Kids’ Birthday Parties: Eco-Green versus Eco-Cheap?

May 16th, 2009

Kids’ birthday parties always seem to pose a dilemma, whether you’re hosting them or attending them. These days, parents send out invites with everything from “Amazon Wish Lists” to “Please No Gifts” directives.

It’s Saturday today, which means I’ve got plenty of company as parents everywhere negotiate party drop-off times and gifts.

After my 4th cup of latte this morning, it occurred to me that Big Boy didn’t have a present to bring to his first grade classmate’s Pokemon Birthday Party this afternoon.

“No problem!” exclaimed Big Boy.

He disappeared into his room, reappearing several minutes later with two Pokemon cards.


“I’ll give him these! Two of my Pokemon cards!”

At our house, we treasure the concept of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Obviously, Big Boy has this down pat. But what about the Birthday Boy and his family?

Immediately I wondered… will we look cheap? Is this strange to bring old Pokemon cards to a party? Or is this a great opportunity to put our core beliefs into practice? Is this a gift from the heart? Is Big Boy really parting with a cherished Pokemon card, or is he simply passing along something that doesn’t have a good HP?

On the flip side, if I insist that we buy a new present, what does that teach my son? I can imagine my words coming back to haunt me through Big Boy. “Well, Mama, if we have to drive to get a present for him, that’s not really eco-green is it? Because then you’re wasting gas, and that’s not eco-green, is it? Huh? HUH?”

So…here we go….here’s hoping the birthday boy’s family cherishes the 3Rs too….or can put up with some slightly strange new friends!

What’s been your experience with the whole birthday party dance?

Leave a comment and share!

— Lynn

Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

13 Responses to “Kids’ Birthday Parties: Eco-Green versus Eco-Cheap?”

  1. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish on May 16, 2009 12:37 pm

    You’ve taught your child well!

    Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish’s last blog post..Challenge: Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash!

  2. Lynn on May 16, 2009 12:59 pm

    Thanks Beth! That’s high praise coming from you! :) — Lynn

  3. slee on May 16, 2009 5:38 pm

    My daughter’s birthday party last year was all about being green. We repurposed dad’s old t-shirts into tie dyed ones, recycled magazines by folding the colorful pages and weaving them into purses, and played games focusing on green creative thinking & problem solving. Babygirldoll’s favorite gifts? 2 trees. We used real plates and flatware and cups, and had an eco-spa extravaganza where we made our own oj & cornmeal body scrub and a delightful oatmealy face mask. The girls had a lot of fun doing beauty treatments w/o nasty chemicals.
    This year she just took 2 friends to a pool, but our goal is to not be huge with the consumption. We try to make gifts for others or buy useful things.
    I think youyr son’s pokemon cards idea was fantastic, and it was a real gift because he took something prescious to him and gifted his friend, so it was a double gift. The gift of himself and the physical gift. Way to raise him.

  4. Lynn on May 16, 2009 8:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing what you did and for your comment. Actually, right before the party he had second thoughts and asked if we should buy him a gift. I asked him if he were to receive that gift, would he be happy? And he said yes, that the cards were really good. (When you buy Pokemon cards, you’re not guaranteed to get “good” cards!) It was cute – he made a card and taped the two Pokemon cards inside. — Lynn

  5. Sommer on May 17, 2009 5:01 am

    Wow, that is tough. Knowing me, I would have went out and bought something out of insecurity. So you should be very proud of yourself for sticking to your guns. You have taught your son well. My son always wants to do this and we love the idea but know when he gets home he’d want them back and then we’d have a problem on our hands. Oh geesh!

    For parties what we’ve started doing is only spending $10 and lately I’ve been choosing a book on going green for kids parties or outdoor games and activities. Just an idea.

    Sommer’s last blog post..Kids Saving the Earth

  6. Lynn on May 17, 2009 10:40 am

    Sommer, thanks for sharing what you do with parties. I think your son is a little younger than mine, isn’t he? When he’s bigger, he’ll probably do the same thing.

    Honestly, I still felt a bit awkward about this…he came home with more birthday party loot (aka goodie bag) than we gifted to the birthday boy!


  7. Going Green Mama on May 18, 2009 1:16 pm

    We have been really mindful of what gifts are given in our household. Our kids’ friends typically receive story books of some kind (they are innundated with toys at parties!) or an item they need. Luckily the guests of honor are too young to get bent out of shape about what they receive.

    Lynn, I’ve been in the same boat about the gift bags. It’s amazing the junk we end up with as surprises! I actually felt bad for my daughter’s last party because we didn’t give a party bag. And then I realized. They had a great time. And no one noticed. :)

    Going Green Mama’s last blog post..What does my garden grow?

  8. Janelle Sorensen on May 22, 2009 9:15 am

    We’ve given recycled gifts before, but we try to personalize them by crafting them up a bit. For example, we sewed a little drawstring bag with some fabric we bought at a thrift store and my daughters decorated it with the birthday boy’s name and some random shapes using felt. Then we tossed a bunch of our old dinosaurs inside because we heard he loved dinosaurs and we had had our share of fun with them. Birthday boy gave a slightly quizzical look when he opened our gift, but I’ve seen our re-used dinosaurs nestled in with all his new ones when we’ve visited since then.

    I think whatever your child gives, it should be from the heart. Your son did just that Lynn and you should be proud of him!

    Janelle Sorensen’s last blog post..The Ultimate Guide to a Healthy Summer: Beaches, BBQs, Pests, Picnics, and More

  9. Lynn on May 22, 2009 2:03 pm

    Janelle, I love hearing your stories and can’t wait for the day when we meet in person! Thanks so much! — Lynn

  10. Lisa on May 25, 2009 5:33 pm

    I just faced the same dilemma last week when my daughter was invited to her 12th party of the year in her preschool class (she just turned 4) and she had no present. The dilemma was should we go out an buy a new present, should we take the game we made my son donate from his birthday stash a week before to a family in need, or should we give the friend a beautiful handmade sweater that my daughter could not use anymore because it was too small and as she put it would fit the birthday girl cause she was tiny! The sweater was totally her idea and thoughtful cause she was taking into account her needs and her friends size, and she was making me feel better that I didnt buy the present in advance as well. But for some reason I just did not feel right. I would have loved to give her the sweater but I dont know how I could have done that without feeling cheap. Any suggestions?

  11. heather on May 26, 2009 5:32 am

    I will never forget the most precious birthday gift I’ve ever received. It was a blouse from my friend, Vickie. We were 7 or 8 years old (Now in our mid-40s). She lived down the street and had lost her mother to breast cancer (back when not many people survived it). Her father had 3 kids to raise and was not at all prepared to take his daughter shopping for a birthday gift. Vickie was so very kind and sweet that she picked one of her own favorite shirts to give me as a gift. I loved it and the sentiment. I regret that I never told her how much I loved it.

  12. Daisy on May 26, 2009 4:21 pm

    Keeping a gift “closet” can help with this, too. Pick up items on sale and wrap in re-usable or re-used wrapping paper. I do love the little guy’s philosophy of giving away something of his own, something he knew the recipient would like!

    Daisy’s last blog post..Daisy’s Basic Bread for the Breadmachine

  13. anonymous on September 4, 2010 8:29 pm

    Oh my, what a good idea. I remember hating party times somewhat when I was in primary school just because of the present-buying; if I found something that I knew my friend would like, but my mum thought it was ‘cheap’, we’d have to buy something else with it too. We’re not even a rich family. But my mum, bless her, is of the ‘give what you wish to receive’ mentality, though strictly in monetary value, and so thought that if we gave ‘good’ presents, we’d get ‘good’ presents back. Total nonsense of course, it just creates a vicious circle of who can give the other the most expensive present. And in primary school [and even secondary] that doesn’t even matter to us kids! Especially when we don’t have a sense of monetary value yet. So I say it’s not about what the parent thinks is the ideal gift for the child’s friend, it’s what the child thinks, because they’re the only one who knows their friend. Now I’m at university, I actually feel awkward giving expensive gifts, especially if others haven’t been so generous. So now I make presents for others using material I’ve accumulated over the years. It’s so much more rewarding and is a present straight from the heart, and their amazement on finding out it’s hand made is the best return gift to me. :)

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