Inspired by others minimizing their impact at their events, I’ve found some great ways to do so when welcoming your little one too.
I need to disclose that efforts at my baby shower were focused on waste reduction and positive steps for being more ethical – I can’t claim 100% sustainability yet! Baby steps..
If, like me, you want to create a more ethical baby shower, follow my guide below in the key themes: Reduce Plastic, Reduce Meat, Empower Local, Wishing Well & Spread the Word.
1. REDUCE PLASTIC
Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We all know the jingle and this is one of the easiest things to do, which is why it was a key feature in my baby shower. I focused on plastic reduction mainly around catering and decorations because once you really start looking, you realize how much plastic crap you just simply don’t need. I assure you that the event will still look and feel great without the extra sugar-honey-ice-tea. Here are my top tips:
USE ALTERNATIVES TO BALLOONS
Balloons are horrible for the environment. They produce litter on land and the sea, animals choke on them and the helium inside is also rare and can’t be manufactured. Even latex balloons that claim to be environmentally friendly, still take years to decompose can cause damage in that time. It’s a scam! Yes, balloon features can look really cool, but there are some even cooler, more beautiful and more sustainable alternatives. Try a beautiful feature wall instead. I absolutely loved mine from Something Extra Brisbane and it was way more stand-out than the balloons anyway. Other alternatives include hiring lights/lightboxes or making your own decorations.
DO NOT GET SUCKED INTO THE CHEAP PLASTIC CRAP AT RETAIL STORES
I have to confess – I went to K-Mart and did exactly this! Plastic streamers, glitter stuff, pom poms (poms poms, seriously?!). I got home and just cursed myself for getting sucked into the bargains, and felt like such a sell-out that I went back and returned them! Learn from me: Don’t get sucked in – you don’t need them!
Don’t forget all this stuff is single-use will just get thrown away after the party, ending up in landfill or into the ocean. At the end of the day, are those cheap, plastic decorations really going to create the vibe you want, or would it be better to do something home-made and recyclable?
For me, I opted for less is more in the decorations department: art in frames, a cardboard ‘guess when the baby’s due’ game, flowers, message book, reusable letter board, ‘LOVE’ sign we already had and a photo frame of my partner and I as kids. The flower wall was a big feature, so the other smaller decorations just complimented that.
CATER OR MAKE OUR OWN
Hire, create & borrow – again – do not get sucked into plastic single-use plates, bowls, cups or straws. Yes, of course, they are easy and affordable, but where do they go after their one-time use? Straight into landfill. If hiring glasses, plates and cutlery isn’t in your budget, ask your friends and family to help out. Can they bring some over for the event? Can everyone chip in to help with pot-luck style spread or can you have a cooking night with friends before the event? It could be delicious and much more ethical. Not to mention fun and less work for the expecting mum. Surely there’s that eggplant dip you’ve saved on Pinterest but haven’t had the chance to try it yet. Use this as an opportunity to do so!
2. REDUCE MEAT
It’s becoming common knowledge that eating meat isn’t that good for you or the environment. Yes, of course, many of us are not devoted vegetarians or vegans (me included), but it’s getting to the point where you can’t ignore the research that says we should be making efforts to change our eating habits to include more plants. Meat-Free Monday, plant-based recipes and the trend to being vegan/plant-based are becoming increasingly popular for good reasons.
In 2018, the UN called ‘meat’ one of the world’s most ‘urgent problems’, primarily citing greenhouse gas emissions (and how it rivals the amount produced by all kinds of transport around the world!). There’s even research about this from the FAO in 2006, so this issue is not new. Facts about meat in the Independent report indicates that eating less meat would be beneficial to reducing climate change and that 30% of the world’s fresh water is used for agriculture.
It also states that change in dietary habits over the last 40 years have made people more obese – so really we should be cutting down on the meat we eat anyway if we want to keep our waistlines trim. A NY Times article, detailed the direct link between animal & plant-based proteins and their impact on health. In short: eat more plants, eat less meat.
Then in terms of the environment, it’s not only emissions – manure and fertilizer runoff from animal agriculture cause pollution and dead zones in waterways around the world.
Is that enough reasons to cut it down at your party?
For me, I opted for fewer meat options, adding extra fruits options in its place. No one complained and everything was gobbled up in a flash.
3. EMPOWER LOCAL
Empower local businesses by using their products and services. Put your focus on women-led businesses too. I was fortunate to have an amazing local caterer, who also used delicious local foods, and my make-up artist was a budding businesswoman who did an amazing job. She inspired me with her drive, passion and the fact that she was self-started at just seventeen! Our flower-wall supplier was also an amazing husband and wife duo who we loved and can’t wait to use again.
I decided to ask for contributions to a wishing well, rather than asking for presents. I had heard that often expectant-mums get multiples of the same gift and I also wanted to avoid lots of plastic toys if possible. Yes, a wishing well is divisive – some people don’t agree with it, and some simply ignore it (many people still brought generous gifts for us!). But for me, again, it was about reduction and I do think we saved on plastic, beautiful wrapping paper that is just thrown away and any gift double-ups.
5. SPREAD THE WORD
Tell people about what you’re doing! Word of mouth is a great way of spreading a message and awareness.
Use the power of social media to share the vendor you use. From blabbing to my followers and tagging my vendors in posts, I’ve had people inquire into the flower wall, make-up artist, caterer and how to use some of these features in their parties.
To finish, the biggest thing to remember is that baby steps do count! By reducing meat options, you’ve saved water, waste & lives (technically). By reducing plastic, you can feel good that turtles and fish aren’t choking in the ocean. For the rest, you know that you’ve made an effort and that by doing so are acting as an example for others to do the same.
Breakaway from moulds and do your bit because that’s how we will collectively create change.
Happy baby shower!
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Sarah has spent a decade working for social change, leading international projects and teams in Australia, Asia and the Americas. She is a Rotary Global Grant Scholar, has been guest speaker at the United Nations and was awarded International Young Woman of the Year in 2018 for her work in global peace-building.