This week, it’s Daisy’s birthday, and as usual she wants a party. So Clare starts researching eco-parties and birthday gifts.
It’s exactly two weeks later when Dad, between calls to clients, manages to fit aerators to the taps and a newly bought shower head to the shower. Which is fortunate since Mum decided she couldn’t ban baths altogether after protests from Daisy, and after remembering how many half opened gift sets of bath stuff we have to get through.
The reason I know it’s exactly two weeks is because Daisy has been counting down to her 16th birthday. She and Mum have been discussing her party so the eco-friendly plan has been on hold.
In the meantime I’ve been trying to find Daisy an appropriate and eco-friendly gift. She hasn’t been very impressed with this going carbon neutral idea since I first mentioned it. I think she’s afraid it means we’re going to give up our ‘lifestyle’ and I want to show her, by buying her an awesome gift, that you can be green without being un-cool!
I’ve been searching all my favourite online eco shops and I am impressed with the range of stuff you can buy – there’s a futuristic metal bracelet made from 100% recycled aluminium, a cork laptop sleeve, earrings and necklaces made from reclaimed CDs and even a photo frame made from recycled vending cups! However, none of them are exactly in my price range, and I don’t think Daisy would like any of them.
I am still thinking about this dilemma at dinner, as I listen to Mum and Daisy talk about the party, or rather barbecue.
“So that’s six friends…” Mum frowns, putting down her fork.
“Seven friends Mum”, Daisy says.
“Alright. That’s 12 people, including us. We’ll need some disposable plates and plastic cups…”
“No! Mum!” I cry, “If you’re going to buy new paper plates and disposal cups buy eco-friendly ones. There are cups, straws and even bowls you can buy, that are made from cornstarch, but look like clear plastic, and are biodegradable!”
“Cornstarch?” Daisy says disbelievingly.
“Hey, in fact you should have an eco-friendly party. I’ve seen loads of cool eco stuff, I could organise it for you!”
My sister gives me a look that is a mixture of amusement and contempt.
“Clare you’re 11. You have no idea how to organise a party, let alone a good one.”
“But Clare has a point, we’ve said we’ll try and go carbon neutral, and that includes parties,” Mum says.
“Mum”, Daisy says sternly, “I am not having an eco party. I want something that at least looks a little glamourous, please. I don’t want brown recycled napkins that have bits in them.”
“Well, you can plan your party on your own then”, Mum says, taking a bite of pasta, “Using your own allowance money, too.”
“What!” Daisy cries,
“I promised you could have a party, and I am keeping that promise. But if you want me to organise and pay for it, with household money don’t forget, well… then my promise to Clare comes into effect”, Mum smiles slyly at Daisy. “In short, its your choice Daisy – a free eco party, or a glamourous barbecue paid out of your own pocket.”
Daisy looks stricken. I don’t know why Ben and Daisy try to argue sometimes. Mum’s a lawyer.
“Mum! You can’t! It’s my 16th!”
“Hear that”m Mum says mock gravely to Dad, “She’s going to be 16 next week.”
“High time she started paying her way then”, Dad nods.
“Alright”, Daisy huffs, “Fine. But if its horrible, I can take my friends out for a meal instead, yeah?”
“If you insist”, Mum sighs, “But its not going to be horrible. Have some faith in me and your sister.” And that was the end of the conservation.
By the next evening, when I join Mum in her office, I have thought about Daisy’s reaction and suggest we drop it. I don’t want to ruin her birthday, especially her 16th, which seems to be considered really important by some people at school. However, Mum seems sure it will be fine. The only thing she is concerned about is sticking to a budget.
“Your Dad’s planning the food, so that’s not a worry”, Mum says, “But I already have a great eco idea. It’ll cost a bit, but its reusable.
“That sounds great, what’s the idea?” I ask, feeling a bit better.
“I remember what you said about solar lights a few weeks ago, that most of the ones for sale are outdoor ones? Why don’t we buy a really nice set of solar lights to put in the tree in the back garden?”
“That’s a great idea!” I cry. We search the internet for nearly an hour after that, not because of lack of fairy lights, but because there is so much choice! In the end we pick a string of fifty white flower shaped solar fairy-lights.
Next we buy a party set of biodegradable plates, cups and wooden cutlery and suggest we use the normal tablecloths instead of paper ones. Then we find some biodegradable balloons, so we buy a pack of those. To save money, and start reusing our own stuff, I offer to make some paper lanterns with some wallpaper left over from re-decorating Daisy’s room last winter. Then we find the great idea of using living plants as table decorations and as party favours, so Mum suggests buying a lot of small daisy plants from a market stall, and wrapping the pots up in left over wrapping paper. Mum then signs up to a website that does some really stylish e-cards, that she can send out as invites.
“Well”, Mum says, sipping her coffee, “I think that’s all the décor all dealt with. Your Dad should have bought some organic meat at the butchers and a fair trade chocolate birthday cake… I’d say we’ve got this pretty well wrapped up.”
“Except I don’t have a present for Daisy”, I sigh, “I wanted to get her something eco-friendly, but I can’t find anything just right.”
“What about making something?” Mum suggests, typing into the search engine, “A recycled gift!”
Five minutes later Mum finds the perfect thing, and agrees to help me with it. I think its a wonderful idea – I just hope Daisy likes it.
Ben gets a part-time job, so the family goes to pick a bank where he can open his own account, and Clare discovers eco-banking and charity credit cards.