The scariest thing about Halloween is the amount of waste we produce. Here’s our guide to hosting spooky festivities without creating a nightmare for the planet and your wallet!
When we think about Halloween, ethical and sustainable practice doesn’t exactly spring to mind. But the amount of waste that a single holiday can generate is mind-boggling – from the flimsy single-use costumes, the plastic candy wrappers to the mass-produced decorations. Halloween doesn’t just have a huge impact on the environment either – it also takes a huge toll on our wallets. In 2016, Americans collectively spent a whopping $8.4 billion on Halloween festivities, which is a $1.5 billion increase from 2015. Now that’s frightening!
The great news is that you can save money by going green on Halloween. Rather than just buying mass-produced products that take a lot of resources to manufacture, you can invest in quality costumes and decorations – or even just make them yourself! – so that they last for years rather than just one day.
Here are our top tips for having a greener Halloween:
1. Rent, swap, thrift or make your costume
The biggest carbon footprint from Halloween comes from the millions of poor-quality, fast fashion costumes that are mass-produced every year. Most are made from unsustainable materials such as polyester and conventional cotton and are manufactured in countries that have poor labor standards such as China. Worst of all, many often don’t last more than a day before they start falling apart!
Costume shops hire out a huge selection of amazing costumes that are better quality than any fast fashion costume. You can also check out your local thrift store or vintage boutique to find some great pieces or fabrics that you can repurpose into a DIY Halloween costume. Another fun option inspired by a clothing swap is to host a costume exchange!
2. Keep your decorations and party supplies ecochic
Buy a pumpkin from a local grower or farmer’s market, and carve it out to make a classic Jack O’ Lantern. But don’t waste your pumpkin’s guts! Keep the seeds and flesh to eat later. Light up your pumpkins with soy-based or beeswax candles, and avoid those made from paraffin, a petroleum by-product. Alternatively, you can use energy-efficient LED tea lights. For our southern hemisphere readers, pumpkins aren’t in season during spring. So why not skip the imported pumpkins in the supermarket and carve out a watermelon instead?
Check out your local vintage stores or thrift shops for creepy decorations such as candelabras, lanterns, old apothecary bottles and jars, mirrors, and dolls. Have a creative streak? Why not make your own decorations! You can use cardboard to make a skeleton or tombstones, make spiders out of black pipe cleaners, create ghosts out of old sheets, or repurpose your toilet paper rolls to make scary bats. You can even put bloody hand-prints on your windows using red poster paint! Still stuck? Here are 42 cheap and easy ideas for DIY Halloween decorations. If you do buy decorations, ensure that they are reusable and good quality, so you can use them year after year.
Instead of using a plastic pumpkin bucket to hold treats in, why not use something you already have? You can use a wicker basket, a bucket, or even an old bag or pillowcase that you can decorate and use year after year. Throwing a Halloween party? Make sure you avoid single-use plastic plates, cups, and cutlery and use regular dishes and utensils, or use biodegradable or recyclable ones instead.
3. Give out organic and fair trade candy, or make your own treats
Some of the biggest candy manufacturers in the world including Cadbury, Nestle, Hersheys, and Mars have a huge impact on the environment. They massively contribute to deforestation and species extinction due to their demand for sugar, palm oil, and cocoa beans. These companies have also been found to source their cocoa from countries such as the Ivory Coast and Ghana that use child labor or slave labor to harvest cocoa beans. On top of all that, a huge amount of resources and energy goes into making candy, not to mention all the non-recyclable wrapping that it’s all packaged up in.
So why not avoid all that individually-wrapped candy, and make some sweet treats yourself? Cookies always go down well with kids, and you can decorate them to make them Halloween themed! Here’s a recipe for vegan Halloween sugar cookies that would be a great option for kids with milk, egg and nut allergies. Some other tasty treats you could make include Carob Almond Freezer Fudge, homemade Rolo Balls, or Peanut ‘Better’ Balls. Instead of wrapping them in plastic or cellophane, you could put them in paper bags decorated with Halloween-themed images.
If making your own treats is too time-consuming, there are a number of ethical alternatives to regular candy brands. Look for products with independent certifications such as USDA Organic, CERES, Australian Certified Organic, NASAA Certified Organic, and Fairtrade. Keep in mind, however, that these certifications don’t necessarily mean that the entire supply chain involved in making that candy is both socially and environmentally ethical. If you do choose to buy regular candy, just limit the amount you give to each child. Buying only what you need is better for the environment and for the kids!
When trick-or-treating, walk or ride a bike from house to house instead of driving. This way you not only decrease your carbon footprint, but you get to know your neighbors better too!