A Green Halloween

Fall is officially here, and that means the spookiest season has also arrived. As the leaves turn and the air grows colder, many look forward to their favorite spine-chilling holiday, Halloween. For many, this holiday season means cozy sweaters and boots, scary movies with popcorn, and costume parties with friends, but the scariest part of this holiday may be the estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste generated each season. Do not fear; the celebrations do not need to come to a stop! Listed here are five tips to make Halloween a more sustainable and cost-effective holiday.


1. Costumes

It is hard to imagine Halloween without the costumes, with children trick-or-treating as their favorite characters and creatures and fun costume parties to spooky music. The only thing scarier than a good costume, is the waste generated by the all-too-common plastic polymer, fast fashion costumes that end up in landfills across the country. Some of the best ways to reduce this waste is to DIY the costume using materials found around the house or at the local thrift store. These costumes will not only be more original and unique, but they allow more creative freedom and are often less expensive than purchasing costumes from large retailers. Some classic, easy-to-DIY costumes are also regaining popularity through social media trends, such as the sheet ghost on TikTok. To keep the party going, donate any costumes to the local thrift store for others next year, or hold onto it; everyone loves a sequel!



2. Decorations

There is nothing more horrifying than a well-decorated home for Halloween, except maybe the massive amount of non-reusable plastic which often makes up popular decorations. Not only are these decorations harmful to the environment, but they are often expensive as well. One of the best ways to create the spooky Autumn atmosphere is to upcycle common household items. Turn old stockings into spider webs, decorate old cardboard boxes and turn them into tombs or masks, or turn old milk cartons into lanterns. The possibilities are truly endless, and many of these can be recycled or saved until next year. Another alternative is to use organic items as decorations, such as gourds, hay, and pumpkins. Not only can the pumpkin seeds be baked and turned into a festive seasonal treat, but these organic decorations can also be composted.


3. Buy Local

Most farmers markets this time of year are teeming with seasonal produce, especially apples, pumpkins, and gourds. Not only do consumers support local businesses when frequenting markets; they also reduce the waste associated with the cultivation and transport of produce to big box stores. Local orchards and pumpkin patches often have fun activities for the kids, and they are also great places to show off your DIY costumes!



4. Trick-or-Green

There are several ways to go green while trick-or-treating. One of the best ways is to trick-or-treat locally rather than travelling to a different location. This not only saves gas, but money and time as well. If you live in an apartment building, start talking to neighbors and advertising for an apartment haunt. Floors can not only offer candy, but they could use their sustainable decorating skills to decorate the halls together. Another fun activity could be to organize a door decorating contest. If your area does not have a lot of homes that participate in trick-or-treating, search for local trunk-or-treats. Another possible source of waste are the trick-or-treat bags. Use a reusable bag or pillowcase from home; kids can have fun decorating them and reusing them the following year.


5. The Treats!

A cavity is not the only horrifying part of the treats collected on Halloween; the plastic packaging surrounding the sweet treats is also alarming. It seems almost insurmountable to switch to greener candy alternatives. Making homemade treats and distributing them to trick-or-treaters is often not an option due to health and safety concerns, especially in the wake of the pandemic. One of the best alternatives is to choose candies that are wrapped in cardboard, paper, or foil packaging. There are several Halloween favorites that come in mini cardboard boxes or paper wrappers, such as Dots, Nerds, Junior Mints, and Sugar Babies. Some candies that come in true foil wrappers include Hershey’s Kisses, little foil-wrapped pumpkins, mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, and mini chocolate bars. Something to watch out for when looking at treats wrapped in foil is to avoid packaging that pops back to its original shape, such as chip bags, as these are made of a foil composite that is not recyclable. Another alternative, especially if you enjoy giving out full-sized treats, is to give out canned drinks. The aluminum containers are recyclable and often leave a great impression on trick-or-treaters.


Now equipped with a few new sustainable tricks and treats, enjoy your Green Halloween. Be sure to check the resources below for more sustainable ideas. Happy Haunting!


 

Resources


Bauer, E. (2021, May 24). Roasted Pumpkin Seeds. Simply Recipes. https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/toasted_pumpkin_seeds/


Cameron, L. (2017, October 16). 5 Zero Waste Candy Alternatives for Trick-or-Treaters. Wild Minimalist. https://wildminimalist.com/blogs/news/5-zero-waste-candy-alternatives-for-trick-or-treaters


Robertson, L. (2020, October 19). The Ultimate Guide to Having a Green Halloween. Good on You. https://goodonyou.eco/ultimate-guide-green-halloween/


6 tips for a Greener Halloween. (n.d.). Harvard University, Sustainability. https://green.harvard.edu/tools-resources/green-tip/6-tips-greener-halloween


Smithers, R. (2019, October 17). Scariest thing about Halloween is plastic waste, say charities. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/18/scariest-thing-about-halloween-is-plastic-waste-say-charities


10 Green Halloween Tips. (n.d.). World Wildlife Fund for Nature. https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/10-green-halloween-tips


29 Fun Ways to Have a Happy, Sustainable Halloween. (2017, October 23). Recyclebank. https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/29-fun-ways-to-have-a-happy-sustainable-halloween

 

About the Author

Bri Hull is the Communications Associate at the Tallgrass Prairie Center. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, Bri came to Iowa to attend Wartburg College. In her time in Iowa she developed an interest in environmental science and stayed to learn more about ways she can help her community. In her time with Green Iowa AmeriCorps, Bri hopes to learn how to become more green and how to reach out to her community to do the same.

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