Innovation That Matters

Making birthday parties charitable & green

Work & Lifestyle

As anyone with children is no doubt keenly aware, birthday parties can be extremely wasteful affairs, leaving in their wake heaps of disposable dishes and cutlery, bags of plastic packaging and torn wrapping paper, and an array of mediocre gifts the child could probably do without. ECHOage was recently founded by two mothers who were determined to come up with an alternative. Launched at the end of February, Toronto-based ECHOage is “convenience and conscience wrapped up in a big green ribbon,” as cofounder Alison Smith puts it. Specifically, the service offers a way for concerned parents to turn their child’s birthday party into an environmentally respectful and socially mindful celebration by applying the philosophy of “one gift, one cause.” It works like this: Parents and children planning a party begin by choosing from a variety of online invitations available on the site. Next, they sit down with the birthday child to choose from a list of charitable causes that ECHOage has screened and selected based on their track record of helping children and the environment. Participating charities include Nourish America, EarthCorps, International Child Art Foundation and Girls Inc., among others. Invitations are sent via email, and instead of bringing a wrapped gift, guests are asked to make a secure online donation of $10 to $30 (USD or CDN, depending on where the party takes place). After deducting a 15 percent administration fee, ECHOage sends half of the party proceeds to the child’s chosen charity, and remits the other half to the party’s host towards the purchase one really special and meaningful gift for the child. The site handles invitations, RSVPs, thank-you notes and reminders as well as collecting parent contact details and allergy information about guests. At the end, the host even gets a tax receipt for the portion of funds donated to charity. ECHOage not only cuts back on the waste associated with most birthday parties, it also teaches kids valuable lessons about giving and quality versus quantity, and saves parents and guests time and money by eliminating the present buying, wrapping (and returning) process. “Children are full of creative solutions to environmental and social issues, and the impact they can make on this world is extraordinary,” explains Debbie Zinman, ECHOage’s other cofounder. “Our dream is that ECHOage parties will help members of our youngest generation recognize that they can make meaningful choices that have a positive impact on others.” (For more background info on the no-present trend, check out: Cake, but No Presents, Please—New York Times, 27 July 2007.) So far ECHOage supports parties and funds just in the US and Canada. Who wants to bring this to the rest of the world? Spotted by: Bjarke Svendsen



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