Frugi sells organic cotton party dresses
These green ideas for children’s parties prove that you don’t have to be a party pooper, just to throw a less polluting party for little ones. All children love a party, and there are plenty of alternatives to releasing balloons and letting McDonald’s fill them up with junk
Did you know that the average birthday party for a child now costs £300, with some parents spending £800? Mamalina writes that it’s time to move (back) to a time when ‘pass the parcel’ and homemade cake made the day.
- Consider a zero waste picnic.
- Forget the plastic and invest in some reusable cutlery which is made from biodegradable materials like bamboo or corn.
- Violet Pickles & Alice Palace sells recycled party invites
- Little Otter Party Supplies sells pre-filled party bags with plastic-free goodies. Think colouring pencils, wooden ladybird keyrings and wildflower seed packets to save the bees (see make your garden safe for pets, to avoid toxic plants near animal friends).
- Hire a compassionate clown. Some do use balloons (so ask them not to). But these trained actors offer oodles of fun, with no live animals.
- Expert advice is to not fly kites, as string can choke or strangle birds in the air. If you use them, choose biodegradable kites (slightly less dangerous) and avoid at dawn and dusk, when birds are flying.
Forget balloons (harmful to wildlife) and use pretty bunting instead. If you use balloons, use indoors or tie securely with raffia/jute and dispose of responsibly (don’t leave string/ribbon in garden, as birds take it back to nests, who then choke or strangle). After use, deflate balloons slowly with scissors (near the knot) and bin securely (these and bouncy balls are also choking hazards).
Give Ronald a Miss
Why not go back to your own childhood and do what all the kids love: put on a fun kids’ CD, and play musical chairs? We’ve all heard that in ‘normal life’, parents often take their children to have a party at McDonald’s. Due to recent criticism, McDonald’s has now committed to removing hard plastic toys from their stores, though you could be more ambitious and be like Tavistock (the town that saw off McDonald’s).
The website states that if you hire McDonald’s for a party for up to 10 children, they get 10 Happy Meals (a main of burger or nuggets, a side of French fries, salad or apple slices – you can guess which one they’ll choose! – and a drink). Obviously a children’s party is not about eating muesli, but there are better options out there. The firm then include goodie bags for each child, invites, placemats, party hats, a birthday cake with candles, ice cream and a special gift for the Birthday Child from Ronald McDonald (a US actor who left due to being unhappy about promoting ‘happy cows’ and is now a vegetarian campaigner)
The corporate branding is just as disturbing. There is something almost North Korean about it: everyone who has a birthday always has to go to the same place owned by the same brand, where the same ‘man’ celebrates your birthday. It’s all a bit surreal and creepy. And if there is an allergic or vegan child who attends, he or she can’t ‘join the party’ without forgoing food (as you’re not allowed to bring anything extra). And if you do eat it, you must sign a Release of Harm form so if a child chokes, it’s not their fault.
On the other hand, the ‘shaming’ of parents who use the brand is just as bad. Obviously one reason they are used is because McDonald’s makes huge profits, so it’s a more affordable option than hiring your own community centre and buying everything separately.
Custard is a comforting dish on cold days, and also popular to serve on traditional puddings and used to fill vegan custard tarts. Made by boiling milk with vanilla and sugar, some fake vanilla essence is made from castoreum (the anal glands of beavers). This post shows how to make (or where to buy) vegan custard and jelly (no gelatine). Try this homemade custard at Addicted to Dates (if making the compote, bin rhubarb leaves to naturally break down, as their toxin harms all creatures, including compost bin critters).
Did you know that China eats more custard on earth than anyone? It’s kind of like the national dish, although often eaten in the form of steamed custard buns, rather than alone. Italians also enjoy morning pastries filled with custard, sold in cafes alongside their first espresso of the day. This thick vegan custard (The Veg Space) is made with vegan cream.
Vegan Custard (Addicted to Dates) is thick and creamy. It uses just 5 simple ingredients and is coconut-free. Serve with cakes, pies and tarts.
Where to Buy Organic Vegan Custard
Just Wholefoods makes the best custard powder. It’s organic and made with real vanilla. Just add plant milk to make your own. You’ll have to recycle the plastic packaging at supermarket bag bins.
Nature’s Charm Coconut Custard is made by a company that guarantees no monkey slaves are used, to harvest the coconuts. Served in a zero waste tin.
A Bowl of Fruity Vegan Jelly
Fruit jelly can be made with agar-agar, a seaweed-thickening agent found in health stores and some groceries. This is better than gelatine, which is made from animal bones. Vegan Fruit Jelly Cake (Christie at Home) is made with strawberries and blueberries, and sweetened with maple syrup. Although seaweed should be avoided for people with thyroid/iodine issues, agar is very mild so should be fine, check with your GP before use.
Kanten Jelly recipe (Clearspring) is a very simple clear jelly from Japan, made with fruits, water and agar. This recipe has just 3 ingredients, and you can mix it up with different fruits.
Where to Buy Vegan Jelly
Just Wholefoods is the main brand in shops. It’s vegan and simple to make, though you’ll have to recycle the plastic packaging. Just pour the crystals into a glass measuring jug, pour in boiling water, cool and leave to set. You could add plant milk to turn these into ‘milk jellies’. Choose from raspberry, strawberry, lemon or tropical. You can find these in most indie health stores.
Hartley is the best-selling brand of jelly, but a quick look at the plastic packaging ingredients shows that the main ingredients for the strawberry jelly are pork gelatine, gluctose-fructose syrup (not good), sugar, and carmine (a red colour from dead insects). Strawberry is not even an ingredient. Avoid blancmange (milk jelly), as it’s nearly always made with gelatine.
Biodegradable alternatives to plastic plates are ideal for when you are throwing a party or having any kind of do that involves catering (say a wedding or veggie barbeque). Conventional plastic plates are wasteful and expensive and never biodegrade. This means that if littered, they break into microplastics and cause harm to the planet and land and ocean creatures, which accidentally ingest tiny pieces of plastic.
These plates are very sturdy and whether for single-use or a few uses, safely biodegrade after use. Some can go in the compost bin, others you simply bin where they will break down in commercial composting systems.
Plates from Fallen Palm Leaves
These biodegradable alternatives to plastic plates are made by FOOGO Green. They are designed to be used for parties, catering and weddings etc, to avoid the use of plastic plates that cause harm to the planet. Ideal for when you need disposable alternatives, the difference is that after use, these items go safely back to the environment, from where they came.
The Party Pack of Square Plates and Cutlery is made from palm leaves (not the same as palm oil, so don’t worry!) and ideal for any event. From naturally fallen palm leaves, the leaves are gently cleaned with water and heat-pressed to the desired shape and size. After use, just throw in food waste or your compost bin. Ideal for hot, cold, dry, wet, sticky, sweet or spicy food, they won’t bend or collapse under weight, and are microwave-and-freezer safe. The set includes 25 large and 25 small square plates plus 25 wooden knives, forks and spoons.
The company also makes a wide range of complementary items such as serving trays, salad bowls, dessert bowls, wooden cutlery sets (from a fast-growing birch tree) and straws made from wheat (the grain left behind after harvesting – don’t go soggy in liquid) and bamboo (a fast-growing grass, not taken from panda habitats).
There’s nothing that screams ‘birthday party!’ than a summer berry trifle. Although popular around the world, trifle is mostly English, and these recipes try to replicate childhood memories of Birds’ Trifle (packed with rubbish). These trifles use fresh fruits, optional booze, sponge fingers, all coated in a cream whipped topping, with hundreds of thousands. Obviously leave the booze out for children, but other than that, go for it! Keep these desserts away from pets, due to toxic ingredients like stone fruits and chocolate.
This vegan boozy sherry trifle (The Veg Space) is a plant-based version of everyone’s favourite celebration dessert. The most complicated step is making the sponge fingers, which uses a plant-based vegan block butter with no palm oil (Naturli is a good brand). Once that’s done, it’s a simple layering exercise of berries, vegan custard and cream, on top of the sherry-soaked sponge. Top with toasted almonds. Although the trifle can be made a day before, it’s best to whip the vegan cream, just before serving. Fancy mixing up the recipe a bit? No worries, Kate has lots of tips to make mini trifles (serve in large wine glasses) or adjust the flavours to make a summer/autumn blackberry apple version, or a German-inspired black forest trifle (cherry and chocolate).
Easy Vegan Pumpkin Trifle (Rainbow Nourishments) is based on Anthea’s recipe for her homemade fluffy pumpkin spice donuts. You basically cut these into cubes, and the rest is child’s play.
Vegan Black Forest Trifle (Rainbow Nourishments) is based on the popular German flavour of cherries and chocolate, apparently designed to replicate the national dress. Easier to make than the cake, this features a vegan chocolate cake, a chocolate custard, macerated cherries and whipped cream.
Vegan Prosecco Berry Trifle (Addicted to Dates) features a white chocolate custard made with pressed silken tofu and vegan white chocolate (keep all chocolate away from pets). Topped with an agar-set fresh strawberry jelly with raspberries, this dessert is topped with a strawberry coconut cream, and garnished with freeze-dried berries and vegan meringue. Most Prosecco is vegan, but do check the labels before purchase, to ensure it’s not filtered through bone char. The Wild Thing Vegan Prosecco is a good choice. This is because profits help the charity Born Free, which helps to rehabilitate animals in zoos, campaign for better welfare and look towards a world where animals live in their natural habitats.
Make Your Own Sponge Fingers
Homemade Vegan Sponge Fingers (Addicted to Dates) are the perfect recipe to master, whether you use them to soak in espresso for vegan tiramisu or to use at the base of a vegan trifle. These are made with aquafaba (chickpea brine water whizzed up to make vegan meringue) along with sugar, coconut milk, sunflower oil and a few baking activators). Or try these Gluten-Free Vegan Lady Fingers (Lazy Cat Kitchen).
Where to Find Vegan Jelly
Did you know that conventional jelly is often made with gelatin (animal bones)? There are not many vegan jelly brands around (listed below). So the simplest option is just to make your own. We have a few variations here: jell-O is simply the American brand name for jelly, so go with these gelatin-free recipes. Then we have Kanten (a clear jelly from Japan). And finally we have booze-sozzled jellies, often called ‘jello shots’, for adults only!
Just Wholefoods Vegan Jelly mixes are made with real fruits and are free from gelatin. They are in plastic packaging, so recycle with household waste or at supermarket bag recycling bins. They are in 4 flavours:
Serve with their vegan custard powder mix. You can also buy Vegeset, a vegan setting agent for sweet and savoury recipes, and can be used in place of gelatine for any recipe. It works well with any plant-based milk. Made from a seaweed gelling agent, one pack sets up to 5 pints.