Party the Sustainable Way

Less is really more - planning my daughters party

My fondest memory as a child was my birthday, not for the anticipation of opening up a present on the morning but for the fact that I got to choose the cake my mom and I were going to bake for my party. Cakes for kids was the cook book and cake ideas ranged from monsters to bunny rabbits, with gummy bears for a nose and smarties for eyes. There was no fondant or rainbow layered cakes… just simple ideas.  

To this day, I vow never to buy a cake for my children’s parties and no, I won’t be winning any cake bakeoff and my birthday cake won’t make a Pinterest “best cake” list and that’s ok.  

The last few years I have really tried to be more conscious of how much I spend on the various birthday parties. I think it’s ridiculous that as parents in a budget-tight economy, we are expected to spend between R4000 – R10 000 for a party. With this in mind, I planned my daughters 6th birthday on R2000 and this is how I did it.

Venue:  

We are beach people so having a little get together at the beach would be my daughters first choice. It’s definitely weather dependent but the morning played it’s part. Better yet, parking is free, and you are not limited to inviting only one sibling, the whole family can come down by the seaside.  

Set up:  

Luckily for me, I have our beautiful Blue Betty gazebo. If I didn’t have this on hand, I would have borrowed one from a friend or family member for the morning. It creates ample shade but if you need more, set up a second gazebo or a few umbrellas. With the gazebo up, I folded out two tables (borrowed from my mom) and covered with them tablecloths from home. I didn’t have chairs, but for ease of setup, laid out two big beach blankets for guests to sit on.

Décor:  

Oh, how we just want to go overboard in this department. I love to have matching items, little unicorns here and there with matching paper cups but I managed to restrain myself. I purchased two foil helium balloons (mermaid and fish) and tied them to the gazebo. I bought paper cups (ones without the wax) and my daughter decorated them with mermaid stickers. This was a great way for her to get involved and she absolutely loved it. I didn’t buy serviettes which was an oversight on my behalf but in all honestly, the kids ate and washed their hands in the sea. We then placed a few mermaid barbies from home on the tables and voila – done! 

 Catering:  

Now food for me is important but I always find my little boy standing at the sweet table and gorging himself till he is sick. With this is mind, I only purchased a few packets of Flings, two Fizzer packets and 25 small Smarties boxes. For refreshments, I bought 3 x 5L Liqui Fruit boxes. I opened all these items in stages to ensure they lasted the whole party and it was perfect. Now instead of lugging down the urn, mugs and other paraphernalia for the parents, I had another idea. My husband ordered 30 coffees from the local café and delivered them to the beach for the parents. Unfortunately, they weren’t in re-usable coffee mugs which would have been first prize, but they were in biodegradable cups which we later recycled. This was a win! Happy parents sipping on good coffee with a few biscuits on the side.  

The cake:  

With my husband heading offshore, the planning of this party was a little last minute. My daughter wanted a mermaid cake and usually I would take a little time with the cake, plan how we would ice and place the tail… you get my drift, but I honestly had no time. I explained this to my nearly 6-year-old and told her we could bake the cake together and she could decorate it anyway she wanted. So, we walked down the sweet aisle, she chose a variation of sweet toppings and so evolved the marshmallow cake. Putting my OCD aside, we had an absolute blast decorating the cake and she could not wait to show all her friends at the party. To top it off, we also baked some cupcakes which she and her baby brother of 2 years decorate. Now that’s a memory! 

Activities:  

The weather played its part and we were blessed with a hot, sunny morning. My husband planned flags and races on the beach with all the kids, and even a few dads got involved. We planned to make eco-bricks with the left-over sweet papers, but the kids were having such fun racing and searching for sea life in the rocks, that we didn’t get to this activity.  

Presents:  

Here is the clincher… each year my kids and I are totally overwhelmed by the amount of presents they receive. With my mantra of less is more and trying to reduce my impact on the environment, I tested the Fiver concept. Here I asked on the invite that instead of presents, friends place a few coins in an envelope so my daughter could save for a toy she really wanted. It didn’t take much convincing for my daughter to understand this approach. I explained what I wanted to do, why (to reduce waste and save the ocean) and then took her to a toy shop so she could have a look at what she really wanted to save for. I was amazed, each friend brought her a little envelope and when she counted the final amount, she had the exact total to purchase her much anticipated toy.  

I love parties and planning and decorating for them but I have to say, as a mom (single mom most of the time), I stressed less for this party, made it fun for the whole family from start to finish and I was left with only a few dishes! More importantly I was conscious of what I was buying and how I could not only reduce my impact on the earth, but how I could educate my daughter and her friends to do the same.  

 I think I succeeded as we have just been invited to the first “fiver” party! 

Jade Harding, Blue Betty Co-Founder