How my “baby” turned 7

Orangutan donationsToday is my daughter’s 7th birthday. Happy birthday, Little Cheap!

We had her party on Saturday. This year, after watching several episodes of Orangutan Island and talking about global warming at school and home, she decided her birthday party would be a fund-raiser for orangutan conservation. Instead of gifts, she would collect donations for orangutan conservation — partly to avoid all the plastic packaging that typically comes with a half-dozen or dozen gifts from classmates. (She got the idea from our neighbor, whose 7th birthday party last year was a “baby shower” for Newborns in Need.)

Eight girls came to the party, and they plus Little Cheap donated $137 (collected in the handy-dandy box shown at right, which we repurposed from a box my new checks were delivered in). By no means did we manage to have a no-waste birthday party, but it was better than average.

The not-so-green:

  • We had a monkey pinata with candy and little plastic barrel-of-monkey keychains.
  • Our craft was painting “suncatchers,” which also were plastic.
  • We did use disposable plates, so 11 plates were thrown out, along with a juice carton and an ice cream carton.
  • Our non-cake snack was Cheetos. I guess it was a special request from one guest, and they are orange for orangutans. Thank goodness, they do not contain palm oil, which is a threat to orangutans.
  • The frosting is purchased, because … yes, I forgot we needed frosting until approximately one hour before the party.

The green:

  • There were no gifts! Even with gifts from family (of which there were plenty), we are able to repurpose many of the wrappings (gift bags and tissue paper), and there was little packaging — I only had a handful of trash to throw away. Looking at our garbage this week, there’s no extra bag of junk to reveal that we had a child’s birthday.
  • We used plastic forks and cups at the party (it was, after all, nine rowdy first- and second-graders in the back yard), but then we washed them and put them back in the party box.
  • We had paper napkins, but I planned to hand them out on an as-needed basis, and I don’t think anyone used one.
  • We sent the candy (not really that much of it) in repurposed plastic bags that our newspaper comes in — they are even orange for orangutans!
  • The party was held out under our clothesline, which was loaded with our drying laundry (hey, it was the only sunny/warm day in quite a few days; I had to take advantage). One guest’s dad said, “This reminds me of the old days!” He might have meant “Ah, I reminisce about my childhood,” or he might have meant, “Gee, are you guys totally poor?” Either way, it’s OK.
  • The birthday girl baked the cake herself, with just a little help from me. It’s the vegan chocolate cake from Mollie Katzen’s cookbook “Honest Pretzels,” and it’s totally delicious.
  • Our cake toppings came from her toy box (and the plan was her own design).
  • We spent $50 and practically no carbon on the party, whose entertainment centered around the girls running around the backyard, screaming, playing “Food Chain” (just what the name sounds like), and trying Pop Rocks for the first time. (The latter was especially entertaining for me.)
  • This week, we sent a $150 donation to an orangutan conservation group, and tomorrow we’ll donate three used cell phones we collected to be recycled to raise funds for the cause as well.

And what was the verdict from the child? “I liked it better than a regular party,” she said. “It was really fun, and I barely even noticed not getting presents. Besides, I don’t like it when I feel jealous of someone else’s gifts, and I don’t want other people to feel jealous of me.”

CakeNow the pressure will be on for my own birthday in the fall! Maybe an eco-friendly glass of wine will top my wish list …


8 thoughts on “How my “baby” turned 7

  1. Barbara says:

    We did something like this for my son’s 7th birthday–we had a Mad Scientist party and collected donations for the school’s science room. I really liked that liked that we then could invite lots of kids without worrying about a huge surplus of presents. The inspiration came when I was looking at a few presents from the previous year’s birthday that were scarcely played with. Also I wanted to get off the birthday present spending train. I’ve been so surprised at what people will spend on presents for classmates.

    there were still plenty of family presents & some from people who still wanted to give presents rather than donate, which was fine. How did you explain it to folks on the invitation? I found that people were willing, but had a lot of questions and it wasn’t entirely clear.


  2. cheaplikeme says:

    We printed out our own invites that said:

    “[Little Cheap] invites you to GO APE for her birthday! [when/where etc.]

    “In lieu of gifts, [Little Cheap] invites you to come PARTY and, if you would like, bring a few dollars to contribute to orangutan rescue. We will pool our donations to help save endangered orangutans and their habitat (and maybe even adopt an orangutan!).”

    We also included links for more info and on the back printed some background about orangutans and how/why they are endangered.

    I guess it was clear – people didn’t ask us questions beforehand.

    I know last year I got it when my neighbor did it … although I felt a little intimidated, thinking “My kid would NEVER go for that!” But she did!

  3. Richard Zimmerman says:

    This is so wonderful! I would like to personally invite you, your daughter and all your readers to view the Orangutan Outreach website:

    We are the US affiliate of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation. Maybe you’ve had the chance to watch ‘Orangutan Island’ on Animal Planet? Those are just a few of our 650 + orphans…

    Orangutans are critically endangered and we need to help them if they are to survive as a species in the wild… Visit our website to learn more– and maybe even adopt an orphaned baby orangutan for your daughter! 🙂

    Warm regards… Rich

    Richard Zimmerman
    Director, Orangutan Outreach
    Reach out and save the orangutans!

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