Make Halloween less scary for the Earth

20 Sep

This is a guest post by my sister Sarah. She’s gonna drop some knowledge on you right now. Get ready: this entry includes the word toluene.

Please note: This article assumes you have small children because it was originally written for a preschool newsletter. Because, OMG, my niece is starting preschool this year. But the information is useful for anyone who appreciates Halloween. And the planet.

She's a big kid now.

Costumes, candy, tricks and treats – the traditions of Halloween. Unfortunately, these charming customs are not particularly earth-friendly. In fact the environmental impact of Halloween is rather staggering. Just consider the excess packaging – all those little boxes of Dots and individually wrapped snack-size Snickers add up quickly! Then factor in the disposable nature of many costumes and decorations and the toxic nature of most masks and face paint, and the environmental impact starts coming into focus. Here are some ideas for reducing your household’s Halloween carbon footprint without reducing the fun.

  • Try to avoid buying a brand new Halloween costume. Renting is one viable option. Then again, so is creating your own. Check out local thrift stores to reuse items; dig in your closets to repurpose items or ask friends and neighbors for vintage clothing; and consider recycling older costumes and making them new again.

Homemade by Grandma Annie!

  • Use biodegradable décor that’s easily obtained at a farmer’s market. Make crafts using natural materials like dried leaves, pine cones, apples, fallen tree boughs, cornhusks, hay and gourds. Use non-toxic paints. If you do buy decorations, make sure you’ll be able to reuse them next year and look for items made from recycled materials. Use rechargeable batteries or look for solar powered decorations. And whatever you do, avoid wax candles, try soy or beeswax instead – they don’t give off toluene or benzene and they’re slower burning. Purchase pumpkins from a local grower (look for pesticide-free or organic if possible) and don’t let anything go to waste. Toast the seeds for a crunchy snack, use the carved out flesh for an autumn soup, and compost the shell.
  • We all know that the high-fructose corn syrup, genetically modified beet sugar and artificial preservatives in traditional Halloween candy is unhealthy. But that doesn’t mean treats need to be banished altogether. Look for fair-trade chocolates, organic candy or natural fruit leather – some even come in biodegradable packaging. Look for items sweetened with evaporated cane juice or fruit juice. Or how about granola bars or microwave popcorn? Both are individually wrapped and nutritionally sound options. Better yet, consider giving away pencils, temporary tattoos, stickers, magnets, spinning tops, bouncy balls, hand fans, bookmarks, seed paper or other healthy, affordable and reusable items.
  • And finally, be sure to use reusable bags or pillow cases for trick-or-treating rather than plastic pumpkins or plastic bags. Also, consider investing in a solar-powered flashlight. Just because safety comes first doesn’t mean it can’t be sustainable.

Green Halloween Craft Ideas:

Natural & Organic Candy

Solar Powered Decorations


One Response to “Make Halloween less scary for the Earth”


  1. Thanks, planet! « Everybody’s Invited! - November 17, 2010

    […] Make Halloween less scary for the Earth […]

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