by Sara Swenson and Andrew Harmon
Part 1 of a 2-part series on making your Halloween a little more green.
Sara: Halloween is my favorite holiday. The costumes, the creatures, the spooky stories, the creepy fall scenery—I love it so much that I celebrate the whole month of October! What I don’t love, however, is having a wasteful Halloween.
Most environmental harms resulting from Halloween celebrations are waste-related. The ideas below for reducing waste and lowering your environmental impact can help you not only with parties, decorations, and trick-or-treating this month but can also be extended for use in your life year-round!
- Recycle it! Provide clearly labeled containers for guests to recycle their bottles, cans, etc. You can’t have too many!
- Reuse it: Collect and rinse out milk jugs or glass bottles and reuse them as decorations.
- Small haunting: If you are only having a few guests over, use your usual dishware and silverware instead of disposable party ware.
- Monster bash: If you have more guests than dishes, look for party plates, cups, cutlery, and napkins made from recycled, sustainable, or compostable materials.
Be materials-minded. The big thing to consider when buying spooky fun decorations is what they are made of—and what that means for what will happen to them once you’re done with them.
Things to Avoid:
- One-time-use, disposable items that will not last from one Halloween to the next
- Non-recyclable plastics, including Styrofoam
- Non-biodegradable materials
- Wasteful and non-recyclable packaging
Better yet, dare to DIY! If you have the time, it may be easier to make your own decorations than to look through the aisles of cheaply made items at the store in search of less wasteful options. Luckily, the possibilities for homemade Halloween decorations are endless! Making your own decorations also lets you use natural and recyclable materials as much as possible. Keep in mind that empty food containers make great building blocks!
- Decorate with natural (and compostable!) autumn materials, like fallen leaves, pumpkins and gourds, hay bales, corn stalks, etc.
- Stuff old clothes with recyclable newspaper to make a scarecrow.
- Reuse your recyclables to cut out Halloween-themed silhouettes to put on windows or hang from trees.
- Make bats out of egg cartons or ghosts out of cheesecloth to hang from tree branches. The more the spookier!
- Hang recyclable crepe paper in Halloween black, orange, and purple.
- Skip the packaged, polyester spider webs from the store by making your own. Pull apart a length of cheesecloth or cotton batting to create the creepy cobweb look or weave a design from natural-fiber string for a more distinct web.
- Make Halloween candle holders by cutting spooky designs into recyclable metal cans or by decorating glass jars.
- Go LED! LEDs are smaller and more energy efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and are cool to the touch when turned on. They may cost more than other light sources, but they will last longer and save energy. Decorate with colored LED lights or light a path up to your door for trick-or-treaters with solar-powered LED garden lamps that take in sunlight during the day and turn on automatically at night or. Ditch the one-time-use, non-recyclable glow sticks for a bright LED flashlight when trick-or-treating.
Sara: I personally love LEDs. I’ve got an LED flashlight, LED candles, even an LED bulb in my desk lamp. For Christmas and Halloween I have some excellent LED string lights by Philips, including solar ones for outdoors. I love their bright light and vivid colors and knowing they will last!
- Avoid paraffin. Many candles are made from paraffin, a product derived from petroleum. Paraffin wax candles also produce soot when burned. Alternatives to paraffin candles include soy or beeswax candles or artificial LED candles, which flicker just like a burning candle but can be reused year after year.
- Compost it! Don’t let your jack-o’-lantern and its pumpkin guts end up in a landfill once Halloween is over. Organic materials like pumpkins and other food scraps can be composted in your backyard or in a compost bin to enrich soil and help your garden grow. Learn more about composting from theEnvironmental Protection Agency orEureka Recycling.
- Try a new recipe. After pumpkin carving, you can turn the seeds or even the pulp (“guts”) into a tasty snack. Pulp can be mashed and cooked and then either used in a recipe or stored in the freezer for future treats! Pumpkin recipes are endless from breads to soups, even desserts, check out these pumpkin recipes for inspiration (or these vegan recipes). Roast or toast the pumpkin seeds with seasoning (great recipe here!) and eat them plain or use them as a nut substitute in salads, muffins, breads, or other recipes.
Here’s hoping you have a fun and SPOOKY Halloween! We’ll be back next week with part 2 of our eco-ween tips.