A green return gift idea

8:27 AM

Let's talk birthday parties shall we? Or more precisely KIDS birthday parties.

Every year Ishita is invited to a tons of them, and every year in July, I am the one planning one for her. This time it's coming this weekend (a week after her real birthday) and like every year, the dreaded return gift conundrum points its ugly head.

This is something most of my European friends living here find baffling to be frank. Because seriously none of us either grew up with or got exposed to the level insanity that return gifts are in urban middle class India.

Simply put, they are big, often as pricey as the gift the birthday kid received and you need to buy loads of them because parties with less than 15 kids are rare.
Having a 9 years old, I am a birthday party veteran, and over the years she got her fair share of tiffin boxes, sippy cups, water bottles, mugs, pencil cases, stationery set, compass boxes, stuffed animals, pencil pouch, erasers set, and assorted cheap plastic imports from China.

None of which is really useful, or to Ishita's taste, leave alone good quality. Basically most of those return gifts are landfills fodder and a social obligation that will end up ruining the planet one ugly crappy tiffin box at a time!

All these years, I have been trying to get a bit more inventive with mine, but it's seriously hard work. Last year I got ceramic mugs printed with superheroes ate Vistaprint, and all kids loved them. The drawback is that since many do not really believe in RSVP, I had to order a few extra, and that along with the last minute cancellations amounted to me being stuck with quite a few Superman and Wonder Woman mugs.
Fortunately, I managed to gift them as a side gifts at other birthday parties through the year.

This year I decided that I was done cramming my cabinets with leftover stationery, art supplies, and doodads and that whatever leftover gifts I have will have to be of use in my home.
And I also wanted to find something that was not going to make all the other moms be forced to deal with plastic junk they will never use but can't throw away.

The plastic crap insanity has to stop! Especially in the light of the recent plastic ban imposed in the the State of Maharashtra (which I salute).

Weeks ago, the plan was to buy potted plants as return gifts. Only I knew I wanted to buy them as close as possible to D-day to ensure a better rate of survival for said plants.
The problem is, hubby is travelling for work these days, and cramming a nursery expedition in the insane rain we had those past few days is simply not possible.

Ordering from Amazon or Nursery Live wasn't an option either as the delivery time was too long, and prices way too high.

So I looked closer to home...on my balconies. I have loads of plants, many of the pots have baby plant shoots and saplings growing in them. Plus if you recall from my bathroom decor post, I have a money plant gone wild problem.
Simply put, I have more than enough plant material in my own home that I am willing to gift to others, and enough soil I can use to repot them all into cute pots.

Frankly, I would have preferred finding cute little terracotta pots like the ones you find in every garden centres in Europe, but they are hard to find in India (or super pricy), and again Amazon wasn't an option due to a too short delivery window.
So I braved the rains yesterday, and bought these bright colored plastic planters instead.

As soon as I got home, I got down and dirty on my balcony and repotted many of my saplings into them, using my leftover soil and fertiliser to give them the best chance at survival in their new home.
I will continue planting saplings in their new pots in a day or two as the money plants stems I snipped  can use a few days more to grow a bit more roots.
All in all I will end up with 20 pots. I'll probably end up with leftovers after the party, but that is the whole idea behind gifting plants :

I can display the remaining plants in my home.

Gifting a plant is not only a practical solution for me, it is also a green idea and a gift that the kid and his family will be able to enjoy.

So join me in this green birthday revolution, and start sending plants as return gifts instead of yet another plastic pencil case. We have only one planet, and it's about time we stopped chocking mother earth with cheap Barbie and Doraemon tiffin boxes already! 

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  1. I'd never heard of a return gift at a birthday party- wonder how that started?
    What a brilliant idea for a gift for a child though- get them interested in plants & develop a little responsibility in caring for them.

    1. Yeah I seriously wonder how that started too, because it seems all my friends an I grew up just going to parties, enjoying cake and returning home with a handful of candies and a leftover balloon from the party decor. At the most we were getting a goodie bag with a bottle of soap bubbles.

      I think it is still the same in Europe judging by what my family and friends tell me. BUT it seems that a few ladies I know in the US are doing the party favor thing and it is getting elaborate enough.

      Also I never heard of a birthday party theme before hearing it from my US friends and seeing it implemented in India. Some go really far with this whole theme thing.
      Growing up I think the theme at most birthday parties I went to was : play and have fun.
      The plates where whatever random paper plates the mom could grab at the supermarket, the food was chips, mini sandwiches and a supermarket cake and we were all super happy in the end.

      In India I saw a lot of matchy matchy theme elments, some people hire a party planner for it.
      My take on that is let decide what cake Ishita want, and plan a few decorations and stuff around it.
      This year she wants an art studio theme, and I decided to do away with the hired magician and entertainement and get the kids to paint and craft instead :-)

  2. Aren't return gifts common in the West? I thought the idea came from there!
    Potted plants as return gifts is really nice.

    1. It might be more common in the US than it is in Europe it seems. My European friends and I really can't remember return gifts really being that much of a thing. No matter which European country we are from we all remember just collecting a ballon from the party decor, and get a few candies and chocolates in a small goodie bag. At the most there would be a bottle of bubble soap or a sticker thrown in the mix, but that was about it. It seems the trend to keep it simple still prevails in Europe these days.

      My friends in the US are pretty much sucked into throwing a themed party, with everything matching including the return gift, which is called party favour.
      It seems the return gift trend is also prevalent in American weddings but is still fairly non-existent in European weddings.

  3. Anonymous7:04 PM

    Hi, how are things in mumbai after the rains? Is your neighbourhood ok?

    There was no practice of return gifts in our times. Birthdays were simple as you describe it. Sometimes i think we have unwittingly set the standards for our children. Now, we give return gifts to little girls during pooja in navaratras since we believe they may not be too enthuastic about the halwa, poori that is served.

    About gifting plants, it is an excellent idea. Here the government in delhi is cutting down 16000 trees in the heart of the city, to make way for commercial complexes. They are demolishing nine government colonies in south delhi, two of which i spent my entire childhood.

    In a city choked by pollution, they decided to cut thousands of trees. Trees which you cannot replace. People got a whiff of it and started protest. Subsequently, the court has ordered to stop cutting of trees. Strange are the ways of the world.


    1. We remained dry in my area, well as dry as you can when you get lashed by a 4 days downpour. We are on higher ground so the waterlogging is usually manageable during a heavy rain.

      Cutting trees in one of the most polluted city in the world is ridiculous, I'm glad people are protesting it.
      Here in Maharashtra plastic bags, plastic disposable food containers and plastic cups, forks, spoons and straws are banned along with thermocol packaging and decoration. If you ask me it's about time they got to that.
      Sadly it's only at small businesses and consumer levels. I would love to see them ban all industrial packaging for which there is a clear non plastic alternative, including those damned milk pouches, and small pet bottles and all food that comes in plastic jars.

  4. Sam Burns10:13 PM

    What a brilliant idea! I'm surprised to hear that earthenware pots are hard to come by as most parts of India are hardly short of potters, but they look lovely anyway. The return gift culture was not part of my childhood in 80s UK - like you, we just got little gift bags with small goodies like pens, balloons and a slice of the cake. I don't really know any children though, so I've no idea what UK birthday party culture looks like these days.

    1. I'm really surprised by the terracotta pots myself. The closest to them I found are very heavy cement pots that have been painted brown and they only exist for big plants.

      Which is crazy because in some places chai is served in handmade clay cups, so why are plant pots not more of a thing?

      I think we all grew up with the same type of birthday parties in Europe, the theme was simply to have fun.

      Sadly it seems a lot of kids in India only really come to the party because of the return gift and possibly the cake.


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