Turning 5! a zero waste kids birthday party

Turning 5! a zero waste kids birthday party

Our eldest turned five this year and we were very excited to host a party for him. A zero waste party of course. It was a great day - the weather was perfect, his friends from the co-op had fun and we ate too much cake. On top of all of that the little zero waste eco swaps we made started conversations with many of the parents there, with many of them exclaiming “i could do that!”.

The only other birthday party was his 1st birthday which was celebrated in zero-waste style too - you can read about his 1st birthday here. I think the 1st birthday was more more of a congratulatory party for us getting through that first year. But this party was all about him and seeing him make memories with his little mates.

Here is how it went...


I used to work as a graphic designer so I have fun putting together an invitation for birthday parties. For his 1st birthday we sent out the invite as an image via a phone message. This time I printed the invites on 100% recycled paper and these were handed to his friends at school as we didn't have all of the parents phone numbers. I could print the exact amount and did't need to waste any paper.

Other options are GreenInvite, creating a private Facebook event if you have everyone’s details, a handwritten homemade invite, or look on Facebook marketplace for left over or unused birthday invitation packs. Some schools have apps with parents groups accessible for messaging.

I did suggest to the almost 5 year old we could have fun creating our own at home using secondhand materials and making our own paper, but the idea got a firm no.


Weather permitting, parks are a great place to host a birthday party. Plus they are free! There is a local skate park near us suitable for younger children with scooters/bikes and we thought that would be the perfect spot while providing free entertainment for the kids. The only down side was a single table with cover. Grandad volunteered to go early (like early EARLY) with the birthday boy to claim the table.

We had our trestle table and picnic rugs ready as a back up. If we didn't have our own trestle table or enough picnic rugs I would have conducted a call out in my local neighbourhood group.

I did find this awesome Facebook group called Bayside Party Share. The group shares a range of items for parties helping Bayside locals reduce waste and not rely on single-use items. Wouldn't it be cool if each suburb/town had one.

zero waste kids party

Food and Drink

We kept food simple and easy to grab. 5 year olds are not keen to sit down to have a meal when they are with their friends. They want to take a few quick bites and keep playing. This is the food we had:

  • Snacks like grain chips, lollies, popcorn and coconut ice bought package-free from The Source Bulk Foods
  • Sandwiches, cut into triangles of course
  • Cupcakes
  • Falafels and carrots with hummus
  • Birthday cake
  • Lebanese pies and baklava for the adults
  • Two litres homemade lemonade concentrate to mix with water as needed
  • Water dispensed from a water cooler

We borrowed a water cooler, cake carriers, and pipping/cake decorating set from Carlton Kitchen Library.

The food was purchased in our own reusable containers, jars and bags or in paper bags that we could compost at home.

zero waste kids party compost

Compost bin

I found a large container at the Op Shop to collect uneaten food. We didn't need a container this large as there wasn't that much food waste, but I chose it to get peoples attention and to make sure it wouldn't be missed.

Reusable Cloth wipes

Setting up reusable cloth wipes next to the water cooler is a simple swap to single-use paper serviettes or wet wipes. Used wipes had a designated container clearly labeled for people to see and use.

My party kit has cloth wipes were by Here & After. Used flannel cot sheets cut up into squares are a homemade alternative.

zero waste kids party reusable cloth wipes

Plates, bowls, cups and cutlery

Owning and hiring out a reusable party kit box in my spare time meant we were all set for plates, cups and cutlery, and more. The box includes a jug and bunting decorations.

Last year I helped save over 5,242 of single-use party items by lending my kit to other families. You can find my reusable party kit and others for hire on the Party Kit Network or you can read my blog post on how I set one up.

Related blog posts: My newborn essentials list and Baby shower gift ideas and Our Zero Waste Wedding


We decided to try a fiver present in lieu of presents. A fiver present is where parents ask guests to bring $5 instead of a physical gift. The idea is the birthday kid can pool the money for a larger gift they really want. For parents it's also a great way to reduce the 10-20 new toys from making their way into your home. We have enough toys and I thought this would be an interesting way to approach it. Here is the line we used on the invitation:

“Your presence is the only present that we need, but should you want to give something to the birthday boy, please consider giving $5 that he can put towards a monster truck.”

We didn't have any pushback from anyone. Most parents said that it made life less stressful too.

Along with the $5, each of the kids made handmade cards, decorated envelopes or drew pictures. The birthday boy loved this. For the next month he'd pull them out and look at each one, talk about the person who gave it. These were so special and I've kept each one.

zero waste kids party fiver present


We kept the decorations simple, leaving the natural beauty of the park to shine. Bunting from my party kit was hung in the outdoor pavilion. I dressed the table in a secondhand blue sheet and overlapped with another small blue tablecloth on top.

If you are looking to decorate, especially with a theme, look to Facebook Marketplace or party hire stores. I saw a lot of options to hire when I was looking up anything party related on Facebook.


I have reusable pass the parcel bags in my party kit but the birthday boy vetoed the idea. He wanted to play pin the tale on the donkey. I thought i'd check Facebook for any pre-made donkey's and found a pin the tooth on the dinosaur another parent was looking to pass on. There were a lot of other games for sale and hire via Facebook like egg and spoon, sack race, and more.

Party Favours/Party Bags

We gifted seed balls (also known as seed bombs) as zero-waste party gifts instead of plastic filled party bags. 

Seed balls are made of four five ingredients - clay, compost, coconut coir, seeds and water. They can be placed on-top of the soil or pushed just below the surface, then left alone to sprout (typically after a heavy rain) or can be helped along by a good watering

Making seed balls is a fun activity I've enjoyed with children, both my own and for sustainability workshops I've run in schools and the community. They are eco friendly and make the perfect plastic free party favour, plus they are fun to use. What kid doesn't love throwing stuff? It's the kind of party favour that can get lost in nature and not cause harm. 

I cut small squares of fabric and wrapped the seed balls inside the fabric then tied with ribbon we had in our collection and finished with instruction on how to use.

That's it!

I've been to many (many, so many) kids parties in the past year. The party we had for our child was not that much different to the others, ours just had small zero waste eco tweaks.

Planning and hosting parties can be really stressful. Perhaps the options above aren't available or doable for you. That's ok. Pick one area you can switch up and go from there or share this blog post to help others who can make changes. 


  1. Sarah C11/23/2023

    Thank you for your blog and this blog post! I really appreciate all the hard work you put into it. This post was so helpful- especially finding out about the party kit network as I was worried about the waste from using disposable partyware for my child’s 3rd birthday. It’s such a great idea and Ive asked my daughter’s nursery to put up a poster about it. While the party wasn’t entirely plastic-free there was a lot less of it, than you’d expect. As it was a UK birthday in October we hired a hall, a bouncy castle, some little bikes and pretty much left the kids to it. For full transparency, the presents were another matter (I didn’t know the other parents and didn’t feel comfortable making a request). However, my daughter still talks about her party- you can’t ask for much more than that!

    1. hi sarah, thanks for the feedback - i'm so happy to know you found some helpful nuggets in the blog post. The party sounded very fun indeed! I would have loved a bouncy castle when i was a child and being able to borrow one makes it even more fun. It can be hard navigating the present scenario but that's why i always say we can only do the best we can, with what we've got, where we are :)


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