Many parents have devised ways to make a birthday party more eco, as Jennifer Lance wrote about here, including sending e-vites, cutting down on paper decorations and plates and distributing favors and party bags that don’t feature plastic junk.
One sticky point though is the issue of gifts. Most of us find that our children already have too many toys but, especially at certain ages, kids just aren’t ready to forgo the pile of gifts they are likely to receive. There’s something special about ripping through all of that wrapping paper to display yet another toy.
Though charitable giving alternatives exist like Echoage and Heifer, often it isn’t possible to talk a stubborn child into asking that guests not bring a gift. Often it’s even harder to ask guests to forgo that task.
Since our friends range from very crunchy to pretty mainstream, we often end up with a pile of presents that, well, let’s just say we find…less than desirable. Last year, to at least avoid a pile of toys we tried registering at Thisnext.com for presents we really would appreciate.
This turned out to have mixed results. We buy very few toys in traditional retail stores so in most cases we were asking guests to plan ahead and go online to buy what we might really want. As a result, we ended up with a number of toys that we ended up returning.
This actually turned out to be not such a bad thing. After trips to two or three stores to make returns, I ended up with some gifts that my child might actually enjoy.
This year I took it a step further. We registered at Target, a place most parents find it easy to visit on a regular basis and one with a generous return policy. We expanded our list beyond toys to pool, sand and sports items and used the cool in-store scanner to create the list…an adventure in itself.
After the party as we opened the gifts we found that, for the most part, we received gifts from the registry. Several were duplicates and we placed those in a pile to return for a Target gift card…which I intend to use to buy household products.
Yup…now you see why I chose Target.
The dollar value of the returned gifts I shared with my son with a game plan for its use. We plan to divide the dollar amount into thirds. One third will go into his savings account. One third will go to a charity associated with our birthday party theme. (This year we chose a jungle theme so the money will go to The World Wildlife Fund.) The balance he may use to buy toys he has requested and of which I approve…in his case Playmobil figures not available in most stores.
Though we’ve yet to figure out how to get guests to forgo the wrapping paper, I feel we’ve at least made some progress.