Have a great holiday that’s not so scary for the environment
Halloween ranks second only to Christmas in terms of its commercialization—and all of the waste that comes along with buying new, often disposable things like costumes, candy and decorations. Americans are expected to spend nearly $6 billion on Halloween this year, or $66.28 per person, according to the U.S. National Retail Federation survey. That’s $10 more per person than in 2009. In fact, the most people in the survey’s history are expected to dress up this year, and half of consumers plan to decorate for Halloween.
Halloween can be one of the most fun holidays of the year, but there are ways to do it that aren’t quite so scary for the environment.
Costumes. Delia Martinez has witnessed pieces of trash become great costumes dozens of times. When she was president of Environmental Action Team (EnAcT) at the University of Nevada, Reno that group put on a few “Trashion” shows, with models strutting their stuff down a catwalk in “clothes” made from materials diverted from the landfill—mesh onion bags, snack packaging, paper bags and more.
“Trashion totally lends itself to Halloween,” she says. She once made a “Wonder-bama” costume out of old Obama campaign signs. Another trashion model made a Roman soldier outfit out of bike tubes, and wads of bubble paper became a puffy princess gown for another trashionista. For inspiration, try sites like Instructables.com, which features a Lady Gaga Caution Tape costume and instructions for making a Star Wars Boba Fett cardboard costume helmet. TheDailyGreen.com also has ideas for recycled costumes, including a “recycled umbrella bat” costume.
Martinez says buying a used costume or organizing a costume swap is another way to reduce the environmental and budgetary impact of Halloween. While you’re at it, you can donate your old costumes to others. There’s currently a costume drive underway at Loka Tile in Sparks and EcoReno and Rockaboo in Reno to provide costumes for foster children. If you do buy new, pick something you can wear again, or pass along to others. “I think sharing is a big part of being sustainable,” says Martinez.
Decorations. Like your costume, if you buy new decorations, buy ones you expect to use again. You can also make “recycled” decorations, such as cutting out black cats from a trash bag. As for that pumpkin sitting on your doorstep, eat it if there’s not a big candle in the middle of it, and then compost the rest. Natural things like leaves, apples and squashes work well, too.
Treats. We know, homemade treats are full of razor blades and needles, right? The fear that the popcorn ball made by the little old lady down the street is laced with poison is at least 30 years old, but it may be time to put the pins-and-needles urban legend to rest and start making homemade treats again, or at least accepting them from trusted friends and neighbors. They’re cheaper, arguably healthier depending on what you make—vegan oatmeal cookies, anyone?—and have the ecological benefit of not being wrapped in tiny individual packages.
Barbara Mikkelson on Snopes.com writes, “Professor Joel Best reported that he’s been able to track about 80 cases of sharp objects in food incidents since 1959, and almost all were hoaxes.”
Not ready to stomach homegrown goodies? Then at least consider organic and fair-trade alternatives for the pre-wrapped treats.