The fall season is here. The leaves are turning red, brown, and yellow, with pumpkin spice everywhere. This also means that spooky season is here!
Halloween is a much anticipated holiday filled with lots of creativity, great food, lots of candy, fabulous costumes, and a Jack O Lantern lying around the corner.
It is usually celebrated on October 31st and involves creating the best Halloween costumes, displaying festive decorations, figuring out the perfect trick-or-treating route, and so much more.
While this holiday comes with laughter and a wild celebration, it also comes with tons of waste produced from plastic costumes and decorations, candy wrappers, and much more.
Many years ago, this wasn't such a big deal. However, with the increase in carbon emissions, plastic waste, and food waste, aiming for a zero-waste Halloween can make a huge difference. Read on as we reveal ways to celebrate a more eco-friendly Halloween.
So where do all the candy wrappers, decorations, costumes, and plastic packaging go after the holiday? How much does Halloween affect our ecosystem?
Well, sadly, Halloween harms the environment. With the increasing number of costumes, decorations, and candles every year comes an increase in one of the greatest environmental plagues - plastic waste!
According to a report by two charity organizations, Hubbub and Fairyland Trust, Halloween is responsible for a massive rise in waste, with 2000 tonnes of Halloween plastic from clothing and costumes alone1.
Their research found manufacturers used oil-based plastics to make 83% of these costumes and that we threw 7 million costumes away after use.
In addition, Halloween decorations from grocery stores typically come in non-recyclable plastic, e.g., plastic buckets, cups, plates, and utensils for Halloween parties.
This is not to mention the use of some toxic face paint, which contains harmful ingredients like lead, arsenic, nickel, chromium, and so on, which can lead to skin issues.
Food waste is also widespread during Halloween. After a spooky night of fun, most pumpkins end up in the trash, contributing to waste.
With all this in mind, looking for low-waste eco-friendly ways to celebrate Halloween this year is essential.
Most Halloween decorations are made of cheap, poor-quality disposable plastic that ends up clogging our landfills.
You can get creative with your decorations for a more eco-friendly Halloween by switching out the plastics for more reusable eco-friendly options. Here are a few eco-friendly Halloween ideas you can adopt:
What's a Halloween celebration without a Jack O Lantern? Pumpkins are a staple during Halloween. However, pumpkins contribute a large amount of waste yearly. For a more sustainable Halloween, you can start by choosing to buy pumpkins from local grocery stores or farmers' markets. Many supermarket pumpkins will have come a long way, accruing food miles, so avoid the convenience if you can, as local pumpkins will have a lower carbon footprint.
If you're carving pumpkins, you can use the leftovers in various ways during the holidays. You can put your pumpkins in a compost bin or use them as bird feeders in your garden.
You can also use roasted pumpkin seeds to make delicious treats for your family. Simply gather the seeds, wash, dry and roast them. And that's not all you can do with your pumpkins. You can also chop them into small pieces and combine them with vegetables to make pumpkin soup. And you can use any seeds you don’t end up using at the time to grow your own pumpkins for the following year, should you have the space.
You can ditch those fake plastic spiderwebs this Halloween and go for more eco-friendly options. You can create your spider web using black yarns, markers, pipe cleaners, and a pair of scissors. You can also use strings and sticks. You can check out various online web tutorials to make the perfect spiderweb for an eco-friendly Halloween.
You can decorate your outdoors for this Halloween by making flying ghosts. You can do this by using old sheets, scissors, wire hangers, and markers. Simply cut your sheets into sizes that fit the kind of ghosts you want. Next, take a wire and punch it through the sheet to make a loop for its head. You can use a small ball or leftover sheets for the head. Once you stuff the head, tie the head and the neck together using wire hooks. Next, draw a ghost face using permanent markers. Lastly, hang them outside your front porch or inside your home.
If you have mason jar lids lying around your home, you can put them to excellent use this Halloween. Simply gather the tops together. Ensure they are of similar size. Next, string the lids together and tie them tightly using strings. Next, spread them around to give your lids that pumpkin shape. Lastly, get some cinnamon sticks and place them at the center. This can be a great alternative to an actual pumpkin. You can use it as a centerpiece for your tables or shelves.
Instead of plastic ghost lanterns for Halloween decorations, you can get creative and turn those old milk jars into ghost lanterns. For this, all you need are empty milk jars, black markers, a craft knife, and some lights. Simply get the old milk jars and draw and color some spooky faces on them using a black marker. You can get your kids to do this with you. Next, use a craft knife to cut a hole in the back of the jar (not for the kids). Lastly, stuff some lights at the back of each jar and line them up on your walkways for eco-friendly Halloween decor.
To make this, you will need old bed sheets and empty cereal boxes. All you need to do is cut the fabrics into long strips, get your cereal boxes, line them up completely with the bed sheet strips, and nicely tuck them in. Lastly, attach some eyeballs from an old doll or teddy bear to the box.
If you’re holding a party or just want something spooky for your Halloween decor, you can make spooky trees. Simply take a walk around your neighborhood and collect some sticks, stones, and leaves. You want to pick out leaves that are very dry for extra spookiness. Next, put the stones in a glass jar, and add the sticks to create a tree. Lastly, you want to add some bats to the sticks to create a more creepy effect. Simply cut out black bats from cardboard and glue them to the stick.
Paraffin wax candles come with adverse side effects. Without realizing it, burning paraffin wax exposes you to health hazards. Being a by-product of petroleum, they emit toxic gases when burnt. This can cause eye and skin irritation and other health issues. So instead of candles made of paraffin wax, go for more eco-friendly candle options like soy-based candles or beeswax candles.
Finding the perfect costume for Halloween is all part of the fun, whether those Halloween cat ears, witch hats, or picking a superhero or movie character. Sadly, costumes are a large source of waste. Most kids won’t want to wear the same costume more than once. But instead of buying new costumes every year, you can go for more eco-friendly Halloween costumes. Here are some sustainable Halloween costume ideas you can try this year.
Why not make your Halloween costume this year? As a mom, you can get creative and make different costumes for your kids. They are not only eco-friendly, but you can save money you would otherwise spend on costumes you only intend to wear for a few hours. You can use materials you already have around the house to make fun and creative costumes. Some easy costume ideas include houseplants, black cats, cacti, umbrella bats, and so on.
Instead of throwing away your old Halloween outfits, you can repurpose and upcycle them or turn some old clothes in your closet into Halloween costumes. For example, if you have a leather jacket or a coat, you can add some accessories to transform you into a spy.
Alternatively, you can ditch materials together and go zero waste. You can create a Halloween look using face paint and makeup. For example, you could use makeup to create a skeleton or zombie look. You can use deep red lipstick as fake blood and eyeshadows as dark eyes.
Another idea you can try is to host a Halloween costume swap with a group of friends. It not only keeps the old costumes out of landfills but is also affordable and fun.
Just like a clothing swap, but for costumes, gather a group of your friends and have them bring their old Halloween outfits to a central location. Sift through various outfits and then costume swap. You want to make sure you set swapping rules to keep it organized.
Various studies reveal that Halloween face paints contain harmful chemicals that are harmful to you and the environment when washed off. So while you’re excited about painting your face this Halloween, consider using low-waste eco-friendly makeup made with natural ingredients. Not only are they eco-friendly, but they are also of better quality. Also, if your costume of choice requires a little sparkle, go for eco-friendly glitter, as the regular stuff is plastic and a contributor to microplastics in our water and waste streams.
One of the most exciting parts of Halloween for kids is going trick or treating. Most kids compete to get the most candy by the end of Halloween night. However, this comes with major environmental concerns. The candy or chocolate bars come in trick-or-treat bags and wrappers that end up in landfills and our waterways. This Halloween, you can opt for more eco-friendly ideas to reduce waste.
Let’s start with those plastic buckets. While it may be cheaper to get a plastic bucket for trick-or-treaters, these buckets are not recyclable. For a more green Halloween, you can find other eco-friendly alternatives like reusable bags, paper bags, tote bags, or even pillowcases for this year’s trick-or-treating. You can make the bags Halloween-themed using paints and eco-friendly pens. You can reuse these bags the following year or recycle them.
People spend billions on candy and chocolate during Halloween. However, there is also a bigger issue that comes with it. Unfortunately, some candy and chocolate brands do not have the best record when it comes to human rights and the environment. Instead of your regular chocolate and candy, choose candy made sustainably. You want to look out for third-party certifications like Fair Trade USA and Rainforest Alliance Certified. These chocolates are not only ethically made but also GMO-free and healthier. You can also look for organic lollipops and vegan options at health food stores.
Secondly, you want to look for eco-friendly Halloween candy that comes in recyclable packaging or, even better, biodegradable, eco-friendly packaging that can go in the compost bin. For example, Milk Duds and Junior Mints come in recyclable small cardboard boxes. As your kids go trick or treating, you may want to remind them to return the packaging for recycling.
Fruits can make a great alternative to candy. They are both eco-friendly, need no plastic packaging, and are healthier. You can cut little fruits like apples, oranges, and bananas for trick or treat. You can decorate your bowl of fruits to be more Halloween-themed. For example, you could draw jack o lantern faces on your oranges.
Alternatively, you can give out other treats like granola bars or popcorn instead of candy or fruits. You can also completely switch it up for trick or treating by giving out small gifts like Halloween-themed books or pencils.
For trick-or-treaters, you will most likely have the lights on throughout the night to signify that your home has some treats to give. Instead of regular lights, you can opt for solar-powered lanterns or LED light bulbs to line up your hallways and front porches. They are more energy efficient and will save you on energy bills.
During Halloween, there’s a lot of commuting and festivities. For this year, you can go for a more eco-friendly Halloween by walking instead of using cars. You can walk around your neighborhood to meet people or use a wagon to move the kids around. This can be a fun and healthy experience for you and your family. Within the neighborhood, you can inspire your community and other parents to go green by giving prizes to people who show up in an eco-friendly way.
What’s Halloween without a party? For an eco-friendly Halloween party, you want to take some extra measures. Start by making it a green party and inviting only a few people. Encourage them to come in eco-friendly costumes. Avoid disposable plates and utensils and serve organic food. You can also reward people who come to the party using eco-friendly transportation and costumes. Here are some other eco-friendly Halloween party ideas you can try:
Whether it's eco-friendly decorations, giving your kids eco-friendly treats, sourcing materials from thrift stores, or recycling your old costumes, there are many ways you can go green this Halloween. By putting some thought into various aspects of your Halloween celebration, you can cut and reduce waste drastically and make a big difference on the planet.
Chris Rose (October 2019) Halloween Clothing & Costumes Survey 2019 Fairyland Trust/ Hubbub
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.