Tricks to Make Your Halloween a Treat for Mother Nature
Green Halloween Tip 1: Trick or Treat with Reusable Bags
When the little ghosts and goblins in your family go trick-or-treating this Halloween, make sure they carry reusable bags or containers that don’t need to be discarded after they are used.
Cloth or canvas shopping bags, or even pillowcases, make terrific eco-friendly alternatives to paper or plastic bags, or to the molded plastic jack-o-lanterns so many kids use to collect candy at Halloween.
Americans use more than 380 million plastic bags and more than 10 million paper bags every year. Plastic bags end up as litter, kill thousands of marine mammals annually, and break down slowly into small particles that continue to pollute soil and water. During production, plastic bags require millions of gallons of fossil fuels that could be used for fuel and heating; paper bag production consumes more than 14 million trees annually in the U.S.
Reusable bags are not only better for the environment at Halloween, they’re also better for kids. Paper and plastic bags can tear easily, spilling Halloween treats and disappointing children. Reusable bags are much more durable.
Green Halloween Tip 2: Make Do-It-Yourself Costumes
Instead of buying a Halloween costume that you or your children will wear once and throw away, make your own costumes from old clothes and other items you already have around the house.
You can also get inexpensive Halloween costume materials from thrift stores or yard sales, or your children may have fun trading Halloween costumes with their friends to get something “new” and different to wear.
By designing and making your own Halloween costumes, you and your children can masquerade as anything you can imagine. When my children were growing up, one dressed up as a garbage can one Halloween. Another dressed herself in a collection of her older sister’s clothes and put ribbons in her hair, creating a costume that happily evoked her imagination even though it was unrecognizable to anyone else.
One boy I met in Washington, DC, went trick-or-treating one year wearing khaki slacks, a blue oxford shirt with the cuffs rolled back, and a striped necktie loosened at the collar. Asked about his costume, he declared he was masquerading as his father, a prominent magazine columnist.
After Halloween, you can either wash and store your homemade costumes for use in subsequent years, trade with friends, or donate the clothing from which they were made to day care centers, homeless shelters, or charitable organizations.
Green Halloween Tip 3: Give Eco-Friendly Treats
When the neighborhood ghouls show up at your door this Halloween, give them treats that also treat the environment gently.
There is a growing variety of eco-friendly candy—from organic chocolate to organic lollipops—available online and from local organic groceries, health food stores, or consumer cooperatives. These organic candies can satisfy your sweet tooth without compromising your health, and they are produced using methods that don’t damage the environment.
Choose treats that use little or no packaging that is produced using fossil fuels and cannot be recycled. Whenever possible, buy locally produced treats from local merchants. Buying locally supports your local economy, and also reduces fuel consumption and pollution associated with transporting products.
Another option is to avoid candy altogether and to give Halloween trick-or-treaters useful treats, such as colorful pencils, small boxes of crayons, erasers in fun shapes, or other inexpensive items you can find at your local dime store or dollar store.
Green Halloween Tip 4: Walk Instead of Driving
Rather than drive to other neighborhoods to take the kids trick-or-treating, stick close to home this Halloween and walk from house to house to reduce fuel consumption and air pollution.
If you are attending a Halloween party, use public transportation or ride your bicycle.
If traveling by car is really the only way to join in Halloween fun with your family or friends, try carpooling.
Green Halloween Tip 5: Make Your Halloween Party Eco-Friendly
Host a Halloween party that features organic, locally grown pumpkins for carving, apples for bobbing, and other pesticide-free, locally grown foods appropriate to the holiday and the harvest season. Organic produce is now widely available at many grocery stores as well as farmers’ markets and stores specializing in organic food.
Once the jack-o-lanterns have been carved and the games have ended, the apples and pumpkins can be used in pies, soups, or other dishes. You can also roast the pumpkin seeds and serve them to your guests as a special Halloween treat.
Use dishes, cutlery, napkins and tablecloths that can be washed and reused instead of disposable plastic and paper tableware.
Use recycled and recyclable materials to create your Halloween decorations. Bed sheets hung from the ceiling or tree branches make great ghosts, for example, and can be taken down, laundered, and returned to the linen closet when Halloween is over.
Green Halloween Tip 6: Reuse and Recycle
If you don’t already compost, Halloween is a great time to start. You can add post-Halloween jack-o-lanterns to your compost bin, along with fallen leaves, food scraps, and other organic, biodegradable yard and household waste.
Compost creates excellent soil for your garden. You might even use the compost from your backyard bin to help grow the pumpkins that will become next year’s jack-o-lanterns and pumpkin pies.
If you are interested in composting, your local hardware store, garden center, county extension service, or waste disposal agency should be able to help you get started.
Instead of throwing away your Halloween decorations each year, store and reuse them year after year, just as you do decorations for many other holidays, such as Christmas and Hanukkah.
Green Halloween Tip 7: Keep Halloween Clean
Teach your children to keep candy wrappers in their reusable trick-or-treat bags until they return home, or to dispose of them in trash cans along their route.
Preventing candy wrappers from becoming Halloween litter on the street is the right way to treat the environment.
Take along an extra bag when you take the kids out treat-or-treating, and pick up litter along the way to help clean up the neighborhood.
Green Halloween Tip 8: Keep it Going
Living an eco-friendly lifestyle and reducing waste and pollution should be a daily event, not a special occasion. With a little thought, you can apply the strategies you use to have a green Halloween to the way you live every day.
Reusable bags are a great way to shop every day, and can be used for everything from regular trips to the grocery store to back-to-school shopping. Any time you go shopping, take along a reusable shopping bag or two to carry home your purchases and keep the planet a little cleaner.
The same goes for using cloth vs paper napkins and washable vs disposable cutlery. Using reusable items instead of disposables will help the environment and also save you money.
Composting is something you can do year-round. A compost bin will transform your organic yard and household waste into fertilizer for your flower and vegetable gardens, reduce the amount of garbage you send to the local landfill, and keep you more in tune with nature.
You get the idea. If you make living an eco-friendly lifestyle a daily commitment, both you and the environment will benefit.