So you have a baby, and you have this blur of sleepless nights and stressing about naps and milk (and then you write a post about formula and climate change which goes a little bit viral on Twitter – eeep! And thanks for all the shares, folks), then you BLINK and it’s their second birthday.

To celebrate keeping the small person alive for two years, we decided to have a party. His first birthday was somewhat overshadowed by a double bout of norovirus, so I did feel like the occasion deserved particular attention.

Children’s parties are a bit of a minefield if you’re trying to reduce plastic and reduce waste (there’s no such thing as zero waste, people – just less). And I’m afraid I didn’t actually try that hard. I wanted “proper” 80s style party food – sandwiches, sausage rolls, those little eggy bite things, a cheese and pineapple hedgehog. I am SO gutted that I forgot to take a photo of the hedgehog – I feel like I missed the documentation of a pretty major parenting milestone here. It looked a bit like this though, except I forgot to give it any eyeballs (yet another parenting fail!)

I’m afraid this meant buying quite a lot of food wrapped in plastic packaging. I did try with the plates and cups – but I didn’t research it enough, I misguidedly thought that paper plates and cups would be recyclable, but of course they’re coated in plastic so they had to go in the black bin for incineration. In hindsight, with a bit more organisation, I would have been better off hiring a reusable party kit from something like the Party Kit Network UK. I’m not completely convinced by the various biodegradable palm leaf and wooden options available – they look very pretty and Instragrammable but I feel like they must be quite energy-hungry to produce, and of course – TREES, we have to remember the trees in all these anti-plastic efforts, despite what the influencers try to sell us.

Anyway, here’s a big bag of rubbish that we sorted through for recycling, Terracycle and ecobricking, as penance for our party sins.

We had amazing entertainment from the lovely Cathy at Rucksack Music and a bunch of ride on toys (mostly second hand, from car boot sales – we’ve had the plastic toys chat already, haven’t we?) We didn’t do party bags – just cake (Colin the Caterpillar is awesome). I figured I have a couple of years’ grace before children’s parties become competitive and party bags become an essential part of the experience. I am seeing increasingly in the zero waste social media world (I know, I need to get out more), lots of plastic free/zero waste/Pinterest-worthy eco party bags. I’m afraid I think some of this is pretty cringe-worthy performance parenting, eco-style, but I suppose I should get to grips with it before the next party – maybe when he’s about 12…

The party was SO fun and lovely. It’s just kind of exhausting thinking about low-waste parenting all the time and feeling guilty about not doing enough. I’m a bit jealous of people who parented in the 80s and 90s, when this stuff wasn’t at the forefront of our minds, although perhaps consumerism hadn’t taken hold quite so much then either and expectations were lower. And I am still agonising over this amazing advent calendar, which I also find slightly horrific, but I want to buy it SO much for the small one, as he would absolutely love it. I think I actually shared a different one in my earlier post, but the fact that there is more than one miniature Thomas the Tank Engine advent calendar in the world makes it even worse, doesn’t it? I want to buy him plastic toys that he will love, just like I want to buy him gorgeous, soft and squadgy organic cotton vests and joggers with dinosaurs on, rather than slightly tatty but perfectly adequate stuff from eBay. And I want to buy him strawberries from wherever the hell in the world they come from in February, wrapped in plastic – because he loves them. And he’s my best boy and I want him to have all the things he likes, and the very best we can afford. And all the stuff that the luckier members of the generation before this (mine) had, without anyone really thinking about the environmental impact.

But of course that’s what got us into this mess in the first place. And equally, I want him to be able to grow up and be able to go swimming in oceans that aren’t full of plastic, and see coral reefs that aren’t dead, and live in a world that isn’t a hellish post-climate-apocalypse warzone. (I’m betraying a sense of entitlement for long-haul travel here, which is another post entirely…)

So it’s back to it, kids. One change at a time, day by day, trying to do the right thing. This stuff isn’t easy. But it’s critical. If I’m not up for gluing myself to a government building to protest against our global emergency, the least I can do is contemplate giving up cocktail sausages.

Thomas feels my pain.

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