With October flying by like a witch on a broomstick we’re all gearing up for our Halloween celebrations. Before you run to the retail store to load up on $2 plastic pumpkins and cheap candy, have a look at some of these great tips for keeping your Halloween ghoulishly GREEN this year. Do yourself a favor and save some money while celebrating the spooky season with these Eco friendly Halloween costumes, decorations, treats, and party solutions!
What’s the SCARIEST thing about Halloween?
Although Halloween is admittedly THE time of the year to celebrate all things scary, perhaps the truly terrifying reality of the destruction of the planet is nothing worth celebrating. Each year the Halloween holiday comes and goes leaving us with the memories of Trick or Treating fun, costume parties with friends, and sweet tooth indulgence. However, what is often overlooked (perhaps due to the sugar hangover) is the incredible amount of things that ultimately end up in the trash the day after.
Many of the items associated with Halloween are either made of plastic or come in plastic packaging. From costumes and decorations to Trick or Treat pails and candy wrappers, plastic is a major contributor to the waste generated over the holiday. In addition to the single-use packaging that can be easily recycled, many candy wrappers are created using “mixed materials” – which makes them ineligible for recycling.
A Closer Look at Plastic Statistic: Americans alone throw away approximately 100 billion plastic bags each year in addition to the other forms of plastic waste created. According to Earth Day Network’s “Single Use Plastics Fact Sheet” one of the largest contributors to plastic waste is Single-Use plastics such as packaging and wrappers:
In addition to single use plastics and bags, Halloween in particular creates a high demand for cheap, one-time use decorations, Trick or Treat buckets, and synthetic costumes. Many children return home with a plastic bag literally full of non-recyclable, individually plastic wrapped candy. With the environmental shifts occurring, often perpetuated by manufacturing and improper disposal of plastics, it’s time to find some real, practical solutions to green up our Halloween traditions.
Benefits of going Green this Halloween
Cost Savings – The average American spends roughly $75 on Halloween each year. Often this money goes toward costumes bought at retail stores, decorations, and candy. Many of these items are used for a single season and thrown away afterwards, not much of an investment! Imagine the savings you could have by simply choosing to source your costume, decorations, and candy in alternative ways? By implementing some strategies for sustainablity you can maximize the use and minimize the cost of your Halloween needs. This holiday is also a great opportunity to support your community by shopping locally for the things you can’t make yourself. Support your local farmer by purchasing pumpkins directly at the farm or a farmers market. This could help your wallet AND help to reduce the carbon footprint of shipped items such as pumpkins.
Low Environmental Impact – How great would you feel knowing that your wonderful Halloween memories didn’t come at the cost of harming the environment? It’s a big win for yourself and the planet when you can creatively utilize alternative solutions to the things that often cause harm to the planet. It’s quite easy to reduce plastic waste and eliminate single-use plastics entirely with some simple changes. With a bit of planning you can cut down on wasteful decorations and cheap, synthetic costume materials. Who knows, perhaps your choice to go Green may even inspire others to follow suit. Through simple, practical action you may create a larger impact than ever expected this season!
Uniquely Created Decorations and Costumes – In addition to saving money and helping the environment you’ll be surprised at how unique, creative, and high quality your Halloween can be just by avoiding the retail store. Many of the best costumes I’ve ever had were creatively made at home. By the end of this article you’ll be equipped with some really excellent solutions to keep your Halloween Eco friendly while IMPROVING your decor, party, costumes, and candy choices. Creating your own costumes and decorations is also really rewarding because you inevitable put your own personality and aesthetic print on what you create, leading to a much more fulfilling Halloween season. Express your creativity AND your eco values by going Green this year!
Eco Friendly Decorating Tips
With these eco friendly decorating tips you’ll be sure to save some money, impress your friends, and enjoy Halloween without contributing to environmental toxins or waste.
Zero-Waste Jack O’ Lantern
Being that the Jack O’ Lantern is pretty much an essential component of our Halloween fun, here’s some ways you can enjoy yours while lowering your environmental impact AND maximizing your pumpkin.
Buy Local: Reduce your carbon footprint and support your neighbors by buying your pumpkins from a local farm or farmers market. Look for “Sugar Pumpkins” or talk with your farmer to confirm that the pumpkins you buy can be used for cooking as well as carving. This will help to cut down on the emissions created by transporting pumpkins to retailers. It’s also a great opportunity for children to learn about local agriculture and see where food comes from!
Keep the Seeds: Pumpkin seeds (pepitas) are a wonderful healthy snack that can be enjoyed by themselves or added to salads, snack mixes, and granola bars. Check out some of our favorite Pumpkin Seed Recipes. In addition to eating the seeds, you could try saving some to plant yourself. This can make for a great project to teach your kids about the Seed Cycle while cutting down on your expenses for next seasons pumpkins. Check out these great articles to learn how to Harvest and Store Pumpkin Seeds and how to Plant, Grow, and Harvest Pumpkins.
Carving vs Painting: When the time comes to create your Jack O’ Lantern, consider if you want to carve your pumpkin or paint it. We recommend carving because it’s great (often challenging) fun, it creates a more traditional lit-up style Jack O’ Lantern, and it has no negative environmental impact. For those who do prefer to paint their pumpkins, that’s a great project as well! Be sure to use natural, non-toxic paint that can easily biodegrade to keep harmful toxins from leeching into the environment or your skin. You can either purchase earth friendly paint such as Real Milk Paint or you can check out this great tutorial to learn how to create your own Non-Toxic Natural Paint. Since Jack O Lanterns have such a short life span, we recommend painting/carving your pumpkin as close to Halloween as possible as the pumpkin will start to rot and the paint can become runny with inclement weather.
Cooking – Those who are using un-carved pumpkins as decorations should also consider using them for cooking afterwards! Here are some wonderful Fresh Pumpkin Recipes compiled by the Food Network to help you whip up some seriously delicious post-Halloween meals. Before you get cooking, be sure to check that the pumpkins you used are the right type of pumpkin – commonly referred to as “Sugar Pumpkins” or “Cheese Pumpkins”. Check that they have not begun to rot and haven’t been exposed to any chemicals that could make them harmful to ingest.
Pumpkin Lighting: Try using LED strips or solar powered lights for the inside of your carved Jack O’ Lantern. You can also wrap them around a painted pumpkin to light it up. Many LED strips have settings to keep them dim or create various flashing effects.
Compost – If you haven’t already decided to make a meal out of your pumpkins, be sure to compost them. You can either add them to your own compost bin or bring them to a local farm, community garden or composting facility. Be sure to remove the seeds first to prevent unwanted plants in your compost. Pumpkin also makes a great snack for wildlife, you can fill your Jack O Lantern with bird seed and set it out for birds/squirrels, cut it up into pieces and leave it in the woods for small mammals, feed the seeds to your chickens or add them to your bird feeder. There are many solutions for getting rid of your pumpkin without throwing it in the garbage.
DIY Halloween Decorations
Scarecrows: Scarecrows are a fun DIY project that makes for excellent autumn decor. Try re purposing old sheets, shirts, and pants to dress your scarecrow. If you have a garden, they also do indeed have a practical application in keeping pests away from your crops. For more tips on creating the perfect scarecrow for Halloween OR to keep pests out of your garden check out the video below from GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley Nursery:
In addition to scarecrows, there are many simple, cheap, Eco friendly DIY decorations to consider. Some of our favorite DIY decoration projects include:
Halloween Garland: Re purpose your old paper towel or toilet paper rolls by painting them orange, cutting them into 1 inch sections, and stringing them with yarn or fishing line for Mini – Pumpkin Garland. You could also try using a printed bat stencil to cut bat shapes from old cardboard boxes then paint them black and hang with yarn, string, or even perched upside down on sticks and branches.
Tin Can Luminaries: Rinse and save your old soup cans to use for making uniquely spooky luminaries. Fill the cans with water and freeze them first, this helps to keep them from denting. Once frozen, use a nail and hammer to poke holes in the cans to make a spooky design or spell out a Halloween message. Let them melt and add LED strips or candles inside the cans to light up your luminaries.
Egg Carton Pumpkins: Use egg cartons, rice, and green twist ties to create mini Jack O Lanterns. Simply cut the cups out of the bottom of a cardboard egg carton, be sure to cut them neatly so that the cut edges of two cups will fit together. Paint the outside of each cup orange and let dry. Fill one cup partially with rice, this will be the base of the pumpkin and the rice helps to weight it down. Using craft glue or a hot glue gun, attach a second cup to the base cup to create a sealed pumpkin shape. Once the glue dries, you can use a marker or paint to add faces to your Jack O Lantern. Add a green twist tie stem by simply poking a small hole in the top and threading the twist tie in.
Anyone that’s interested in more DIY ideas should check out this great article detailing some sustainable decorations on the Inhabitat Website.
One of the easiest ways to avoid plastic decorations in by incorporating natural materials such as corn stalks (often sold in bundles during the Fall season), hay bales, pine cones, sticks, leaves, pumpkins, and gourds. Try using natural materials to create a festival autumn wreath for your door. Many natural decorations are not just suitable for Halloween but can really spruce up your space for the entire Fall season.
Thrift Store Scores: For those who don’t have the time or aren’t looking to create your own decor, try visiting some thrift stores before heading to a retail outlet. Thrift stores can be an excellent resource for finding cheap decorations donated from past Halloweens. You’ll be surprised at some of the unique, one of a kind items you can find without breaking the bank!
Outdoor Lighting: Consider using LED or solar powered lights for your walkway or house. These are much more energy efficient than leaving exterior home or flood lights on. LED light strips are often only used for Winter and Christmas decorating, but they work great for lighting up your yard while lowering your energy cost.
Eco Friendly Costume Tips
It is estimated that textile and apparel industries account for at least 10% of the world’s carbon impact. Here are some simple ways to cut down on your environmental impact, increase your crafting skills, and speed your eco message this Halloween with your costume choices:
Raid your closet: We often have many, if not all of the materials needed to create an excellent Halloween costume already in our closet. Try using old clothes, sheets, shoes, fabrics, and salvaged materials from your home. There are two basic approaches to creating your own Halloween costume using your own recycled materials. You could start by taking a look at what materials are available in your house. Use what you have as inspiration for your costume idea, then get creative in putting it together. On the other hand you may decide to come up with some costume ideas ahead of time based on your interests or even taking a trip to do a little retail store reconaissance. Once you have a few costume ideas in mind, go on a home scavenger hunt to source materials that could work. In addition to clothes, you can use painted cardboard boxes, PVC pipes, plastic jugs, or styrofoam packaging to create a variety of costumes from Robots to Lemonade Stands!
Hit the thrift store: If you simply can’t find all the materials for your DIY costume at home, take a trip to a thrift store before purchasing new articles from a retailer. This will at least save you some money and likely provide plastic free packaging while making use of items that aren’t adding to the textile and apparel industries carbon impact. Thrift stores can also be a great place to visit for costume idea inspiration.
Arrange A Costume Swap: Most people don’t use the same costume every year and likely have a few old costumes at their disposal. Set up a costume swap at work or at your child’s school to get the most out of costumes past. You can also use a costume swap as a fun way to have a pre-Halloween party at home while giving yourself and your friends the chance to share costuming resources.
Choose an “Eco theme” costume: One of the perks of making your own costume is that it gives you the freedom to pick exactly what you want to BE for Halloween. You can use this as an opportunity not only to recycled materials but to spread your positive Eco message by choosing a costume with an “Eco theme.” Be sure to choose your costume carefully as you will be using a public platform to promote social values. This act CAN be challenging at times, some people may take offense or criticize your costume choice while other simply LOVE your eco spirit. Ultimately, it’s up to you to choose what you’re comfortable with!
To help you with costume ideas, some of our favorites “Eco Theme” costumes include:
- The famous cartoon superhero “Captain Planet”
- The Lorax
- Global Warming – Create a planet Earth costume and be sure to include melting ice caps, rising oceans, and carry a thermometer.
- ALL GREEN EVERYTHING – Dress head to toe in Green, including green face paint and hair dye or a green hat.
- Trash Monster/Plastic Monster – Use plastic bags and various trash items glued to a trash bag poncho. You can paint your face or create a scary mask using recycled materials.
- NOT a plastic bag – Create your costume out of burlap/paper/canvas bags and totes. Be sure to explicitly display that you are NOT a plastic bag.
- Willie Nelson/Al Gore/Other Iconic Eco celebrities.
Donate your costume: Instead of throwing your costume out on November 1st, consider donating it. Schools, local theaters, and thrift stores are all great places to give your old costume an appreciative new home that will make use of it. For those who can’t find a good place to donate it, try storing it and offering it up to a costume swap, yard sale, or school play when the chance arises.
Create your own Halloween make-up
Aside from the environmental impact that Halloween make-up packaging often has, there are a variety of harsh chemicals and toxins that are commonly found in effects make up. Toxins such as lead, artificial dyes, and preservatives can leech into your bloodstream through your skin pores causing harm to your body. Keep yourself and your children safe by making your own all nature, toxin-free effects make up:
Toxin-Free Face Paint: In a small bowl mix 1/4 teaspoon refined white flour (for gluten-free use 1/2 teaspoon kaolin white clay) with 1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch OR arrowroot powder. Add 2 teaspoons honey and 1/2 teaspoon water then stir until smooth. Separate the mixture into small cups for different colors. Add a few drops of natural food coloring to each cup until you have reached the desired color. Before applying face paint, be sure to dust the face with a small amount of flour/kaolin clay to keep it from running. Apply the paint thickly for best results.
All-Natural, Edible Fake Blood: In a mixing bowl simply add corn syrup (the amount of corn syrup you use will basically equal the amount of fake blood yielded, so only use as much as you need for your costume). One you’ve added the desired amount of corn syrup you can dye it using 4 parts natural red food coloring and 1 part natural blue food coloring. You can also use beet powder and mix thoroughly. One you have the desired color, simply add corn starch (a little at a time) until the fake blood is the desired consistency. Be careful if you do end up using artificial food dyes as they can stain easily.
Fairy Body Glitter: Using small containers, choose your favorite colors of fine glitter and pour a small amount into the container. Add aloe Vera gel and stir with a skewer until glitter is mixed evenly. Apply to body/face as desired, just be sure not to ingest or put in near your eyes as glitter can be harmful if ingested or in contact with the eyes.
Eco Friendly Trick or Treating Tips
It’s no surprise that for many of us Halloween is all about the Trick or Treating. This spook-tacular event is a wonderful way to engage with your community, show off your costume creations, and get some fresh air. Check out these tips for making your Trick or Treating experience Eco friendly along with some healthy solutions for dealing with the masses of candy stockpiled afterwards:
Make Your Own Trick or Treat Bag: Instead of springing for the plastic Jack O’ Lantern bucket, you can easily use a pillowcase or T-Shirt to make your own Trick or Treat Bag. Get creative by decorating your bag with non-toxic paint or dye. For those who have plastic buckets are your disposal, try decorating them with spooky glow paint, stickers, or creepy stencils! Making your own bag or bucket is also an excellent opportunity to create an accessory that ties in with your Halloween costume.
Walk or Carpool: Instead of driving your own car house to house, consider walking the neighborhood. Its great exercise and a simple way to cut down on gas emissions. For very young Trick or Treaters, consider pulling them in a decorated Halloween wagon with some extra blankets in case it gets cold. If you live in an area that requires driving, try connecting with other friends or parents to carpool. It’s a great opportunity to share the Trick or Treating experience while spending time with friends. We suggest listening to creepy music, telling spooky stories, and playing I Spy games from the car.
Trick or Trash: While walking around your neighborhood, consider bringing along a bag to collect litter as you go. This is a great chance to Green Up the streets. It also makes for a fun game to play with your kids between houses. For those who are going with multiple people you could incorporate a little friendly competition and give a prize to the person who collects the most litter.
Candy Wrapper Crafts
Odds are you will return from a night of Trick or Treating with an AWFUL lot of non-recyclable candy wrappers. Instead of trashing them, consider saving them to use for creative crafting projects. Some candy wrapper crafts that we enjoy the most are:
- Origami: Candy wrappers are a great way to practice Origami crafting without having to purchase Origami paper. There’s a wealth of online tutorials for all different kinds of Origami projects. Check out the Origami Resource Center website for some neat ideas specifically designed for candy wrappers.
- Candy Wrapper Bowl: This is a great way to transform one of your old bowls into a shiny “new” candy bowl. Using an iron, craft glue and candy wrappers you can create a really cool wrapper pattern on the inside and outside of the bowl and then use if for giving out treats next Halloween. Check out the step by step Candy Wrapper Bowl tutorial on the Community Table Website.
- DIY Drink Coasters: All you need is candy wrappers, cardboard, felt, crafting glue, and a hot-glue gun. We suggest using foil wrappers to give these coasters a durable, shiny effect. First you’ll want to flatten/smooth your wrappers (you can use your fingers or iron them flat between layers of parchment paper.) Next you can cut out the desired coaster shapes using recycled cardboard- we recommend using a shape stencil to ensure they are all the same size. Use a foam brush to apply Mod Podge or a similar crafting glue to the cardboard and then apply the foil wrappers. Be sure you have enough wrappers to completely cover the top of the coaster. Try experimenting with some “test” coasters without using glue to decide on the exact placement/pattern of the wrappers. For extra durability add 2 or more layers of Mod Podge/craft glue to coat and seal the applied wrappers. Once your wrappers are sealed and dried, cut out a piece of felt the same size as your coaster and apply it to the bottom using a hot-glue gun.
Other great candy wrapper projects include making jewelry, pencil cases, greeting cards, light-switch covers, bookmarks, phone cases, and decoupaged votives.
If you are sitting on a ridiculous amount of candy and looking for some ways to make use of it without eating it all or throwing it out, here are a few solutions you could try:
Halloween Candy Buy Back: Consider organizing a Halloween Buy Back event through a local business (supermarkets, schools and dentists are great locations). Extra Halloween candy is exchanged for cash, coupons, gifts, or other incentives from local businesses. Candy is then donated to the Move America Forward Organization and added to gift boxes for troops overseas. For more information on how to register and donate visit the Halloween Candy Buy Back website.
Terracycle Program: Another great way to avoid adding wrappers to the landfill is by participating in Terracycle’s Zero Waste Box Program. Try contacting your local supermarket or school the have a box sponsored so that the entire community can participate!
Candy Overload: Instead of indulging in a self-induced candy coma this year, try cutting down and spacing out your family’s candy consumption. You can easily separate and freeze candy in air-tight containers.Freezing candy helps you to space out consumption, prolongs shelf life, and keeps it from turning into a melted, gooey mess! Many chocolate bars are great to use in dessert recipes and holiday cooking. You can also use stored frozen candy for ice cream toppings, trail mix, or enjoy it small treats throughout the year.
Eco Friendly Treat Tips
Make your Own: Being that there has been concern over poisoned or harmful candy over the years, most people stick to using store bought treats. For those who live in a small town with a close community though, consider making your own treats! There are many wonderful Halloween treat recipes that can be both healthy and delicious.
Some of our favorite healthy treat recipes include:
Remember to use biodegradable packaging such as cellophane to wrap your treats or create festive treat bags. You can even add a recipe card to each treat to help inform parents about ingredients and encourage them to try the recipe next year.
Buying Eco-Friendly Candy – For those who are giving out store bought candy, try picking treats that use plastic free packaging. Many Halloween candies come in recyclable cardboard boxes or biodegradable packages. You can also look for companies who have sustainability initiatives in their manufacturing to try to support their candy products over others. Try Go Organic fruit chews which incorporate a biodegradable bag, or Yum Earth candy products which are manufactured using renewable wind energy. For those who’re willing to spend a little extra money, you can give out these amazing organic, seed-bearing Lollipops from Amborella Organics. These suckers come in a variety of unbelievably tasty natural flavors such as Vanilla & Hibiscus, Lemon & Thyme, and Strawberry & Basil. Each Pop features actual edible flowers/herbs in the candy and can be planted after devouring to grow the plant you just tasted!
Magic Beans: Instead of handing out candy consider making Magic Bean kits. Pick up some organic bean seeds from your local garden store. Give each Trick or Treater a kit containing few seeds along with printed planting instructions and the Jack and the Beanstalk story. They can plant the beans in cups at home and watch them grow!
Flower & Vegetable Kits: In addition to bean seeds you could give out bulbs or flower seeds with planting instructions. You could even distribute pumpkin seeds from your own Jack O Lantern!
Set the Stage: Create a spooky sign encouraging trick or treaters to recycle their packages and display it as decoration at your door. Be sure to have recycling & compost bins easily accessible in front of your home to help keep litter off the streets. You can even decorate the bins and incorporate them into your Halloween home decorations.
Eco Friendly Halloween Party Tips
For many of us Halloween is less about door to door candy conquests and more about having a great party with friends and family. If you are throwing a Halloween bash, or simply attending one, consider some of these Eco friendly party tips:
Beware the Plastic Ware: Instead of single use disposable plastic ware, consider setting your party up with real silverware and dishes. For those looking to avoid the hassle of post-party dish washing, check out this super stylish, Eco-friendly dinnerware from Verterra. They offer a wide range of disposable products ranging from serving bowls and platters to cutlery and kitchen utensils. Their non-toxic, biodegradable dinnerware is created using fallen palm leaves. It’s liquid safe and durable enough to use in the microwave or oven.
Zero-Waste Containers: Encourage your guests to bring their own re-usable food containers and/or use your own for storing food left over from the party. You can also cut down on single-use packaging by having a potluck style party in which guests can prepare and bring food in their own containers instead of purchasing pre-packaged foods.
Finger Food: To cut down on food waste, try utilizing finger food recipes that don’t even require plates, bowls, or cutlery. You can use easily accessible platters with toothpicks and napkins. This can help to lower food waste as guests can take advantage of smaller portioned snacks and return for more food instead of throwing away food after taking too much.
Recycled materials crafting contest: Have a little friendly competition with a recycled materials crafting contest. You can collect recyclable materials yourself as well as encourage guests to bring them. Set out a space with crafting supplies such as scissors, glue, string, coloring/painting utensil, etc. Start a timer and have participants compete to create the best spooky recycled materials monster.
Recycled materials games: There are a variety of fun indoor and outdoor games that can be played with recycled materials. Try setting up a Scavenger Hunt, Bobbing for Apples, running a Three-Legged Race, or even create your own Corn Hole game. There’s a wealth of DIY game resources available online so see what materials you have and get creative!
Eco Friendly Party Favors: Incorporate some sustainable lifestyle goodies as party favors for your guests. Try giving out homemade treats in glass containers. Homemade candy, pumpkin seeds, or snack mix can be distributed into small reusable jars. This not only speaks to eco message but adds a really nice personal touch to your party favors.
Recycling and Compost Bins: Be sure to have plenty of clearly labeled recycling and compost bins set out before the party and check on them regularly to emptying. You can incorporate these into your decor by painting them or adding spooky labels. Use the bins throughout the party and during cleanup to compost any food scraps and to recycle packaging and left over decorations.
Utilize Eco Decor: Refer to the Eco friendly decorations section above for some great ideas to keep your decor cost effective and Eco friendly!
Use dim able lighting, LED strips, and candles to set the low-light mood for your festivities. You can also utilize solar powered lighting outdoors for walkways and patios. Energy consumption is often overlooked at parties and can be really taxing on the environment as well as your bank account.
Go paperless with E-Cards: Instead of mailing or handing out paper cards, consider inviting your friends with seasonal E-cards.
Keep it Green
There are so many simple ways to have an amazingly successful, super spooky, Eco friendly Halloween. We hope these Green tricks and treats will become holiday traditions that you can look forward each year! We are delighted to share these eco tips with you and hope you will rest in peace this Halloween season knowing that your actions created some positive changes with real impact this year.
Please feel free to comment below with questions, comments, or suggestions for other eco friendly Halloween ideas. I thank for you reading this article and wish you a very Happy Halloween!
Founder – Green Roots Lifestyle