Planning an Eco Friendly kids birthday party?
Going green and hosting a plastic free or zero waste children's party can be challenging, especially the lolly bags!
Here are fabulous alternatives to traditional plastic party bags.
Party loot bags are so often laden with unnecessary plastic
it doesn't have to be this way!
There are plenty of eco-friendly alternatives, and this list of options will help you to go plastic free or zero waste for your child's next birthday party.
I'm regularly faced with the dilemma about how to combine our eco-friendly lifestyle with childhood fun and this is ESPECIALLY true at kids birthday parties.
There is a trend towards lower waste parties and nature based party themes, but often the party bag is a forgotten aspect, or is just too hard to figure out.
I think the key to any children's party is the cake and a few fun games, the rest is the small stuff that takes up the most time and effort.
With birthday party season looming in our household, I've been thinking about fun alternatives to both the plastic party bag and the contents within.
Yes, we can choose to skip them all together but a small part of me is fearful of the first kid to pipe up and loudly say ''Where are the party bags?''
and in my experience, kids develop an expectation of receiving them as they progress through primary school.
This post will give you lots of ideas for ecofriendly and zero waste alternatives to the traditional plastic party bags.
Wondering what to put in them? Here are some great package-free, sustainable and zero waste items to put into your eco-friendly bags.
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Eco Friendly Alternatives to the Plastic Party Bag
My childhood is filled with many happy memories of being handed a colourful plastic bag at the end of a party filled with all sorts of yummy treats or toys that I was never usually allowed to have at home.
It was one of the highlights of the party and it still is for many children today. BUT the packaging is not an essential part of it.
I couldn't have cared less if it was plastic or pretty, the real prize was always inside, so keep this in mind when deciding an option.
>Paper Lunch Bags
Yes, the humble brown paper lunch bag makes the perfect party bag and these ones are unbleached with a grease proof layer yet still compostable meaning they work for homemade cookies and cakes.
We went for paper bags last year at my daughter's 6th birthday, and she spent hours decorating them with pictures and stamps.
You don't have to decorate them at all, and if you have a themed party, you can search for suitable printable and cut them out and stick them on the bag. It will be 100% recyclable and is definitely strong enough to hold goodies until kids get home.
This is a seriously great option if you are having a piñata so kids can collect their loot and save some for later (plus no need to fill the party bags yourself!). If you are considering a piñata, here is a way to make them with very little effort out of upcycled materials) which leads me to the next option.....
>Small Up-Cycled Cardboard Boxes
While making the piñata I mentioned above, it popped into my head that by using smaller cardboard boxes, I could have made some really awesome party bags, or boxes to be precise.
I didn't have time to do this, but it is a simple way to make themed loot boxes that are upcycled and recyclable.
>DIY Newspaper Bags
You can take your local messenger or newspaper and upcycle it into cute party bags.
I don't recommend using these for foods as newspaper ink isn't edible, and some people (like me) are quite sensitive to the ink.
Here's a quick and easy tutorial on how to make the one in the picture below from The Nesting Place, and there's no reason plain brown paper couldn't be used instead.
>Decorated Paper Bags
There are so many different types of decorated paper bags in party shops, mostly made from kraft paper which is a little less eco-friendly than paper lunch bags, but still way better than plastic.
Some come with string handles, which can be pretty useful and it is a quick and easy way to fit with a colour scheme you might have in mind, without too much work.
They are recyclable and often come in plastic packaging, but one plastic bag is far better than 20 or 30 and you will be able to recycle it yourself instead of passing it on.
>Origami Party Loot Box
Origami boxes are super cute, especially for older kids with an interest in paper crafts who can make the boxes themselves (or they can be made by you while you watch your favourite TV shows).
These are fabulous for plastic free unwrapped lollies and chocolates or small loot items.
They could be filled with seaweed and rice snacks or giant chocolate covered freeze dried strawberries, which are often available at bulk stores.
Kids love these boxes because they are a little bit different to the norm, and can be opened and closed AND reused for something else.
This video below will show you all you need to get started.
You can make your own fabric bags, however this can be time consuming and not everyone has a sewing machine or can be bothered for that matter.
You can certainly buy them already made, so don't feel like you need to slave away making them.
Here are the ones I made recently, which you can find on my etsy store.
Below is a natural cotton bag that we made at home on another and decorated with pink spots using a sponge and some paint.
This is a little more time consuming to do than some of the other options and I would really only do it if I knew most of the kids would reuse the bag for something.
Combine this bag with a game or marbles, instead of lollies and it becomes the perfect storage bag for it.
>Jars or Mini food Containers
If you have collected jars or containers throughout the year, then by all means go ahead and use them for this.
Most of us aren't going to be able to collect enough to have a matching set of jars and of course, don't offer glass to little kids as they are bound to be dropped.
If you are going to substitute party bags with containers, make sure to get BPA free and food safe ones.
Tip: Avoid flimsy takeaway style containers as they really aren't very eco-friendly and likely to end up straight in the bin (like the party bag you are trying to avoid)
I really love the ones pictured below as they are made from recycled material and can be recycled at the end of their life too (more details here).
They also make a great yoghurt pot for kid's lunch boxes after the party, and come in cute colours like this green one and can be washed in the dishwasher.
TIP: If you can't get to a bulk food store for lollies and treats, buy larger bags instead of individually wrapped items. At least you can recycle the bag yourself.
These are seriously simple to make, and can be in any colour you choose. I've included the basic directions below.
This is also how to make a basic party hat, or a unicorn horn, but I wouldn't recommend giving it a dual purpose at the party.
Step 1 > Choose your cardboard and cut out a circle
Step 2 > Cut out a wedge so it looks a little like Pacman
Step 3 > Roll it into a cone shape and secure with tape
This is really simple and so useful for popcorn at movie themed parties or to be filled at the lolly buffet, BUT before you settle on this idea, you need to read the next one....
Good old fashion ice-cream cones can easily become an zero waste replacement for party bags.
They can be filled by the children, layered with different items and topped with a couple of marshmallows.
If you want to limit the amount of sugar you are feeding party goers, then bulky items like marshmallows make it hard to fit a lot in, and the parents might be extra grateful.
>BYO Party Bag
I had to add this >>>
when I asked my daughter what her ideas were for an eco-friendly party bag, her first answer was "Ask them to bring their own bag''
I instantly laughed as we are always bringing our own bags to the supermarket and it is such an obvious idea when you think about it!
So this is totally an option, as is asking them to bring a small container.
You will need to have an alternative for those that forgot to bring their own though, and probably make it clear that bigger containers don't equal more lollies.
>Party Bag in a Cup
If you are trying to be more planet friendly with your parties, then you have probably ruled out disposable plastic cups and opted for real cups instead.
Reusable party cups can be quickly transformed into a lolly bag substitute,
you would be surprised how eager kids are to go and wash their cups when they know they are going to be filled with take home goodies.
Obviously keep in mind children's ages and don't send them home with a giant cup filled with sugar.
Being eco-friendly certainly doesn't have to be boring and these little pouches are a great party bag alternative for kids.
They aren't plastic free, but they are cute reusable options that wont result in passing on trash. (Just remember to tell everyone they are designed to be reused).
>Lucky Dip Treasures
Not only is having a lucky dip a great party activity, but this will replace loot bags all together.
Wrap objects of your choice in newspaper, scrap wrapping paper or fabric and place them all in a box.
Try to do different shapes to keep them guessing as to what might be inside.
When the party ends, or during the party, let the kids take turns at selecting their prize.
At one party we had, I did this with all the little plastic toys and bouncy balls that had been collected at various parties we'd been to along with extra pencils, chalk and crayons we seemed to accumulate.
These toys always end up left on the floor and I really hate picking them up, so every time I had to pick one up, I put it in a box.
I was going to donate them to the op shop, but used them for the lucky dip instead. This meant we had a broad variety, and were able to redistribute the toys in a fun way.
> Opt For a Party Activity with a Take Home Item
Skip loot bags altogether by incorporating an activity into the party games, where the kids get to make something and keep it like ice-cream flavoured playdough.