Unless you’ve been hiding out in the hills for the past month or so, you have most likely been inundated with the sight of pumpkins.
Whether you’re just trying to get your groceries or visiting your dentist, you may have tripped over a couple or at the very least, stood in close to proximity to one or twenty. And, while I’m all for holiday décor and festivities and absolutely nothing makes me happier than the months of October through December, this mass of pumpkins also scares me a little. They’re everywhere because we, Americans, have created a demand of 1.1 billion pounds, per year.
That’s 1.1 billion pounds of pumpkin, most of which carries the sole purpose of pleasing the eye and providing décor. We carve them, we set them on mantles and we line our stairways with them. But, when the Halloween holiday is over, most of us, will sadly, toss these pumpkins in the trash can, at which point they’ll be tossed into a landfill.
And, why that may not sound all that bad, the environment of the landfill and lack of oxygen prevents pumpkins from breaking down and decomposing naturally like they could in a compost pile. This means not only are we depriving the ground of nutrients we could be giving it, we are also contributing to higher methane levels in our atmosphere thanks to that billion pounds of pumpkin.
So, if we do want to decorate or carve or otherwise enjoy pumpkins as tradition to our Halloween and fall festivities, what can we do? Here’s the easy list:
Consider an alternative
It may feel like tradition, but get more creative with your decorations. Create pumpkins out of recycled cardboard. Have a women’s craft day where all Halloween decorations made are 100% recycled and recyclable.
Weigh the pros & cons on organic
If the only way for you to buy an organic pumpkin is to buy one that’s been shipped thousands of miles, skip it, the good probably won’t outweigh the carbon footprint. (If you’re not eating it, then the pesticides don’t matter as much)
If you do have a local farmer selling organic pumpkins, then please go support him! Take the family and make an afternoon of it, kids will love it and it’s always beneficial for children to see food in its natural, growing state.
Create additional uses
You can make your pumpkin greener simply by using it for more than just décor. When it’s done providing eye candy for you, eat it! Take the insides out, puree them and then turn them into treats like pumpkin breads and muffins. Whip up pumpkin pancakes for Halloween morning. Clean the seeds, sprinkle with salt and seasonings with a drizzle of olive oil and roast.
Instead of tossing the pumpkin in the garbage, recycle it in your compost bin. If you don’t have your own compost pile, ask friends and neighbors if they do. Check to see if your city has a pumpkin recycling initiative in effect. Donate to a local zoo where the lions will take care of any pumpkin leftovers.
Note: This post was originally published in 2011