12 Tips for Making Halloween Eco-Friendly

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Oct 16, 2012 | Sayward Rebhal

Why buy disposable costumes when you can repurpose a bike helmet to make a totally green baby turtle costume? (Photo by Sayward Rebhal)Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but unfortunately, the standard celebrations are often out of line with my ethics. For example, almost everything associated with Halloween is disposable, single-serving, or synthetic. Eek! To me, needless waste is a whole lot scarier than ghosts or goblins.

If you’re like me and interested in making your All Hallow’s Eve more environmentally friendly, then read on. I’ll show you how to infuse your orange and black with a little splash of “green.”

1. Homemade costumes.

I’ve been doing this for years, scraping together costumes from my own or secondhand clothes, but it seems especially important now that I’m a mother. I love to make my son’s costumes via creative repurposing. For example, on his first Halloween he was only 7 months old, so that year I painted an old bike helmet to look like a turtle shell, and strapped it to his back. He had just mastered crawling and it was perfect! Last year I sewed him a little owl outfit out of old sweatshirts, and I made myself a “Freudian Slip.” I love these homemade costumes and I love that we’ll always be one of a kind.

2. Costume swap.

If you do desire a specific or pre-packaged costume (maybe you’re short on time and making one just isn’t in the cards – understandable, we’re all busy people!) consider setting up a pre-Halloween costume swap with a group of friends. This is also a good event to coordinate the week after Halloween, so you’ll be all prepared for next year.

3. Conserve: save or donate.

In lieu of a costume swap, make sure you save your costume to be used again, either by you or by another family member. Alternatively, you can donate it to a local theater or charity. Whatever you do, don’t throw it away!

4. Skip individually wrapped, highly processed candy.

Depending on your community, you may be able to DIY treats (think baked goods, roasted pumpkin seeds or popcorn balls) and wrap them in recyclable paper. If you don’t think the parents in your neighborhood will go for that, at least be sure to hand out healthier treats, free of high-fructose corn syrup, chemical coloring, and artificial flavors. Check Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods for organic options.

5. Make sure your makeup is safe.

The majority of makeup, and essentially all costume face paints, may contain lead and other heavy metals. This is a serious issue and something to keep in mind when planning your children’s costume. Learn more from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

6. Homemade Decorations.

Instead of buying the plastic premade stuff, why not try making your own fun Halloween decorations using recyclable materials like cardboard, newspaper, and aluminum foil? This doubles as an afternoon project for the kids!

7. Natural decorations.

You can also use nature to decorate, as it’s all around and beautiful this time of year. Try a spread of brightly colored leaves, pumpkins and fancy gourds, etc. For the adventurous and extra-crafty, you can fashion an autumn-inspired door wreath.

8. Skip the store-bought candy bucket.

Yeah, the orange pumpkin pail is cute and nostalgic, but it’s made of cheap plastic and it’s leeching BPA. Instead, go old school and collect your candy in a pillowcase or wicker basket.

9. Use LEDs.

If you think you’ll need extra light while trick-or-treating, eco-conscious electricians recommend an LED flashlight. LED headlamps are great for parents who need to go hands-free. If you’re passing out candy, light the way for trick-or-treaters with an LED porch light and LED or solar-powered lamps along your pathway.

10. Eat those seeds.

When you’re carving your pumpkin, don’t toss away those seeds! Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc, iron, and other essential minerals – not to mention being absolutely delicious. Here’s my favorite roasting method, which takes less than 20 minutes.

11. Choose better candles.

Most commercial candles are made from paraffin, which is a petroleum product. For your jack-o-lantern or other decorations, choose fragrance-free natural soy candles instead.

12. Party smarter.

If you plan to throw a Halloween bash, make sure that you provide visible recycling containers for guests to toss used bottles and cans. For smaller gatherings, skip the disposables and just use your own cloth napkins, kitchen plates and cutlery. Ask a few friends to pitch in on the cleanup and dishwashing. If you’re hosting a bigger shindig, buy party cups/plates/napkins/cutlery made of recycled or sustainable materials.

Happy eco-friendly Halloween!

Updated April 9, 2018.

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