Halloween is almost here, and that means a thrilling holiday filled with great food and wild celebration, too much candy and impressive Jack-O-Lanterns.
In most of suburban North America, cries of “Trick or Treat” will soon echo around the neighborhood.
Excited young voices giggle behind dazzling costumes and spooky masks. “Trick or treating” is a tradition where parents dress their kids in cute and scary Halloween costumes.
The children run from house to house yelling “trick or treat,” hoping neighbors will joyfully provide piles of candy.
Sometimes they are lucky enough to find delightfully frightening surprises, too, like ‘haunted house’ mazes and pop-up zombies.
Kids meet up with classmates also dressed in wacky plastic costumes and carting around plastic shopping bags and buckets filled with candy.
Parents walk a little way behind them, enjoying the sight of them screeching in wonder as candy loot is amassed.
Moms yell about feasting on too much candy when they get home. Tell-tale piles of candy wrappers fill the kitchen table, and the garbage can.
Holiday traditions were formed back when the environment wasn’t a big concern. Thankfully, times have changed.
Here are seven tips to celebrate Halloween in a more Eco-friendly way, without losing the essence of the celebration:
The recent standard for Halloween costumes has been prepacked, plastic, and disposable; shipped from halfway around the world.
These costumes have heavy carbon footprints. They encourage single-use plastic, clog up landfills and fall out of fashion as childhood character trends change.
There are two sure ways to reduce the impact of Halloween costumes on the environment: First, get creative. Second, rent.
Browse through ideas on the web and use clothes already in your wardrobe. Pick up tips for piecing together an award-winning costume from thrift store clothing, using a sewing kit, a couple of reusable accessories, and a sense of humor.
Get the kids involved, too! They’ll love the creative family time leading up to the night itself. If you’re not the crafty type, why not see what’s lying in your friends’ closets? Some people have a box of costumes ready for a second (or third, or fourth…) re-wear!
It is usually more environmentally-friendly (and often significantly cheaper) to rent a costume.
Halloween only comes once a year, but last year, Americans alone spent over $8 billion on this one-time event. Of that $8 billion price tag, the largest chunk – about 36% — was spent on costumes.
I can only imagine what future archaeologists will think of our society, when they uncover plastic costumes of Casper the Friendly Ghost, Mr. T., Batman, Pennywise, Belle from Beauty and the Beast, Wonder Woman, and Mickey Mouse.
Rent Halloween get-ups from theatrical or costume stores. This allows kids to dress up differently each year, but saves on trash, and is available for reuse the following Halloween by somebody else.
Candy goes with Halloween, for sure, but but you don’t have to add to the already huge hauls of sugar that these kids bring home.
Many candy wrappers from our childhood Halloween jaunts are probably still intact in landfill sites today, leaching their wasteful by-products into the soil where we grow our food, and into the water we drink.
There are several ways to reduce environmental impact (and choose healthier alternatives) on the candy front:
- Choose candy in less plastic packaging.
- Fewer plastic wrappers and fewer layers means fewer things to throw away.
- Make treats yourself.
- Let the neighbors know what you are making and put a distinctive mark/symbol on it so they know their kids are safe. You could also put a sign up telling passersby you are giving away handmade food.
- Opt for small gifts instead of candy.
- It could be something handmade by you, or something the kids can put together by themselves at home after Halloween. Let the creative juices flow!
- If you are giving out candy, opt for organic or fair-trade brands such Dark Chocolate Minis from Camino or Yummy Earth’s Organic Lollipops.
Organic candy and other treats may be more expensive but the benefits are obvious.
Organic foods are healthier and better for the environment, and made from products which don’t contain pesticides or other chemicals.
You can find organic candy online, in the organics section of many grocery stores, health food stores, and in some farmers’ markets.
3 Bags and Buckets
Who needs plastic buckets? If you secretly hope your kid gathers some candy for you while you take them trick or treating – and what parent doesn’t? – pillowcases make great loot bags.
They are washable, and a king-sized one will hold more candy than a typical cloth shopping bag.
Stay away from the molded plastic jack-o-lanterns being sold this time of year. Although they are reusable, they are still made of plastic.
Over 90% of all trash floating in our oceans is plastic, and much of that is eaten by fish, birds and other marine life. Canvas bags, reusable shopping bags or pillow cases are much creepier anyways.
Like costumes, most Halloween decorations are cheap, disposable plastic trash. It gets thrown out after the holiday is gone.
If you’re crafty: This is your time to shine! Get the kids and sit down to start creating some fantastic reusable and high-quality decorations.
Create reusable garlands and bunting, “spookify” mason jars, reuse chicken wire and start painting some Halloween posters – there are plenty of fantastic Halloween decorations out there.
You can do this every year as part of a new (greener) holiday tradition, and you won’t even realize that you’ve done the environment a huge favor!
Pumpkins are all the rage when the Halloween season falls but people are quick to forget that with supply and demand comes dangerous effects on the environment.
In order to grow pumpkins big enough fast enough, many are sprayed with heavy-duty pesticides. They are shipped over long distances, making their carbon footprint exorbitantly high.
The solution is easy: Buy organic, locally grown pumpkins.
Don’t forget to make pumpkin-based recipes out of the pumpkin flesh! Try any of these ones to get started: Vegan Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Ravioli, or Pumpkin Seed Granola (Without having to worry about feeding your kids pesticides!)
Go a little greener in you holiday travel this All Hallows Eve. Organize carpools to reduce the amount of people driving to your Halloween party.
Or even better, eliminate the cars. Take the kids trick or treating in local neighborhoods you can walk to, It is not only greener than driving to further communities, but better for them.
They will get to meet and play with other children in the neighborhood – and you get to meet other parents locally, too.
Another idea is to provide special door prizes for those that show up with proof of an environmentally-friendly way to get to your place – a bus pass, transit transfer, or bicycle, for example. People will do just about anything to receive a free gift.
Having a Halloween party? Make it green-themed right from the start. Invite people to dress up in green-themed, home-crafted costumes, or rentals.
Serve organic food. Use dishes and cutlery instead of disposable plates and plastic forks and knives.
Encourage or reward environmental ways of getting to your party, and make sure there are green ways for people to get home.
Halloween may be a night for ghosts, goblins and zombies, but with a little planning and thought, it can be an environmentally-friendly celebration.