Sustainable Halloween: Last Minute Zero-Waste Halloween Ideas
Everybody’s favorite holiday, Halloween, doesn’t have to be scary for the environment. In fact, this is a good time to consider the cost of commercial Halloween candy, costumes, and decorations not just in money, but in fossil fuel and carbon footprint. We invite you to follow our guide for a sustainable Halloween!
For children, Halloween is all about candy. However, the biggest candy manufacturers – Nestlé, Hershey’s, and Mars – contribute to deforestation and species extinction due to their demand for sugar, palm oil, and cocoa beans. These companies have also sourced their cocoa from countries that use child labor to harvest cocoa beans. Not to mention all the non-recyclable packaging.
For trick-or-treaters this year, consider buying locally-produced foods or more eco-friendly candies, and treats. Look for goodies with minimal packaging and/or candy packaged in recycled materials. You can also check labels to see that chocolate and sugar are from sustainable sources. For other candy suggestions take a look at this article from honestlymodern.com on sustainable and low-waste candy.
An easy and economical swap is to opt for Cardboard-Packaged Candies like Junior Mints, Dots, Nerds or Milk Duds. You can also seek out sustainable candies like Alter Eco, a Certified B Corp that makes truffles that come in compostable packaging and meet a variety of sustainable certifications like fair trade and non-GMO.
You can also make your own Halloween treats for at-home consumption. Make vegan or gluten-free Halloween cookies. Caramel-dipped apples, with or without crushed nuts, are a holiday favorite. Homemade fudge, popcorn balls, and gingerbreadmen will vanish fast! Or skip the sugar and make Monster Mouths out of green apple slices, nut butter, and cheese slices or strawberries.
About those treat bags, use and decorate household items to collect candy. A bucket, pillowcase, or old even an old paper bag can be decorated inexpensively. Or re-purpose a shopping bag.
The biggest carbon footprint from Halloween comes from the millions of poor-quality, fast-fashion costumes that are mass-produced every year. Most are made from unsustainable materials such as polyester and are manufactured in countries that have poor labor standards. Look at what’s in your closet, ask friends and family if you can borrow a costume, or just reuse and update the same costume every year: not only is it better for the environment, but it’s also better for your wallet. If necessary, shop at thrift shops, consignment stores, and yard sales, instead of buying retail.
Aerosol sprays that create spider webs on windows and foliage contain harmful chemicals, plus those fake webs pose a serious danger to wildlife. As for Halloween decorations available online, most are manufactured in Asia, which requires fossil fuels to transport them.
If you have decorations from previous years, by all means, reuse them. If not, get creative! Turn black construction paper into bats on windows, doors, and hanging from trees. Make ghosts from old sheets, stuff the “head” with old newspapers, and tie it off. Then, drape the ghost in a window, or porch or hang it from a tree.
The classic Halloween décor is a carved pumpkin in your window. Buy local from a farmers’ market. Pumpkins you find at a big chain store or supermarket are likely shipped from far away. Find a local farm and make a day out of choosing the perfect jack o’lantern and taking a hayride.
Reduce food waste by using the insides of the pumpkin to make soup, pie, muffins, and/or roast the seeds. Pumpkin is packed with great nutrition benefits. It’s low in calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol. It is super high in vitamin K which helps your blood clot and is great for bone health. It’s also high in beta-carotene, which is a powerful antioxidant and important for eye and immune health. More importantly, it imparts a delicious, aromatic flavor to any recipe. As for the pumpkin shell, compost it and plant the seeds to grow your own pumpkins for next year.
However, you choose to celebrate Halloween, stay safe and sustainable!