Halloween is almost here, which means that many families and groups are preparing costumes, candy and spooky decorations. However, like most consumer products, not all of the accessories and treats we normally purchase are friendly to the planet. Here are some tips to have a safe, fun, and sustainable Halloween!
Halloween is a long awaited holiday for many. With it comes the omnipresent craze of pumpkin in grocery and retail stores, scary movies, haunted houses, and other must-do activities that truly kick off the autumnal and holiday season. Luckily, there are several ways to alter one’s Halloween activities in order to be more eco-conscious. According to the World Wildlife Fund, there are many simple and cost-saving methods to achieve a more sustainable Halloween. One of the overall themes: use what you already have, which is a major movement for people trying to live sustainably and frugally. This can include materials for costumes, decorations, or even trick-or-treating bags. Some of their ideas include:
- Turn stockings with runs into spider-webbing
- Paint foam peanuts (packing materials) and turn them into worms
- Clean Styrofoam and make Halloween masks
- Turn cardboard boxes into tombstones
- Make other creative decorations from netting from bags of oranges, cotton balls, leaves and branches from the yard, etc
- Reuse your decorations from the previous year
- Keep old clothes that can be used as good pieces or parts of costumes, like worn t-shirts, black pants/shorts, etc.
- If necessary, shop at thrift shops, consignment stores and yard sales, instead of buying retail
- Let your kids’ imaginations run wild! Make a game of turning old clothes into costumes.
- Use (and decorate) household items to collect candy in. A bucket, pillowcase, or old even an old bag can be decorated inexpensively at home—and reused year after year.
- Instead of throwing away an old box or bag, use it to gather all your decorations and keep for next year. Plus, you can surprise your family and friends by quickly pulling out your box and throwing an impromptu Halloween party any time of year! (WWF)
Another method of sustainability when it comes to costumes, is to thrift items to create a new ensemble. Most stores have Halloween items out this time of year, but even finding different items to be creative with are not too difficult—especially if your costume idea is a real person such as a television or movie character, or a musician whose getup is not too flashy. Finding new ways to use something that you already have is not only a fun challenge to do in your home, but is also an excellent way of keeping your Halloween eco- and financially-friendly.
Another important and celebrated tradition is that of the quintessential pumpkin. Carving pumpkins around Halloween time is a long standing tradition which stems from the 19th century. Pumpkins are now a fundamental staple used in autumn activities whether it be in recipes, decorations, or fun endeavors. However, according to eco-conscious platform Brightly, pumpkins unfortunately come with scary consequences, “Of the 1.4 billion pounds of pumpkin produced in the U.S. each year, the vast majority wind up in landfills. Since the landfill is deliberately sealed from the elements (specifically, oxygen), the pumpkins don’t decompose to fertilize plants and soil like they would in nature. Instead, they release methane, a gas that’s more potent than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming potential.” Thus, doing anything one can to ensure pumpkins avoid this ghastly fate makes a deal of difference. Luckily, pumpkins are exceedingly versatile. Brightly has five tips for reusing pumpkins below:
- Make Recipes with Pumpkin- luckily almost all of the pumpkin is edible, even the skin! There are so many amazing recipes for pumpkin—check it out here.
- Make Biodegradable Growing Trays- Here’s another great tip from Brightly. “Just fill up [carved pumpkin] with some soil, plant the seeds you’d like to grow, and watch them sprout! Once the seedlings are ready to be planted in your garden or in a pot, you can plant the entire pumpkin-carcass-seed-tray extravaganza into the soil. The pumpkin flesh will rot and give the soil much-needed nutrients!”
- Use the Seeds in Cookies, Guacamole, and More- there are so many amazing ways to eat pumpkin seeds!
- Have an Autumn-Themed Spa Day- Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamins A, C, and a host of brightening antioxdants. Puréed pumpkin + mashed banana makes a great facial mask that naturally exfoliates, brightens, and hydrates. Try pumpkin + coconut oil hair mask to nourish your strands.
- (Trick or) Treat the Wildlife in Your Garden- Your pumpkin leftovers make a delicious meal for local wildlife such as birds, woodchucks, and deer. You could even create a bird feeder out of your carved pumpkin.
Additionally pumpkin is an effective way to help with stomach pain, especially for dogs. Add some pumpkin puree to their food to help when adjusting to a new brand or flavor, or make homemade treats! Below is a recipe for homemade pumpkin and peanut butter dog treats, but there are so many other ones out there.
If there is no hope in saving your pumpkin to reuse, composting it instead of throwing it in the trash safeguards some of the harmful outcomes they will likely face.
Lastly, when it comes to candy, one of the most sustainable methods of purchase and consumption (other than making it homemade) is to ensure that it is vegan. Other than the obvious ingredients of milk and eggs that can be found in several familiar candy, gelatin, shellac, and carmine are other ingredients to watch out for. Gelatin is made from animal tendons, bones and ligaments and is an ingredient found in treats such as gummy candies and marshmallows. However, there are many gelatin-free gummies out there, and if you have any Sprouts stores near you, there are clearly marked vegan gummies sold in bulk that are delicious and even Halloween-themed! The brand Yum Earth also has gelatin-free gummies and can be found at most Target stores. Also, the brand Dandies are a Wonderfull vegan marshmallow brand but Trader Joe’s makes their own brand that is equally delicious. Shellac and carmine are ingredients made from crushing insects as well as using insect excretion, mostly used for color pigmentation. Nevertheless, there are many familiar candy brands that are not only animal by-product free, but also widely accessible. Here is a list of accidentally vegan candy that you probably already enjoy:
- Hubba Bubba Chewing Gum
- Cracker Jacks, Original Recipe
- Jolly Rancher, All Standard Flavors
- Mamba Fruit Chews
- Sour Patch Kids
- Swedish Fish
- Bottle Caps
- Wonka Fun Dip
- Pixy Stix
- Blow Pop LolliPops
- Sweet Tarts
As far as vegan chocolate candy goes, brands such as Unreal and Justin’s have excellent substitutes for classics like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Peanut M&Ms.
While Halloween is a fun and spooky holiday, this year try to help assure that it will not be scary towards our planet by practicing as many sustainable tips that are appropriate and accessible to you and your family. Teaching children these planet-protecting practices early, establishes the importance of personal sustainability at a young age, which can make all the difference in the world.
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Photo: Erica Marsland Hyunh via Unsplash