Heroes in a Half-Shell- Eco Power! Planning a more Eco-Friendly Party

Left side featues a cupcake in a blue wrapper with white icing topped with many lit, blue candles. The left side reads "Strategies for an Eco-Friendly Birthday Party!"

Smiling, young, white child in green bathing suit with green roaster pan "turtle shell" on her back.

“I worked to reduce waste, swap out plastic, and make more sustainable choices for our TMNT party, where we will be real planet heroes in a half-shell. Eco Power!”

Goal: A More Eco-Friendly Party

I grew up with the most fantastic, themed parties that my mom planned. They were AMAZING.  Being a crafty mom of two toddler girls, I have been all about creating the same kind of memories for my children.  

But as we’ve been on this journey to a more sustainable(ish) life, I’ve had a real mindset shift.  I’ve been thinking about many aspects of our life and how to make them more sustainable by reducing resource consumption and waste– particularly plastic waste.

So, with this new mindset, I’ve been thinking critically about the traditional themed birthday party and the many UNsustainable practices and materials associated with it. This led me to set a goal for my daughter’s birthday this year: To design a more-ecofriendly party for my Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fan.

Read on to see how I worked to reduce waste, swap out plastic, and make more sustainable choices for our TMNT party, where we will be real planet heroes in a half-shell. Eco Power!  

A seasonal, eco-friendly party food: A Veggie Tray made to look like Raphael with Cucumber and snap peas for the face, grape tomatoes for the mask, and cups of dip with an olive for the eyes.

A Veggie Tray provided a healthy, seasonal food option. Leftovers will make a great snack or salad.


A seasonal, eco-friendly party food: A Veggie Tray made to look like Michelangelo with Broccoli and Green Peppers for the face, carrots for the mask, and cups of dip with olives for the eyes.

This veggie tray added variety to our seasonal food options. Leftovers from this tray will make a great veggie stir fry!


Water in Glass Dispensers instead of Water Bottles for an eco-friendly party bevarage option.

No water bottles for us. Water and flavored water was provided with mason jar glasses for adults. There were no juice boxes for kids, either. Instead, we offered a single bottle of apple juice to be put into reusable cups for the kids.


Regular silverware forks in a tray for adults and reusable child forks in another tray for kids.

We used our every-day child forks for the party (some made from recycled milk jugs) and purchased real forks to use instead of buying plastic. We can reuse them for our following birthday parties, too, which will end up being a cost savings in addition to a reduction in plastic.

Eco-Friendly Party Food Choices

There are several ways to consider the food you are serving and how to make it more sustainable.  Firstly, recognize that everyone is at a different starting point, so some of you may look at my efforts and be WAY past them! Others may think this is too challenging. That’s okay! The point is to take small steps. These were mine: 

Do what you can to reduce meat consumption.

Parties generally include more people than your family unit and you have the opportunity to reduce the amount of meat consumed for a meal! We are serving very little meat– more as a side dish than a main course.  The only meat we served was a few slices of pepperoni on a cheese & cracker tray. And ya know what? No one seemed to miss it at all.

Not sure why you should reduce meat consumption? Check out our article on Meatless Monday Dinners.

Consider the amount of people who are attending and plan your menu and your shopping list accordingly. 

We are anticipated a gathering of about a dozen adults and 6 kids.  Sometimes I really over plan the food. I make too many dishes which takes up a lot of time and means there are a LOT of left overs.  This time, I am planned a more modest number of dishes to serve.  Unfortunately, we had some people who weren’t able to attend last minute so we still had a bunch of left overs.


We also made sure to keep the food on ice while outside and have plans to use the left overs.  Pizza can be reheated for lunches. Our fruit is an easy snack for the kids, who LOVE fruit or can be added to smoothies, yogurt, or oatmeal.  The veggies will be used in a salad and to make a veggie stir fry.  

Serve seasonal!

We’re having a summer party, so I am also serving fresh fruits & vegetables that are easy to use up if we have them left! 

Go Reusable & Repurposed when it comes to serving food.

Instead of using plastic forks, we purchased inexpensive silverware to reuse at all of our parties. I estimate that we will only need to use these forks at 5 parties before they are more cost effective than buying plastic ones. For us, that will occur in less than 3 years– possibly much less! 

We also use glass mason jars for cups (for the adults) so we can skip the paper-coated-in-plastic cups. We provided a dry erase marker to label the mason jars, so everyone could keep track of their jars.  The jars will also be used for homemade stock (one of my new favorite sustainable practices) and overnight oatmeal.

We have some serving trays for food, but we’ve also saved a few containers that we can upcycle, as well. We came up a little short on trays for ice, but we were able to borrow one from a family member.  By using what I had, upcycling, and borrowing, I didn’t have to buy a single serving tray or utensil for the party.

 In a similar fashion, we’re skipping the individual drinks so that we can cut down on waste.  

Water melon decorated like Leonardo from TMNT and a cracker tray set up to look like a pizza.

Our food was very much a part of our decor. One of my favorite parts was this work of art– a watermelon decorated to look like Leonardo! We have “grandpa” to thank for this creation.



DIY Ooze Cannisters on a table with a dark green fabric table cloth.

These Ooze canisters were made from upcycled real estate paper holders found at a yard sale.


More Sustainable Invitations & Decorations

Eco-Friendly Party Invitation

I often skip invitations all together and create a Facebook event for my little’s birthday. However, we recently moved and I didn’t have a way to contact any of Cuteness Everbean’s school friends. So, I had to get creative.

I made my own invitations that used 1 sheet of paper each for local guests.  Since I only made them for local guests, envelopes and stamps were not required.  I also chose a white background because it uses less ink when printing! 

Skipping the Balloons

A major decision for me was to skip the balloons. Balloons are single-use and made of material that cannot be recycled or repurposed.  I was totally inspired by this amazing European company, The Conscious Party Box, and I opted for paper spheres that can be carefully stored and repurposed. 

Choose Consumable & Reusable Decor

When it comes to decor, the food I serve is part of it! I choose food that fits the theme. For example, for our TMNT party We set out trays of veggies that are arranged to look like Raphael and Michelangelo. And a tray of crackers and cheese with a couple of pepperonis in the shape of a pizza.  

Choosing decor that can be a part of the birthday child’s gift or future room decor can be another option. This way you’re not using once-and-done decor.  If you don’t have a use for them, you can try to sell or donate them to extend the life of reusable decor.  For us, this meant buying additional TMNT figures that the kids could play with at the party and the birthday girl could have to play with afterwards.

You can also upcycle material into decorations so that you are extending the life of an item. We found some real estate paper cannisters at a yard sale that we will be upcycling into TMNT ooze cannisters.

Young white child wearing TMNT mask and roaster pan turtle shell on her back.

The sister of the birthday girl wore her mask & DIY Turtle Shell made from a roaster pan and yarn from a repurposed scarf.


Partially opened pizza box and stacked piles of lids decorates like pizzas.

The kids really enjoyed playing this simple game made from an upcycled pizza box and upcycled whipped topping lids. They threw the lids like frisbees into the partially opened box.

Cookies decorated to look like ninja turtle heads. One is made from green dough and painted with a red mask. Another is untinted dough with a blue mask.

TMNT Cookies were our prizes for activities.

You Eco-Friendly Party Games & Favors

When it comes to activities, it’s easy to get carried away purchasing games or supplies.  I find that making things CAN be more sustainable, but that isn’t necessarily true.  Here are some ways we got creative! 

DIY Activities

I made a homemade pin-the-mask on the turtle game from card stock and poster board.  The materials are few and inexpensive and there’s no plastic or plastic-coating that would make it unrecyclable. 

Activities from Upcycled Materials

Another game we made is a “frisbee toss.”  The frisbees are made from upcycled lids from containers.  The goal is to toss the pizza into an upcycled pizza box. 

Using Already-Owned and Pre-loved Materials

Because it’s VERY hot where we live, we’ll be setting up our pre-loved water table for the littles to enjoy.  We’re using second-hand TMNT figures to play in the water table with upcycled containers.  

Rethinking Favors

So many popular party favors are made of plastic and are pretty much junk. So instead, I’ve been trying to spend a little more on a single item rather than a bunch of little things.  With my kids not able to use the glass mason jars, I’ve been using a sippy cup or reusable plastic cup that I personalize for each child guest.  I also included a DIY roaster pan turtle shell and a TMNT mask.  The kids used the mask & shell to dress up during the party and then they could take them home. My children also repurposed there turtle shell pans to make a boat in their mini pool and to collect their toys.

Yummy Prizes

In a similar vein, the prizes that are given out for party games end up in the trash. So, I am using themed party cookies to send home as more eco-friendly party favors! If edible treats isn’t something you want to do, you can also think about the kids earning “points” for their games and then earning their favor or a prize that has a little more value than the tiny plastic junk.



Little white child dressed in a full Leonardo costume with hood. Face is exposed.

Our little ninja turtle fan LOVED her costume. She has already worn it multiple times since the party!

Green Gifts for the Birthday Girl

We have made it a point to look for pre-loved options whenever possible– birthday included! We bought books, a turtle shell backpack, a leonardo costume, TMNT figurines, and TMNT clothes all pre-loved and in good shape. She is going to LOVE them and won’t care at all that they were uesd before.

We also included a note to guests that gifts were not needed, but if they chose to bring one, we welcome pre-loved, homemade, and unwrapped as we are on a journey to be more sustainable.

We know that this can be a big adjustment for guests (or their parents). NOT wrapping a gift is a little out of the ordinary. But we did have two guests who brought unwrapped gifts and everyone else used gift bags that can be reused, so we take that as a win for our attempt at a more eco-friendly party!


TMNT Character Lenoardo visits and young child holds a figurine of shredder up toward him.

Cowabunga! The birthday girl encourages Leo to take down shredder!

Flexing our Eco Power at a More Eco-Friendly Party! 

Our party wasn’t without waste. Nor was it minimalist or entirely sustainable. But there was a significant amount of thought that went into taking steps to make it a more eco-friendly party than our normal parties.  

Another way we are trying to reduce our waste is by sharing the left-over materials and items that can be reused with another family so that it goes to use and doesn’t (1) sit collecting dust or (2) rot in a landfill. 

The added bonus was that we got to use our Eco Power to influence other families, as well! Our invite puts our values front and center and we’ll be living out those values our decor and activities.  That doesn’t mean people will walk away ready to lead a sustainable life, but exposure and encouragement has power, too! 

How do you wield your eco power when it comes to parties? I’d love to hear your methods in the comments.

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