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ECHOage Remember when birthdays meant your friends came over for cake and your parents got you a present (or at least do you remember seeing that on Leave It to Beaver)? Well, now you can return to those simpler days while teaching your kids to appreciate what they have and give to others with ECHOage. Here's how it works, guests are invited to an ECHOage birthday party online. Instead of bringing a wrapped present, guests simply rsvp and give an online gift of money. Payments are pooled with half the funds going towards the purchase of one big gift and the other half to support one meaningful cause which your child is able to choose from a list of charities (minus an administrative fee). The site includes a way to track your rsvps, print out a certificate for your child and send thank you notes. The site also has lots of suggestions on how to talk to (or convince) your kids and guests to do an ECHOage birthday. The thing I like about this idea is that it both teaches about giving to others and also discourages the crazy consumerism that birthdays can turn into. It seems like a good compromise for people who don't want their kids to get tons of presents, but also don't wan ttobe htose mean parents who don't let their kids get any presents. Zwaggle. One of my favorite things about having kids is all sharing, hand-me-downs, lending and swapping that takes place with the endless amount of stuff we all accumulate. So, I was really happy to learn about Zwaggle, a national network of parents who have come together to share their stuff on-line. It's like e-bay without bidding or money. You receive Zwaggle points (which they call Zoints) by giving your gently used things to other families, then you can use your Zoints to buy "new" things for your family. It??™s both financially smart and good for the environment! You can start a local group and make it private or public if you want and then just swap within your group. That eliminates the trouble of shipping and lets you swap just within your community (whatever that means fo rhte group.) Green Dimes If your ride up the elevator (or up five flights of stairs in my case) is consumed with sorting out the real mail from the junk mail and you would be happy to never see another Victoria Secret catalogue again, this is the service for you. Green Dimes is a website that can reduce your junk mail by as much as 90%. Their basic service costs $20 (there is also a free option but that one requires a bit more work from you) and the company pledges to plant one tree a month for every person who registers. But don't do it for me, do it for the estimated 100 million trees that are destroyed each year to produce 4.5 million tons of junk mail, of which 44 percent is thrown away unopened.
Find more NYC birthday party ideas in our Party Guide.