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(MCT)—Most parents aren’t doing back flips when they turn a year older. The same can’t be said for our kids. When you plan your child’s next birthday party, give the planet a gift at the same time. Here are my Top 7 ways to Do Your Part and throw a greener birthday bash.

1) Personalized & Paperless Invitations
It’s common and acceptable to use an online service to invite kids to your child’s big day. You can customize the emailed invitations with photos and custom wording. It is cheaper and faster than printing or writing out invitations and makes it easy for parents to RSVP.

2) Party with the Planet in Mind
Lots of parents struggle with a birthday theme and location ideas. Consider hosting a low waste experience for your child’s friends. It could be a trip to pick strawberries, a cooking class, or an afternoon at a petting zoo. That way you can avoid buying the streamers, balloons, and other hard to recycle decorations.

3) Decorate Responsibly
If you do need to decorate, you can be festive without creating trash. For instance, line a wall of your party room with paper and have the partygoers write birthday messages on it. Then recycle it. Or, you can have the kids create party hats with newspaper and recycle those too. If you do have to buy specific decor, keep it generic so you can reuse it.

4) Eco-Friendly Dishware
We’ve all seen the piles of plastic plates and cups filling up trash bags at parties. There are eco-friendly alternatives. Tough plastic dishware can be easily reused at home. Or, give guests a marker to write their names on cups to keep track of their drink. Also, big jugs with spigots or pitchers make it easy to avoid using those hard-to-recycle juice boxes.

5) Don’t Give Away Junk
We know — and kids know — there are usually take-home favors at birthday parties. Consider alternatives to those cheap, easy to break plastic toys. Packets of seeds for kids to grow or a small sapling to plant are eco-friendly and fun activities for children to do later.

6) Have Recycling in Reach
It’s critical to have a recycling bin clearly labeled at the party. Let guests know which items can be collected. When cleaning up, don’t dump everything out with the garbage. Take the time to sort it.

7) Give Old Toys New Life
After a birthday bash, your home will be inundated with new toys and games. Consider creating a new birthday tradition with your child and take their older and gently used toys to Goodwill or other donations spots. I have more donation details at DoYourPart.com/Columns.

Celebrating life’s biggest milestones shouldn’t take a toll on our planet. From the party planning stages to executing the event, Do Your Part to take the time to tread a little lighter on the planet. That’s the perfect gift for your little one and the environment.

Terri Bennett is a veteran TV meteorologist, eco-expert and author of “Do Your Part: A practical guide for everyday green living” available at DoYourPart.com.

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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