How did I do it?

Recently I held a zero waste (well very nearly zero) birthday party for my son and if you are interested in finding out exactly how much I chucked in the bin and the challenges I faced you can read more here. I didn’t say how I kept the waste so low in that blog post though, so for anyone that is interested, this is how I did it!

How did I do it?

Sustainable gift wrap course
  1. I made the vast majority of the food from scratch with raw ingredients.
  2. I bought those ingredients unpackaged or in as little packaging as possible in reusable bags from my local shops
  3. Instead of buying disposable plates and cups, I took the ones my kids use every day at home. 
  4. I took reusable jugs and squash left over from when we last had a student, using the water at the venue.
  5. I didn’t take any paper napkins or other disposables with e.g. balloons etc.
  6. Once cooked/ prepared I transported all the food in reusable containers in reusable bags and a small crate.
  7. I took with my bicarbonate of soda shaker and a tea towel for washing up cups so they could have a drink half way through the party and then again when eating. 
  8. I took extra tea towels and cloths in case I needed to mop up spills
  9. I reused a birthday banner I have had for years, as well as a reusable sign my mum made a couple of years ago welcoming people to my son’s party. 
  10. I rescued a couple of plastic spider-man tablecloths from going in the bin at a birthday party my kids went to last year and reused them at the party.  I also took them home with me to reuse again.
  11. I reused birthday candles that I have used before – I have been reusing birthday candles for years!  They are only lit for a short time and then blown out, so can easily be used again.
  12. Instead of going home gifts I did a lucky dip.  I got my son to go through his small toys and choose 20 that he no longer wanted. I also had a large pile of sweets that my kids had been given at other birthday parties.  I matched up each toy with a sweet and wrapped them up in some brown packaging paper from a box which had contained a birthday present my husband had bought for me – a pasta machine (will blog about that another time).  I used the same box and filled it with shredded newspapers – I just tore it into strips and then tore the strips into pieces (I don’t buy newspapers. When my parents visit they always leave newspapers in my lounge and somehow those newspapers manage to sit there indefinitely – I found newspapers from 2013!!). I stuck a few small stickers on the wrapped up toys and sweets (stickers that I have had for years) and put the gifts inside the box, hiding them under the shredded newspaper. 
  13. I took reusable bags to put the birthday presents home in.
  14. I brought home all the food waste for composting in my Green Johanna and a small amount of paper for recycling. I put the food waste in the empty containers that I had taken the food to the party in.
  15. Once the presents were opened I saved the envelopes for my ongoing upcycled fridge magnet notepad and I saved any wrapping paper in good condition to reuse in future.
  16. After the party I recycled the paper used for the lucky dip.
  17. I might turn the birthday cards into thank you cards – I have done this before and you can read all about it here. Or I might make some (I made the invitations from pieces of card I bought a while ago)
  18. I bought my son some gifts from a charity shop, which I brought home in a reusable bag and I asked them if he wanted them wrapped or unwrapped.  He said unwrapped – either I’m having an effect on him or he just wanted to get to the goods and couldn’t be bothered with the unwrapping :).  I made him a very simple birthday card and didn’t put it in an envelope!
After the party I asked my son what the best bit of it was and he said ‘all of it’. He didn’t care that there were no themed plates, napkins or balloons or going home bags. One child did ask me where the going home bag was but everyone else seemed fine with their lucky dip prize.  I was worried that there might be complaints about there being no crisps, but no-one seemed to notice. All in all, it went really well!
I am currently undertaking a Year of Eco Challenges . If you have a moment I would really appreciate it if you would consider sponsoring me with an action (no money involved) on my DoNation page. Also if you liked this post please click like on Facebook and follow on Twitter – thanks so much!


  1. I'm going to save this page as we have a birthday coming up in our house. I have begun to look at how much waste our family produces and ways that we might cut that down, as well as trying to cook more and more from scratch. What I hadn't considered before was trying to cook more and more from ingredients with as little packaging as possible. That is a challenge I look forward to. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

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