Happy Eco-Ween! Tricks and Treats to Make Your Halloween Greener

by Sara Swenson and Andy Harmon

This is part 2 of 2 on making your Halloween a little more green. Check out our first set of tips here.

Last week, we had tips on decorating the house and reusing your jack o’ lantern for delicious treats, now it’s time for the main events: costumes and trick or treating!


  • Candy bags.  Avoid the limited-use, non-recyclable plastic jack-o’-lantern that dominates shelves in the Halloween aisle.  There are plenty of items around the house that can carry trick-or-treat goodies while making a lighter environmental impact.  The classic pillowcase is our favorite—they can be easily washed (or decorated, if not needed anymore) and they hold a huge haul of candy—but anything that can be comfortably carried works, such as canvas totes, wicker baskets, ice cream buckets, etc.



Make a paper bag candy bowl! Image credit (and instructions): Ellen Luckett Baker 

  • Avoid excessive packaging.  Admittedly, it is harder to cut down on packaging waste for candy than it is for other items, since the individual wrappers are meant to assure parents that their child’s candy is safe to eat.  Still, try to select treats with minimal packaging or with recyclable packaging (like boxes).  Homemade treats are a great choice in neighborhoods that would find them appropriate.  You can also avoid the candy conundrum by giving out other goodies that will find use in a child’s life.  As always, be on the lookout for items that can be recycled and/or are made from recycled materials!


○       Fun pencils, pens, erasers, etc.

○       Small crayon packs

○       Small coloring/activity books

○       Stickers

○       Temporary tattoos


Spooky crayons made of crayon stubs Image credit (and instructions): Jennifer Perkins 


  • Avoid one-time use.  Don’t buy a costume just to throw it away.  Even if you can’t see yourself wearing it ever again, save it.  Your used costume can still be of use to somebody else!
  • Swap it!  Organize a get-together with friends, family, or neighbors for trading your used costumes or check for a larger costume swap event in your community, perhaps on National Costume Swap Day (this year, Saturday, October 12). Find a swap near you!
  • Donate it!  Give your used costume to a friend or relative who could use it, or donate it to a local school, theatre program, or charity.
  • Dare to DIY!  Store-bought costumes are often cheaply made with non-recyclable plastics and rubbers, synthetic fibers, and other environmentally harmful materials.  By spending a little more time (and probably less money!), your costume can have a much smaller environmental impact while looking just as great—if not better!

Create your own cardboard iPod costume Image Credit (and instructions): www.lilsugar.com

  • Raid your closet.  Chances are you have clothes somewhere that can be re-purposed for a costume.  You can even get some more use out of old uniforms or special event wear.
  • Check out thrift stores.  Stores like Goodwill can offer great selections of period clothing or used costumes at a great bargain.  You never know what you might find until you look!
  • Reuse it!  Invest in pieces and accessories that can be recombined to create new costumes year after year.  You’ll get even more reuse with pieces that work in your everyday wardrobe too!
  • Be materials-minded.  As always, think about where your materials come from and what will happen to them later on.  Go for natural materials and fabrics over synthetics, and use recyclable and repurposed items from around the home.  Items like aluminum foil, construction paper, and cardboard boxes can be extremely versatile for creating the look you want!

Umbrella bat costume Image credit (and instructions): Lenore Edman

Sara:  My mom didn’t buy me Halloween costumes; she would make them for me or help me put them together from clothes or items around the house.  Today, I love coming up with unique costume ideas and sewing my own costumes and Halloween-themed outfits.  But you don’t have to be a seamstress to create a one-of-a-kind costume!  There are tons of easy-to-make designs out there, whether you’re just browsing or you have a specific costume in mind.


  • Avoid toxic ingredients.  Makeup and face paint offer a great alternative to non-recyclable plastic and rubber masks, but your typical store-bought options contain lead and other toxic heavy metals that are bad for you when on your skin and bad for the environment when flushed down the drain (read more at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics).  Look for face paints with natural and organic ingredients and natural, reusable applicators like sea sponges.
  • Dare to DIY!  Poor cosmetic industry regulations make it hard to know exactly what is in store-bought Halloween makeup.  Get rid of this doubt by making your own!  Look for recipes with natural and organic ingredients (including natural food coloring) or read about homemade face paint from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics or Sierra magazine.

This has been just a taste of the many ways that we can minimize our environmental impacts this Halloween.  There is a wealth of information about this subject online, and you can use the links throughout the guide above and the additional resources we have posted below to get started with a greener Halloween yourself.  Leave a comment below to share your favorite sustainable crafts, tricks, and treats for the Halloween season!

 More Resources

  • Eco-Friendly Craft Suppliers:

Paint: Earth Safe Finishes

Glue: Elmer’s School Glue Naturals

Various: The Green Office, EcoArt Works

Have a Happy Eco-ween!


3 responses to “Happy Eco-Ween! Tricks and Treats to Make Your Halloween Greener

  1. Pingback: Green Your Halloween | The Little Green Playpen·

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