Carbon-Neutral Birthday?

Forget jealousy – green is the new color of guilt. That is to say, I’m having guilt about Punkernoodle One’s birthday party. After thinking a lot about the importance of teaching our children moderation, using our cars on the weekend as infrequently as possible, focusing on homemade traditions and local activities, we decided to host the 3-year-old birthday party at …. a farm outside Seattle where the kids will, GULP, ride ponies.

Ok, ok – wait a minute. Let me just state for the (green) record that 1. Both Punkernoodles know how to recycle in the plastic bin, the paper bin AND the food compost, 2. We own a cloth diaper business and 3. We do emphasize moderation, re-use toys and clothes and household items, refuse to buy plastic bottles, get books from the library and … alright, you get the picture.

So I resist the thought that we might be regarded as city-dwelling, earth-raping yuppies trampling out to the country just to stick our precious little girl on a pony and take a birthday picture. The thing is, our house is too small for 12 crazed preschoolers and a few straggling siblings to run around at or in, the weather will be nice so who wants to be cooped up in the children’s museum or an ice-cream-shop party room with fluorescent overhead lighting? The park, the park, you say …. Yes, but I can barely find time to cook dinner. I don’t want to spend my girl’s birthday running around decorating, arranging, cooking and cleaning. I want to wallow in the joy of her growth. Ok, fine – I want to see her face when a real-life pony prances her way.

So, what can I do to make up for the 12-15 car trips 30 miles east to get to said farm? And how can I keep the possible extravagance in check? Idea No. 1 is something that the families from the kids’ school have been doing already – parents are asked not to buy the birthday child a gift. Instead, every child brings a wrapped book for an exchange. This keeps the gift-craze in check and eliminates the need for “goodie bags” – usually plastic bags filled with cheap, China-made plastic toys or nibblets of high-fructose corn syrup.

Next: There’s been a lot of controversy about balloons over the years, whether the harvesting of latex from rubber trees is bad for the environment and the peoples in rubber-tree-growing regions, and whether their release and decomposition is bad for the planet. Whatever the net verdict, I figure we can just skip the balloons and avoid the use of one more disposable item – hopefully the fresh air and beautiful landscape will be festive enough.

Other thoughts: No plastic servingware. We’ll have recycled napkins and finger foods, and either environmentally friendly forks for cake or real silverware from home. For cups, we’ll do compostible ones or something reusable from home. Organic lemonade and fruit juice from glass bottles. Fruits and veggies. Homemade cake?

No goodie bags, but here’s an idea I think is cool: Give away a seed packet to each child as a thank you. A responsible way to encourage eating locally, growing organically and giving without wasting. And hopefully those ideas, plus anything else we think of, will help us negate that footprint of ours. Also, there’s something to be said for taking the children to a farm, teaching them where food should come from, showing them how to respect and care for animals. I hope.

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