair of child’s socks with candies; then, tie them together at the top with a fabric ribbon.
Purchase small canvas tote bags at your local craft store to hand out as favors. To help your guests remember the party, write something like, “I had a blast at Jacob’s Sixth Birthday Party” on the tote. During the event, have guests sign each other’s bags with permanent pens, so they can remember who was there.
Tuck a handful of candies or homemade treats in the middle of a child-sized T-shirt. Fold the T-shirt in and secure it with a fabric ribbon to give to guests. You also can let kids decorate the T-shirts using permanent pens, fabric paint or acrylic paint. Send your partygoers home in their creations. If you do choose to paint the shirts, make sure that you do this activity early on in the party, so that the paint has time to dry. Also, warn parents to have children wear clothes that can get dirty.
Give your guests a natural, eco-friendly favor by handing out tiny saplings in little burlap bags. The mini trees can be potted by the kids at home or planted in their backyards. These natural favors nurture green thumbs – and a “green” way of thinking about the world.
Who says you have to give away party favors at all? Many parents – and their children – are opting out of birthday party gift-giving altogether. Don’t just cut-out the party favors; save by doing away with wrapping paper and gifts that – let’s face it – your child will likely play with for a few hours before losing interest. Ask party guests to not bring presents, and don’t hand out favors. Cutting out all the “stuff” may just be the ultimate way to go “green.”
This post was originally published in 2013 and has been updated for 2016.