How harmful is your birthday party to the environment?

Gorgeous as they may appear, but balloons are a big threat to our marine life. Photo credit: Adi Goldstein

Gorgeous as they may appear, but balloons are a big threat to our marine life. Photo credit: Adi Goldstein

Text by Poyani Mehta

An article written by Debra Duncan Balloons pose a risk to wildlife & the environment shares some shocking facts about the bright and happy balloons that we often see in a birthday party. She shares how balloons which may claim to be biodegradable, can take up to several years to disintegrate, but while they’re around, they are a nightmare for our fragile marine life.

In an 11-month experiment conducted by IndyStar’s Emily Hopkins, she shows the rate at which balloons bio-degrade. When you go through her report and video here – 18,000 pieces of balloon waste were found in Great Lakes: Why it’s a danger, you will realise what an environmental blunder we are creating by celebrating a birthday or an anniversary.

It is time we, humans wake up and make a choice to celebrate their happy occasions in a more sustainable and an environment-friendly way.

Balloons removed from inside a Hawksbill sea turtle in August 2011. Photo credit: balloonsblow.org

Balloons removed from inside a Hawksbill sea turtle in August 2011. Photo credit: balloonsblow.org

Changing the mindsets about a birthday party

Seldom do we realise however simple or extravagant they may be, birthday parties are one of the major causes for wastage and garbage. But does it mean that we shun celebrations, birthdays and parties? Not at all! There’s always a solution by adopting an eco- friendly, less-waste approach to celebrations. No doubt, it may require more planning but by bringing in simple and small lifestyle changes, we can definitely achieve this.

Reuse old left over papers to make handmade party decorations. Photo credit: Richard Kasperowski

Reuse old leftover papers to make handmade party decorations. Photo credit: Richard Kasperowski

How to have an environment-friendly birthday party

  1. Recycled papers or old newspapers can be used for activities and games like Bingo and tail the donkey.
  2. Conduct an eco-friendly activity using a DIY Kit. By doing away with plastic products like balloons and small trinkets that are toxic and take years to decompose the house can be decorated with unwanted old CD mobile hangings, recycled paper streamers, flags, banners and colourful cloth buntings.
  3. For the Pinata (a happy must in any kid party), discarded cardboard or big paper bags can be used, drawing and painting on it and filling it with homemade candies and treats. Reuse old newspapers for wrapping prizes and gifts, while decorating them with colourful artwork.
  4. Food can be served in house crockery or bio-degradable plates made from Areca leaves (supari/betel nut), metallic or paper straws for juices and cutlery made from bamboo. If the birthday is organised somewhere out, then try for a cool garden party or a visit to a nearby farm outside the city with prior permission.
Enjoy the festive season with Eco-Serve environment friendly plates. Photo credit: Eco-Serve

Enjoy the festive season with Eco-Serve environment-friendly plates. Photo credit: Eco-Serve

In Mumbai, Kumkum Somani, author of children’s books, also runs ‘The Little Gardener’ classes and can be contacted for her special ‘Green birthday’ parties in the garden wherein children enjoy with fun science themes, stories and gardening activities, wheelbarrow and all.

A treasure hunt with clues in the neighbourhood or heritage points of the city where kids walk around with adults helping out. Plan a party at a nature park like Maharashtra nature park in Mahim or the BNHS organises nature walks and hikes at the SGNP, Hide Out an organic farm at Palghar by Hemant Chabbria, offers eco- friendly day visit or overnight stay where-in fun nature activities and games are organised with their whole brood of animals in tow, organise a visit to the local animal café or shelter and spend some quality time there.

Give away bird feeders as a return gift on birthday parties. Photo credit: Nature Forever Society

Give away bird feeders as a return gift on birthday parties. Photo credit: Nature Forever Society

Environmentally conscious return gift ideas for a birthday party

  1. Bird feeders to hook up in your balcony for the birds like sparrows, parrots, magpie from the Bombay Natural Historical Society at Kala Ghoda and Nature Forever Society.
  2. A packet of seeded non-toxic pencils made from recycled paper.
  3. Use the pencils, sharpen it but when you cannot use it anymore, plant the stub in soil. Each pencil has seeds of different flowers, fruits and vegetables at its end. Shower it with some water, air and love and it will grow in no time.
  4. Buy eco-friendly products like mugs, table mats, tee shirts, binoculars, caps from the BNHS or an NGO like CRY, Shraddha Foundation, WSD.
  5. From the local nursery buy a small sapling or flowering plant and gift in a reusable pot.
  6. Gift a book or diary made from recycled paper or a DIY Journal.
  7. Storybooks made out of recycled paper.

To make an impact, any effort big or small will give a ‘green lease of life’ to our planet. Whenever you’re hosting a sustainable, responsible, zero-waste and an environment-friendly party, make sure you spread the word through social media so that others too can imbibe it in their lives too. Helping spread the word of a healthy environment is a positive step towards the preservation of our natural resources.

poyani & daughter

Poyani & daughter

About our writing program student:

Former librarian of Gopi Birla Memorial School, a Storyteller, actor in children’s theatre with The Secret Passages Storytellers and The 3 Musketeers, a team member of The Peek A Book Children Lit. Festival, Poyani enjoys baking, is very for of animals, music and travelling. When she’s not busy with work, she likes to spend quality time with her 11-year-old daughter. She occasionally likes to write travel stories as well.

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