Fabulous ways to DIY a birthday party zero waste style

Do you want to throw an epic bash minus the trash? Say no more! We got in touch with Zainab Rahman, mom of two and throw-er of amazing birthday parties who has out of the box, unorthodox solutions to tackle and avoid the plethora of plastic waste that ends up after every kids birthday party. Zainab first got into the waste free lifestyle when she was living in California and was pregnant with her first child.

She observed people around her going to farmers markets with their own fabric bags and buying fresh, quality produce and was inspired to adopt a cleaner, greener lifestyle for herself and her family.  

One of the biggest sources of plastic party waste are decorations that are used only once and then end up in landfills. It’s about time to stop buying unnecessary, single use waste. Chances are you’re just going to throw the materials the day after the party. What a waste of money, right? Take a leaf from her book as we ask her about the low waste birthday parties she has organized for her children, and give you our take and ideas for how you can go about it!

Twinkle twinkle wooden stars complete with wooden beaded multi colored strings


How did it all start? What drove you to start thinking about the plastic and waste free lifestyle?

It all started off in 2007 when I was pregnant with my first child, Hamza. I started reading up on organic pregnancies. I didn’t want to expose him to plastic and chemicals so the toys that I got for him were wooden teething toys or cotton teething toys. S​o when organizing his first birthday party I was very mindful of the materials we used for the decorations and those used for the activities as well the goody bags we gave away.  

How long does it usually take to organize a birthday party of this nature?

These parties have been pretty​elaborate and so they took some planning and effort. ​I would need to start preparing and planning for them at least a month in advance. It can definitely be done as long as you plan ahead!

Please tell us a little about the decorations you made for these birthdays. How did you go about them?

Handmade cloth bean bags (giveaways) with patchwork and daal filling

I got these bean bags made
as giveaways fo​r Hamza’s first birthday. These bean bags were made from cloth and filled with daal. I had t​he numbers 1 through 10 patched onto them. I also got fabric buntings​made. If you get these things made once, you can use them over and over ​again. I​f you have basic sewing skills you can take some time out and make them themselves or get it done from a ​darzi.

Just like people store Christmas lights and precious ornaments, you can pack these and store them and take them out for the next party.

Embellished hand made fabric buntings


Want some help from the glorious internet? We scouted some easy to follow links for you so you can make these at home! Feel free to re-purpose your kids favourite graphic T-shirts to convert them to buntings for a themed birthday!


Hand sewn star and heart string bejeweled with sequins


I wanted all the things I was making ​or getting made to h​avesome longevity. ​I ​ got fabric pouches and bags​  made in place of market bought ​goody bags that are usually made of glossy paper and plastic. I also got wooden toys made for the goody bags because I wanted that whatever I was giving away didn’t end up in a ​tokri.

Some of my friends still use the bags I got made for Hamza’s first birthday. And that was 10 years ago!

Wooden toys and slingshots with pom poms as giveaways

You can get basic ​thelis or readymade cloth bags. These things are re-useable. For invites, you can go for paper or E-invitations.

Hand drawn invites for Hamza’s birthday

I think the key question to ask yourself is what will happen to this decoration, or plate or party activity after it has served its primary purpose. If it’s going to go straight into the garbage can then that right there is a problem that should be addressed.  

We suggest that you try to make decorations that will work for multiple occasions rather than one specific theme. Up-cycle things you already have to make decorations. For example old glass jars for centerpieces.  

Buntings, pinwheels and garlands made out of ​guddi kaghaz or crepe ​paper are cheap to buy and can be reused if packed carefully or recycled​! You can store those and fabric buntings so they can be used for parties down the road instead of the themed plastic flexes that are in fashion these days but eventually end up in the trash.

Low waste paper streamers and pinwheels to be stored and used again

How do you go about food wastage at the birthday parties?  

Well these days children als​o have birthdays in school where you are expected to bring a cake and the plates and cutlery. I have invested in stainless steel plates and forks which I take to the school, bring back and get them washed instead of single use plastic plates and forks. This cutlery is really cheap and durable at the same time and is a classic Pakistani thing that needs to come back!

Plastic and stainless steel cutlery adds a unique indeginous touch to parties

And what about boxed food and drinks?

We try to avoid boxed juices and pre packaged food as much as possible. I normally serve lemonade in glass pitchers or you could use coolers. The food is homemade and fuss free. I think kids rarely need elaborate menus; they’re so busy having fun so I normally keep it simple and homemade.

Food being served at Aziza’s 3rd  birthday


How do you tackle the issue of presents and the pile of wrapping paper left behind?

Sometimes you can ask people. You just need to make a conscious effort and make it a point to tell your friends and family that this is important to you and this is how you live and encourage them to either give books or charity on your behalf. With extra stuff, I usually pass it on.

Aziza’s birthday party

The theme for Aziza’s birthday party was market and all the vegetables and fruits were made from felt and set up in cane tokris! If you’re feeling creative and up to the task, here is a link to a tutorial that you can follow!

Painted sticks made by the kids along with necklaces (made from wooden discs and leather cords)


Outdoor games and activities on Hamza’s birthday party


How will you plan your next low waste party? Let us know in the comments below.




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