Here we go again with the birthday party planning – and FIVE is a big one! My son wants to invite everyone he ever met, load them up with goodies, and have a grand piñata finale. So how do we keep a party for 30+ kids fairly green and under a $500 budget? Fortunately, I have been thinking about this for a while.
September is a great time for an outdoor party and we have plenty of lovely public parks and playgrounds. But I, for one, am not taking a chance on a rainy day. So we found a small local playground with a no-frills recreation center that we can rent for $100. Done.
On to the theme: Our family is not averse to well-timed doses of television or celebrating fictional characters. This year we are going with Special Agent Oso, a Disney Junior program that breaks down everyday tasks into preschooler-sized “missions.” We’re going to take the special agent theme a step further with scavenger hunt missions around the playground and even find a way to green that piñata! Ready for your “three special steps?” Because we actually have like 30…
Scavenger Hunt Treasure
We gathered rocks and random slabs of granite from around the neighborhood, painted them, and doused them in glitter.
Total Cost? $5 for glitter. Total Environmental Cost? Rocks are as green as it gets. Conventional paint and glitter don’t help the planet, but I consider them an acceptable evil when it’s all about upcycling!
Tablecloths and Serveware
Paper and plastic tablecloths are a total waste. I was able to find plain white fabric tablecloths for $6 a piece that I will be able to use over again for events! And if you are better with a scissors than I, you can even buy a bolt of tablecloth fabric and cut it down yourself! Four tablecloths = $24 (and will never need to be purchased again). I will tally this total cost as $6 – price per use – as I am sure I will use these at least four more times
Compostable and biodegradable plates, cups, and cutlery are an imperfect science. Chances are they will not be disposed of properly and will not simply dissolve into the earth. BUT, using them avoids petrochemical plastics and uses more eco-friendly resources for manufacturing. We bought this all-inclusive-plate-and-cutlery-set for 50 guests for under $40.
Total Cost? $46 Total Environmental Cost? The amount of time it takes bio-based materials to degrade in Philadelphia landfill conditions + possible methane off-gassing.
I wanted to keep the party favors simple and functional and thought the kids would have a good time using magnifying glasses for the scavenger hunt. I refused to buy any worthless trinkets from Oriental Trading Company and scoured the internet for something affordable and actually useful. These kids magnifying glasses got decent reviews and I was able to buy 30 for a total of $42. I only wish they didn’t come individually wrapped in plastic baggies. Add some stickers and we have unique party gifts for all!
Total Cost? $42 Total Environmental Cost? Lots of plastic. But at least the products are useful and should make it home in one piece.
You can buy a conventional party pinata filled with absolute garbage for about $30. I found a Pinterest tutorial describing how to make your own piñata using a large balloon and paper mache. I bought a pack of three super big and sturdy latex balloons (the two extra are just for at-home fun!) Newspaper and water are free and a few tablespoons of flour costs pretty much nothing.
For the filling – here is where I got to have some fun! I spent a bit of money buying organic gummy treats and lollipops in bulk. But the rest of the stuff I threw into the pinata included things I had around the house like random samples of green baby shampoos and bodywashes and even a few little trinkets like stamps and stickers from previously received goody bags!
And my most brilliant innovation for this thing was sticking a wire hanger through it for hanging! I’ll be honest, I am more proud of this thing than most of my life accomplishments. It’s going to be devastating to see it axed.
Total Cost? $35 spent mostly on organic candy. Total Environmental Cost? A giant latex balloon is not very sustainable. However, I have recycled a wide variety of items, including the newspaper, and introduced kids and parents to some healthier treats!
Here is where I say screw it and purchase plain ol’ conventional pizza. Seriously there are more than 30 kids showing up at this thing! (13 pies for $140). I make up for the junky pizza with cases of Honest Kids organic fruit drinks (on sale for $10.69 for 32 at Fresh Direct). But to my dismay I am pretty much forced to purchase bottled water as there is no realistic potable source in this rec center ($15 for two cases).
Total Cost? $166. Total Environmental Cost? Pretty high.
Our friend’s sister is a very talented “hobby baker” and always does a great job with our themed cakes. We don’t put any parameters on her as far as ingredients or even artificial icings – it would have been unreasonable to have asked her to make a Special Agent Oso cake for 60 people out of blueberries and organic buttercream. But we feel like homemade is still better than store bought and she gives us an amazing deal. (She asked for $50, we gave her $75).
Total Cost? $75 Total Environmental Cost? Plus points for homemade, minus points for sugar content.
+ Balloons + Helium Tank
I’ve written before about one of my biggest pet peeves – super wasteful, toxic, and pointless kids party favors. So I’ve tried to offer some affordable and creative ideas – though my craft ideas are often better than my execution. I’m not the best at cutting straight lines or coloring between the lines. However, I was pleased enough with my Despicable Me Wine Cork Minions and recycled crayons for Sam’s 4th birthday.
For Evelyn’s first birthday we went with a Chipmunk theme, inspired by her impossibly chubby cheeks and big brown eyes.
My first bit of craft inspiration came from a slew of plastic deli containers my mother left at my house.I thought with some brown paint they could be lovely little chipmunk heads. Too lazy to go to the store, I mixed up some super safe baby furniture paint and ended up with mauve. But the bigger problem was that once it dried it all peeled off – not sure if it was the paint or the plastic, but they did not mesh well.
Fortunately I was able to salvage the pieces and start over with plan B – those incredibly pointless Fresh Direct ripening bags (or brown lunch bags with the ever-important instructions on how to place-fruit-in-bag.) With the adornment of some felted acorn necklaces from Etsy, we have a winner!
Are you planning a kids birthday party? Share your theme idea and let’s come up with some more upcycled crafts!
The only movie I’ve gone to with my four-year-old is “Despicable Me 2.” So when we had to chose a birthday party theme it was a pretty simple choice. Since then I’ve been going a bit minion-crazy!
I got the idea for these little wine cork minions after seeing a “pin” about making regular wine cork people. We don’t drink a lot of wine here but fortunately our babysitter works in a restaurant. My minions are a bit sloppy because my ideas are often better than my execution – at least craft-wise.
I don’t really think this “how-to” necessitates any real directions – the photos should suffice.
And of course I had to have a bit of fun with Vine:
I always loved the idea of recycled crayons and every year for my son’s birthday party favors I have bought recycled crayons from Crazy Crayons or on Etsy. Little did I know I could save some money and easily make these on my own!
All you need are some silicone candy molds or plain muffin tins with paper liners. The trick is to use just a couple complementary colors for each crayon so you don’t end up with a big brown mess.
Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and fill the molds with crayon pieces. Put them in the oven for about 8 minutes, checking regularly to see if they melted. When you take them out you can use a toothpick or similar to create a little swirly. They will harden best if you stick them in the fridge for a few minutes.
I was so excited with my first batch I asked the moms at preschool to leave their broken crayons in Sam’s cubby! I even told them to let their kids do the paper peeling if they were so inclined – that is the only hard part depending on your children’s willingness to help. I used to send my crayon pieces to the National Crayon Recycling Program but now I have created my own recycling program!
I don’t usually bake with food coloring – but, then again, I don’t really bake much apart from bread. I have, however, tried to use vegetable juice to dye my homemade play-dough, but that didn’t turn out so well – it was just a terrible mess of beet juice and bits of beets staining the kitchen. So I was excited to learn about Maggie’s Naturals, a food coloring made from all natural and organic plant, fruit, and vegetable extracts.
Maggie’s Naturals believes you should know the food that you ingest is safe, know the ingredients on the label, and trust the companies that make them. And it’s easy to trust this same company that produces eco-kids, a line of art supplies using non-toxic, natural ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging. We love the finger paints, play-dough, and even non-toxic crayons and glue for crafts.
Maggie’s Naturals is available in six colors including blue made from Green made from green gardenia extract, spinach, and parsley and Pink made from beets and sweet potato.The set costs $60 for six colors, but could probably last for an entire childhood of cookies.
Two lucky readers will either a Maggie’s Naturals 6-pack of Food Colorings ($60) or an Eco Dough + Rolling Pin set ($30). Contest closes 9/10 and winners will be randomly selected.
Disclosure: This company gave me a sample for review. Regardless, my opinions are honest. See my full disclosure here.
Temperatures are heating up, and before you know it school will be out for the whole summer! Are you looking for some ways to keep the kiddos entertained without breaking your budget or compromising your eco-sensibilities?
Getting crafty with your kids is a great way to keep them busy on those lazy summer days, but many conventional craft supplies are far from eco-friendly. Rather than hitting the big box store for craft supplies, next time you’re getting crafty with your kids, try one of theses green crafts projects instead:
1. Plant a Seed. Growing food, even if it’s just a few herbs in containers, is a great way to get your kids more interested in healthy eats and teach them a bit about nature. Grab some organic seeds, and spend an afternoon with the little ones making seed starter pots! Here are some ideas for making your own natural pots for plants or seedlings.
2. Painted Rocks. This is a great way to get the kids out in nature! Head out to the woods or even to your own backyard and collect a bag of big, smooth rocks. Just heat them up in the oven, and let your kids draw on them with crayons. They melt like magic, and I bet that the kids will be begging you to take them out to collect more rocks when this batch is all colored up.
3. Create Mini Notebooks from Junk Mail. Teach your kids about crafty reuse by showing them how to turn collected junk mail into little notebooks! They can use them for coloring or take them out into the woods or on a walk to use as a nature journal.
4. DIY Magnets. Do you have a bunch of those ugly, promotional magnets on your fridge? Whip out some scrap paper and the hot glue gun and your kids can turn them into cute, custom magnets. Just make sure you supervise, because hot glue guns are what they say they are: HOT!
5. Homemade Peanut Butter. Get crafty in the kitchen! Seriously, making your own peanut butter is sort of like magic. Just toss roasted peanuts into the blender and blend. First, you’ll get a coarse meal, then a fine meal, and then if you’re patient, a miracle occurs and voila! Peanut butter! Your kids will love watching the transformation.
Do you have any green crafts in store for your kids this summer? We’d love to hear your ideas, too!
Image Credits: Newspaper Pots by Julie Finn, Junk Mail Notebook by Becky Striepe
Filed under: crafts, food + water, garden, home, homesteading for dummies, how-to
I like to think I’m crafty, but I have more of a creative brain than nimble fingers. I can’t cut in a straight line and my hemming with a needle and thread looks like it was done by a toddler.
But I hate to pay even $20 for something like a Tomato Cage when I think I can do it myself. I knew it didn’t need to be pretty – it just had to keep the plants from toppling over. So I took some wire hangers I’d be thrilled to upcycle anyway and twisted them into a contraption with some random extra wire that probably came with a picture hanging kit.
Again, it’s not beautiful. But it works. And it was free!
Hipcycle Partners with Funky Junk to Launch U.S. Distribution of Cambodian Upcycled Fair Trade Home Goods
In developing countries, where garbage collection services are minimal and environmental awareness takes second place to basic survival, plastic bags are everywhere: clogging drains, choking animals, and blighting already difficult lives.
Funky Junk Recycled is an innovative social enterprise based in Cambodia – making beautiful, functional, long-lasting items from used plastic bags reclaimed from streets and fields.
Hipcycle.com, the leading purveyor of upcycled products on the web, is partnering with Funky Junk to enter the North American market. The project is utilizing crowd-sourced fundraising through indiegogo.com to raise $20,000 for a new e-commerce website and increased capacity at the Funky Junk Center in Cambodia. Hipcycle has also partnered with the Center for Vocational Rehabilitation to pack and ship Funky Junk orders.
Funky Junk Recycled aims to provide sustainable income for a group of local people without a major investment in technology, equipment, or capacity building. By creating a self-sustaining enterprise, they use best business practices as a means of improving peoples’ living environment, while helping them to gain a source of income and a sense of self-worth.
All products are made from discarded plastic bags, collected by trash pickers from the towns and countryside, and delivered to the Funky Junk center. Here they are washed, disinfected and dried in the sun before being sorted by color. The bags are cut and made into yarn, which is then crocheted into a product line ranging from floor cushions to handbags to patio chairs. Supporting Funky Junk means contributing to a cleaner environment and providing fair trade income, training and community benefits for its local producers.
Learn more about this program and watch the video here.
Among my favorite eye-opening books is Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Through extraordinary stories about the lives of impoverished women in Africa and Asia, the authors show that the key to economic progress lies in unleashing women’s potential. Throughout much of the world, the greatest unexploited economic resource is the female half of the population. This book clearly illustrated that the economic empowerment of women is the best strategy for fighting poverty on an international level.
This concept was put into action on a worldwide level in 2003 when Stacey Edgar created Global Girlfriend, an e-commerce boutique which helps women worldwide gain economic security while providing unique products and a simple way to help women in need. The fair-trade boutique offers a line of trend-setting, women-made, fair-trade products including stylish apparel, accessories and gifts with one purpose — helping women in need help themselves.
Global Girlfriend believes that economic opportunity for women holds the promise for real change in the world; because when women have an income, they reinvest in themselves and in their children’s health, education and nutrition, building stronger families and communities over time. Many women try desperately to make a living selling their artisan-quality goods but find that they have little access to market opportunities. Through fair-trade practices, Global Girlfriend brings the work of these disadvantaged groups directly to American shoppers.
What makes the site work so well is that everything on the site is something we’d love to buy anyway! The shop only selects well-crafted, on-style pieces, so shopping is a joy. Some of my favorites are:
Learn more about the evolution of Global Girlfriend, with started at the founder’s dining room table with a $2000 tax refund, in the book Global Girlfriends: How One Mom Made It Her Business to Help Women in Poverty Worldwide.
Flowers for Mother’s Day isn’t just cliché, it’s pricy and predictable. Give mom something she doesn’t have to water with beautiful, upcycled floral arrangements that epitomize trash turned treasure.
From tequila bottle candles to chopstick baskets, Hipcycle.com is dedicated to selling innovative, stylish, and affordable upcycled products. Here are my picks for Mother’s Day 2012:
Each one of these lovely blossoms is made from a glass bottle that has been cut and scored like petals, melted in a kiln, then fitted with a cork and an old coat hanger so that it may be placed in the ground. Designed for garden display or artfully arranged in an upcycled vase.
Handmade in Vietnam, these glass and paper vases come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Created using a variety of upcycled papers, no two are alike.
If you’re old enough to share a drink with mom, you’re old enough to appreciate the bottle. Each vase is made from a reclaimed Grey Goose bottle which has been cut and sanded by hand. Also available in Ketel One, Jack Daniels, Don Julio, and your drink of choice.
Silver Foil Vase
Mom always wrapped your P,B,& J in aluminum foil. Offset her foil addiction with this shiny silver vase.
Made of four upcycled glass bottle tops mounted on a glass pane, these glass vases are sealed to prevent leakage.
In addition to these upcycled takes on floral presentations, Hipcycle offers a wide range of upcycled picture frames, perfect for framing family photos for mom.
Many of the 500+ products featured on Hipcycle.com are made in the U.S. while others are purchased through a commitment to fair-trade practices. Products can be searched for by purpose (i.e., home, garden, office) or by original material (i.e., wood, fabric, glass). Hipcycle also prides itself on telling the story behind the product, from its creator to its provenance.
Use code HCD15 for 15% off through 6/30/12.