Kids’ birthday parties: A mom’s reflection on reducing over-consumption

How do you celebrate child’s birthday?


“Oh no… my kid is going to a friend’s birthday party this weekend and I have to find a present!” How often have I heard that heartfelt lament? Often enough that I decided, when my own daughter was old enough to have parties with her friends, that their parents would never need to go through that. My solution couldn’t be simpler: no presents. Since then, I’ve heard about many parents who have followed suit, at least in my little town of Richmond in Quebec’s Eastern Townships region.

Two weeks ago, my daughter celebrated her 7th birthday, and I suggested a new concept: “Let’s ask your friends to bring non-perishable food items (of course, I explained the meaning of the term) so you can donate them to a food bank! Instead of receiving, you’ll be giving to others.” She agreed, perhaps without fully understanding the meaning behind it. Since then, I was surprised to realize her story has gotten people talking, going as far as to make the front page of our regional newspaper. This visibility has led other parents to share similar ideas with me, and today, I am passing them on to you.

Next time you’re holding a birthday party, ask the other kids to bring things such as:
  • A used children’s book from their bookcase to donate to a public library or to an organization that holds annual used book sales to raise funds.
  • A used article of clothing to donate to a non-profit thrift store or to Certex.
  • A used toy to donate to local organizations that collect them for Christmas baskets for example. Réno-Jouets, in Québec, is one such group.

Each time, set up a meeting between your child and a representative of the organization so that they get a more direct sense of their community’s realities.

Easy and inexpensive activities

As for activities to do with friends, you don’t need to spend a fortune on piñatas, gift bags and all kinds of toys. We made a little greenhouse with materials that were headed to the recycling bin anyway. The kids loved playing in the dirt and planting seeds, and they left with a memento that won’t end up in the garbage. You can also play little chefs and make a potluck recipe with the kids. They’ll get to bring a delicious treat home!

If you have other ideas, please share them—they may inspire many parents!

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About the Author
Marie-Eve Chapdelaine

Marie-Eve Chapdelaine is a specialist in sustainable development and has worked at Cascades since 2006. She is particularly interested in building public awareness and changing attitudes regarding social and environmental issues. In her role at Cascades, Marie-Eve uses her expertise to inform, guide and support her colleagues in maintaining the company’s leadership position in sustainable development. She has earned an undergraduate degree in public communications from Université Laval and is currently pursuing a master’s degree in environment at Université de Sherbrooke. “I’ve always been interested in environmental causes, but also in social issues. Sustainable development allows me to pursue both interests at once. What better than to work at Cascades, a beacon in this area, and a company that is open to implementing all sorts of measures to improve performance and maintain its leadership position.” Because she believes every citizen needs to take responsibility for improving their living environment, Marie-Eve is also socially engaged, sitting on several community boards and committees.

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