Ugh. When I think about how much I wasted over countless Halloweens … It’s scary! Yes, it’s entirely possible to have a fun and frightening Green Halloween. It just needs a little thought first about how we define “fun,” and a bit of planning.
So much of what we consider fun gets muddled with abundance. Think about it: a successful event, party, gathering–you name it–is often defined by how much food, entertainment, party favors, or swag is thrown in. But is all that necessary to have a good time?
As much as I enjoy being dazzled by an incredible display of extravagance at a party, it doesn’t have to be the case for every party. Save the extravagance for those special occasions. For Halloween, try some, or all, of these ideas to make yours a Green Halloween!
Green Halloween Treats
Bulk Up on Bulk
A simple rule of thumb for purchases: the less packaging, the better. So, when you’re out shopping for treats, head over to the bulk section for loose candy. (Don’t forget your reusable bags!)
Another way to avoid unnecessary packaging is to do away with goody bags. If you’re hosting a party and want to send guests home with a party favor, buy or make one item that doesn’t require packaging.
Keep a check on your carbon footprint by shopping close to home for party supplies, pumpkins, and ingredients for party food. The environment, and your local merchants, will thank you for it!
Make your Own
It seems that life has become insanely busy for all of us, but if you can carve out time to make your own Halloween-themed treats, it’ll reduce a lot of that waste from purchasing packaged items.
For years, I’ve made a Halloween-themed spider web dip that’s extremely easy to assemble and uses canned and fresh ingredients. With avocado and black beans, it’s even (somewhat!) healthy.
The other Halloween food I like to make is pumpkin bread, using the pulp from our carved pumpkins. If you have a food processor, it’s pretty easy to shred pumpkin to use as the base for this delicious bread.
A Note About Non-Edible Treats
You may be wondering why most of my treat suggestions are edible. It’s true, I love food (particularly, sweet food), but I’ve found that non-edible favors–tattoos, stickers, pencils–simply get thrown away, and end up, much of the time, as discarded litter.
What most of us want for Halloween are tasty treats. So, to keep your trick-or-treaters and guests happy, stick with edible treats. Any leftovers can be composted, donated, or savored over time!
Green Halloween Costumes
My (now 23-year-old) son knew early on how to create a costume from stuff found around the house. I still remember that “toxic waste” costume he spent days making–what fun he had, planning, searching and fabricating this creation. Hands down, that Halloween getup was the most memorable of all the kids’ costumes, and it was free!
Even if you’re not crafty (that would be me), you can assemble pieces for a unique costume. My youngest son teamed up with some buddies one year to create a Beatles/Abbey Road-themed group of costumes. The only prop they needed was the round glasses (which he still owns, several years later).
Don’t have time to make something from scratch? Before you head to the store for a costume, try these reusable alternatives:
- Shop your closet (or a friend’s) to see what you can use.
- Save all or part of a costume to reuse in the future. Make it “new” by adding a few new elements and embellishments.
- Swap costumes with friends and family. It’s new to you!
- Save kids’ costumes to hand down to siblings or share with friends’ kids.
If You’re Buying, Buy Used and Eco Friendly
If you’re still coming up empty on ideas, make a visit–online or in-person–to thrift stores for all or part of your costume.
When buying new, try to avoid costumes and props that break easily and won’t last past one Halloween. For example, instead of those plastic masks that seem to instantly break and are environmentally and wallet-wasteful, grab some makeup and make your own, unique mask.
Green Halloween Decorations
Make and Reuse Your Own
Fifteen years later, I still have the homemade spiders and skeleton window decals that my sons made when they were young.
The other reusable decoration that gets pulled out each year is the ceramic pumpkin my kids and I made years ago at a pottery studio. Check your area for pottery studio listings and make one of your own!
If you haven’t yet noticed, the underlying message is to minimize waste by reducing new purchases and reusing what you have. With that in mind, it’s a simple exercise to do a search for upcycled Halloween decorations. The possibilities are endless!
Green Halloween Fun
Remember Your Reusable Treat Bags!
Running around the neighborhood trick-or-treating will lower your carbon footprint, but to make it truly eco-friendly, send your kids off with reusable bags. A pillowcase is a great option — and wow, it can hold a lot of candy!
Eco-Friendly Halloween Activities
You can still have a lot of Halloween fun without relying on packaged or pre-made products. One of the Halloween highlights in our town is the annual window painting activity. Hundreds of kids descend upon the main street and proceed to cover the windows and themselves (and parents!) in paint.
If you’re hosting a party, try some traditional games that are fun and eco-friendly. Some ideas to get you started: bobbing for (local) apples, decorating cupcakes, or Halloween-themed games.
If you’re throwing a party, try to make it an eco-friendly one by using reusable partyware. And if you’re hosting and crowd and need to use disposable, opt for certified compostable or biodegradable party goods (plates, straws, cups, cutlery).
There are a number of compostable products to choose from, but do your homework to ensure that you’re not being greenwashed. The goal is to minimize waste, particularly single-use plastic waste that doesn’t degrade.
After the Party: Donate and Reuse
Halloween is over and you’re recovering from the sugar overload. What do you do with all the piles of decorations, costumes, and leftover candy? Donate or save all that you can.
Thrift stores and community centers will take any unwanted costumes. For those that can’t be reused, instead of throwing them away, recycle them with a reputable recycling organization.
Candy and Treats
A number of organizations will accept or even buy back Halloween candy. Another way to dispose of leftovers is to use candy in recipes or crafts. The wrappers can be upcycled into jewelry or even decorative items.
What about all the leftover pumpkins? Recycle them! If you have a yard, compost, or give the birds and critters a feast by leaving the pumpkins in a corner of your garden. You can even upcycle your pumpkin by making a gourd-geous (!) bird feeder that will keep your birds happy for weeks. Audubon’s instructional video will show you how.