When we think of holidays we should smile at the thought of celebrations, games, treats and spooky moments. On the other hand, we don’t want Halloween to be scary for the environment. That’s easier said than done when we consider the massive amount of garbage, plastic, waste and pollution that’s caused by the festivities. If you’re looking for ways to green up your Halloween, we’ve compiled a list of ways you can enjoy All Hallows’ Eve while also being a steward of the land.
1. Decorate naturally
Use hay bales, your everyday broomstick, plants, and of course pumpkins and gourds to dress up the house.
Make wreaths and banners out of natural materials like jute, cotton, straw and wood.
2. Avoid food waste
While scooping out your pumpkins, save the seeds for roasting. Make it a tradition and try different seasonings each year.
When planning your party, also plan for any potential leftovers so you can use them up within a few days. Avoid recipes that require a small amount of one ingredient where the rest will go to waste. If you really want to use that one celery stalk or one-half container of plain yogurt, plan another meal that uses the rest of the food.
If you do have produce that over-ripens, add it to the compost. Be sure to toss in your Jack-o’-lanterns when they begin to rot, too.
3. Bypass food packaging
Be sure to follow the same protocols as the rest of the year when planning your ghoulish delights. Watch for excess packaging. Buy bulk food instead of individually packaged items. Make food from scratch instead of buying premade. Bring your own produce bags instead of buying them packaged in plastic.
Go vegetarian or vegan. If you do buy meat, pick it up from the deli counter or butcher where they’ll wrap it in paper instead of plastic and styrofoam.
Perhaps the most ubiquitous food packaging waste comes from individually-wrapped Halloween candy. You can do better! Look for paper-wrapped candies, which are commonly paired with natural ingredients (they won’t even know!), or hand out useful toys instead like metal cars, mini-puzzles, a deck of cards or small books. Even better, you can skip the treats altogether and master a trick to share instead.
4. Clean up the costumes
Dressing up can be fun at any age. Whether you’re guiding costume decisions for an elementary school student or heading to an adult-only party, there are many ways to be a superhero for the environment, too.
Start by taking an inventory of what you already have. Go with a decade theme like the ’50s or the ’80s. There’s always the option to rip up an old white sheet to transform into a mummy. Green pajamas and a quick-felt headpiece can turn your little one into a cheery flower. Red pajamas with the right emblem on the front will turn the family into The Incredibles. You can scrounge up a tool belt to become a construction worker, don some scrubs to play the nurse role or dress all in white and make an angel’s halo.
Creativity goes a long way toward celebrating in-costume without leaving a trail of cheap plastic weapons and packaging in your wake.
Keep your eye on the Buy Nothing and similar community pages online. As people get out decorations and costumes, they’re often ready to gift the ones they no longer need. Thrift stores are a great option, too. You can also borrow from a friend or family member. The point is to give every costume as many lives as possible before retiring it. Return the favor if you have costumes your kids have outgrown.
5. Vow to be plastic-free
As you prep for your celebration, pause with each purchasing decision. In addition to skipping the plastic in your decorations and costumes, avoid plastic candy buckets in favor of a traditional pillowcase or reusable shopping bag instead. Also, skip single-use plastic at the party by using real, washable glasses, silverware and plates. Sure it’s a bit of extra effort but it will save you money by not having to purchase them and save you again on the garbage bill. Most of all, it will help the planet.
Also, remember when to call the night as you take your kids around the neighborhood. It’s a fun night and a special occasion, but stop the overload before the pillowcase gets full.
6. Create a cozy ambiance
Grab a pot and fill it with some water, cinnamon sticks and orange peels. Use what you have and make the place smell amazing. Cranberries, apples and nutmeg all work as well.
If you have some solar string LED lights, put them up inside and out. The days are short, but the daylight hours will charge them up so you can enjoy a twinkling evening.
All-natural pumpkin spice candles in glass jars add flickering light and a lovely scent. Plus, you can save on the power bill with energy-efficient lighting.
7. Plan waste-free activities
When the kids are ready for some entertainment, go classic with an apple dunk or the swinging donut on a string. For a smaller group, get everyone together to make caramel apples or create some festive foods like mummy-wrapped little smokies and taco dip with grave markers.
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