Halloween is just around the corner which means that it’s time to start thinking about unique costume ideas, spooky decorations, impressive jack-o-lantern designs, and how to sooth that tummy ache after eating too much candy! For many of you, you may already have a costume picked out, or a long list of items that you wish to purchase for trick-or-treating and decorating. While Halloween, and holiday festivities in general, can be extremely exciting, they can also be particularly wasteful. So, before you run out to grab Halloween supplies, be sure to check out these 5 easy ways that you can have a spooky, yet sustainable Halloween this year.
- Create Your Own Costume and/or Re-purpose Old Costumes
It can be tempting to buy a fun new costume each year because, let’s face it, who really wants to be a witch or a ghost every single Halloween? However, new costumes can not only be expensive; they also tend to have huge carbon footprints. Pre-made Halloween costumes that you find at costume stores, or even at your local department store, are often packaged in single-use plastics which end up in landfills. In fact, a study from the UK found that costumes contribute more than 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste each year, which is equivalent to 83 million plastic bottles (Fairyland Trust/Hubbub, 2019). That’s a lot of plastic waste for one night of spooky festivities! In addition, costumes are often made from synthetic polyester which can take anywhere between 20 to 200 years to decompose in a landfill where they release large amounts of methane gas (a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming). Finally, Halloween costumes are usually manufactured and shipped from other countries halfway across the world, further contributing to the burning of fossil fuels and greenhouse gas emissions.
So, what can we do to reduce this plastic waste and carbon footprint? Here are a few easy and cost-effective options:
- Re-use or re-purpose an old costume from previous years – is there any way that you can turn that plain old witch costume into a character from one of your favourite scary movies? Perhaps you only need to replace the witch hat with a scary hairdo and a few added accessories.
- Head out to your local thrift store to find a “new” costume idea. Many thrift stores set up a separate section for Halloween goodies in the month of October and there are countless options to choose from – funky clown shirts, cowboy boots, neat old-fashioned prom dresses, etc. Also, don’t forget to donate any of your unwanted costumes from past years so others can benefit from them too!
- Re-purpose unwanted clothes from your closet into costume ideas. Perhaps you would like to be a fortune teller this year. All you need from your closet is a loose shirt, a skirt, lots of bangle bracelets and a scarf for your head. Another great option for a kid’s costume would be a bat – you can make bat wings out of that old broken umbrella that’s been lying around the house!
- If you are feeling really extravagant and want to go big this Halloween, consider renting a costume. It is much more cost-efficient and saves on waste.
- Instead of buying plastic or rubber masks, consider using face paints that are cruelty-free and without lead or toxins. Most of the time, natural make-up will suffice, and you can even make your own edible fake blood using food colouring, corn starch, and cocoa powder!
2. Decorate with the Environment in Mind
The best decorations are real decorations! Opt for things like real corn stalks, gourds, leaves, hay bales, sticks, etc. that can either be directly returned to the environment for habitat, repurposed for something else, or composted/recycled afterwards. The best part about decorating is that you get to be creative! Have a look around your house, especially in your recycle bin. You are sure to find things that can be crafted into Halloween decorations. For example, pop cans can be used to create glowing luminarias, plain old cardboard boxes make great tombs, and old chicken wire and candle-lit mason jars make great touches for an eerie ambiance. After Halloween is over, be sure to recycle any materials that you can. Remember that if you are purchasing new decorations, ensure they are durable and that you are likely to re-use them next year.
3. Go Pumpkin Picking
Pumpkin picking is not only a lot more fun than simply buying a pumpkin at the store, but it is also more eco-friendly! When choosing pumpkins and gourds, it is best to visit a local farm because it reduces carbon emissions by going directly to the product instead of having the product shipped to your grocery store from hundreds of kilometers away – and it supports local businesses too!
When it comes to carving vs. painting, it is best to carve a traditional jack-o-lantern because painted pumpkins have to be thrown in the trash afterwards, whereas a carved pumpkin can be composted or fed to wildlife. Finally, when carving, don’t throw out the pumpkin guts! The seeds can be roasted with some oil and salt, and the pulp can be used to make baked goods such as pies, muffins, soups, etc. Even if you don’t plan to cook anything with the pumpkin guts, you can still compost them, or if you don’t have a compost, opt to smash the pumpkin into pieces and bury it in your garden. Another alternative is to feed the plain dried seeds to wildlife, such as birds (for those on farms, chickens love them) and small mammals! Contact your local wildlife rehabilitation center or small local farms to see if they are in need of pumpkins for animals in their care!
4. Reduce Trick-or-Treating Transportation
It can be very tempting to drive from house to house with your kids, but a much healthier alternative – for you and the environment – is to bike or walk. You will not only burn more calories this way (so you can feel less guilt about all that candy you eat after), but you will also be reducing emissions. An alternative way to save on emissions is to drive to a nearby neighbourhood where you know the houses are relatively close together. In addition, make sure to bring along a re-usable bag, basket, or bucket to collect treats in!
5. Buy Candy That is Less Wasteful
Individually packaged chocolate bars and candy can be extremely wasteful due to the excessive plastic packaging. Instead, opt for more bulk options, organic candies (pesticide-free), fair-trade candies, candies that have less packaging, or better yet, candies that are packaged in recyclable materials (e.g. Hershey’s Kisses, Starbursts). An alternative to buying candies altogether is to hand out fun little non-plastic trinkets, gifts, or toys instead.
Fairyland Trust/Hubbub. (2019). Halloween Clothing & Costumes Survey 2019.