Week 2: 30 days of Zero Waste

I'll admit to having a bit of a struggle this week with our 30-day zero waste challenge. I was really enthusiastic about our local grocery store's willingness to wrap my cheese/deal meat in butcher paper - "no problem!" they said.

zero waste cheese

Then I encountered a surly teen behind the counter last weekend who gave me major attitude about my request. She proceeded to wrap my cheese in plastic BEFORE wrapping it in butcher paper, despite my cheerful chattering about zero waste and the evils of plastic (doesn't she know I'm trying to save the world for HER!?)

That was followed by the local bakery forgetting to use a paper bag for my bread, and the HUGE amount of styrafoam waste I witnessed at our local Ribfest here in Orleans (of which I was a 100% enthusiastic participant - I've never tasted such amazing food. I did carry home my empty beer cups to recycle since there was not ONE recycling bin located on the premises)

ribfest parents
ribfest styrafoam

It was all a little discouraging.

Alas, one must get on with things. And so we threw our Zero Waste Birthday Party for my daughter, who turned eight last week.

Zero Waste Birthday Party

Full disclosure that the party was not entirely waste free - however, with some planning we were able to reduce our waste. I also estimated how much I spent on ingredients and supplies, although this is just a ballpark.

Make-your-own pizzas

When the kids arrived they were given a small ball of pizza dough (we made two batches of dough in our bread machine,) which they shaped and rolled out. I had frozen pizza sauce on hand, but Farm Boy carries their own brand of pizza sauce in small glass jars. You could also make your own sauce, but time was lacking for us.

I purchased mozzarella cheese and pepperoni sticks from the deli (see sad story about cheese above,) and we also did chopped mushrooms and peppers. Total spent: $20 (cheese made up most of that bill)

Spa Activities

I didn't need to purchase much of anything for our spa activities - one friend's mom brought over some nail polish, I sliced cucumbers for eyes, and mashed up avocado and banana for face masks. (side note: eight year-olds are totally competent little people. I figured it would take at least one hour to do nails, hair, facials etc., but they all wanted to paint their own nails and were finished in about 15 minutes) Total spent: $4


This one is fairly simple - make your own cake or cupcakes, instead of purchasing one in a giant plastic container. We make our own cake every year, so it's nothing new for us. I use the simplest of recipes for a basic chocolate cake, and this year we decided to make them into cupcakes.

I'm very lucky my husband has mad cake skills, as he produced these beauties


Buttercream frosting was purchased in a jar from Bulk Barn, along with the flour and cocoa powder. Oil was purchased in a jar from Nu Grocery. Eggs were from a local farmer, and we give him back the egg cartons to reuse.

The one problem is colouring for the icing. We had some on hand (it lasts forever,) but I don't think you'd ever find colouring in bulk or in glass. A friend of mine once tried natural dyes, and it totally works! The colours may not be as brilliant, but I do love the idea of avoiding toxic dyes.

We avoided using styrafoam plates or plastic cutlery. Were there a lot of dishes? YES!

Total spent: $8

Loot Bags

One idea is to skip the whole business of loot bags. They're seriously annoying for parents! But I still felt like I had to give something little to the kids, so I got small paper bags, filled them with a few candies (purchased in bulk) and gave each girl a $5 gift card to Cine Starz (bonus - these are paper and not plastic,) where all movies are $5. Total spent: $25


To go one step further, we could have asked all partygoers to bring a gently used gift instead of purchasing new. I forgot that part, although one gift included secondhand books and another gift was a gift certificate to a local art studio. 

All-in-all, a successful party! We've always been fairly low key about our birthday parties. The shopping and food prep did take some work, but I'm happy to see how little waste we made!