Trick or treating has a frightening impact on the environment. According to the National Retail Federation, Americans spend upwards of $5 billion on the spooky celebration annually – and that adds up to a lot of plastic masks, candy wrappers and fake tombstones.
Jodi Helmer, author of The Green Year: 365 Small Things You Can Do to Make a Big Difference offers some tips for making the black and orange holiday a little more green.
Green the goodies: Think of all the candy wrappers that one little goblin throws in the trash – then multiply that number by the millions of trick-or-treaters who are happily gobbling up their stash. Offer organic apples from the farmers market or buy treats in bulk to minimize packaging waste.
Come up with a new costume: Skip the racks of colorful costumes at the mall (most of them are made of non-renewable materials like plastic) and come up with a creative idea for a homemade costume. Add a bandana to a pair of jeans and a denim shirt for an instant cowboy costume or put on your wedding dress and go as the Bride of Frankenstein. Or, host a costume swap with the neighbors. The costumes their kids have outgrown might be the perfect fit for your little one.
Choose natural decorations: Bails of straw, colorful mums and a handful of gourds are great seasonal decorations that can be composted on November 1st. If scary witches hanging from the oak tree and plastic pumpkins on the front step are a must-have, scour secondhand stores.
Meanwhile, eco-expert Kim Carlson suggests these handy green Halloween to-dos:
DIY Trick-or-Treat Tote. Make a trick-or-treat container out of an old empty and washed out non-toxic brand paint can. Cover with construction paper or a collage of bats, pumpkins and witches. Or you can sew a Halloween motif fabric onto a re-useable cloth grocery store bag. Either of these can be used year after year.
Earth Inspired Costumes. This Halloween, try making your childs costume instead of buying a one-time use. Try creating a nature inspired costume like a caterpillar from a matching green sweatpants and a hoodie with pipe cleaner antennae. Or make wings from old scarves stitched together and attached to the underarms and side of brown or black hoodie.
Non-Toxic Face Paint and Pencils. Instead of a plastic or rubber mask try a non-toxic brand of face decorating, Nova Naturals Face Pencils. Made from plant oils they are easy to apply, wash off and you can use them over and over. Or make your own face paints with plain yogurt and a few drops of food coloring. It will dry shiny with some texture.
Party and Home Decorations. Use LED candles in pumpkins rather than candles. They burn cool and you can use them for other things throughout the year. Corn stalks and hay from decorative hay bales can be dismantled and spread on garden beds to help protect plants and shrubs from snow and ice.
Pumpkins. Use up every part of the pumpkin that you can – make salted and roasted seeds. Keep the meat of the cut outs for soup or roasting like squash. If you do have pumpkin leftovers from jack-o-lanterns that are past their prime, compost them in your backyard. It will turn into nice black nutrition rich dirt for your spring gardens.