Last year’s Halloween landed within the first few months of my zero-waste journey. I couldn’t fathom the thought of handing out non-recyclable plastic wrapped candies. So, instead, I hid away in the back part of my house with the front porch lights off. I imagined the kids passing by thinking how much of a grouch the new woman in the neighborhood must be. That’s what I would have thought as a kid.
This year, I am determined to find a solution to improve my neighborhood image. From now on, I plan to approach this holiday like I approach every decision in my life:
Think about the total life-cycle of every item you bring into your life.
Below are examples of this “mantra” in action:
Create Eco-Friendly Halloween Costumes
Raid your closet, nearest thrift store, or even neighbor’s dumpster.
Most thrift store items actually end up in the landfill. Donate before the holiday to increase the chance your donation will get a second home.
Going for the spooky zombie or monster look? Take a cue from The Walking Dead expert Greg Nicotero and make your own edible fake blood. You wouldn’t eat the stuff in the expensive plastic package from the store would you? This is sort of a rule for Walking Dead actors… Nicotero recommends using powdered food coloring mixed with corn syrup. Standard liquid food colors will stain. Instead of artificial powder dyes, use beet powder or cherry juice. If you use cherry juice, use corn starch instead of corn syrup to achieve the correct consistency.
Or, just dress as an energy vampire and use the holiday as a way to spread the message on “vampire energy use”
Zero-waste Halloween Decor Tips
- Instead of standard jack-o-lantern pumpkins, try buying some organic sugar pie pumpkins. After displaying, use both the flesh and seeds to make soup, desserts, or pumpkin bread.
- Believe it isn’t quite Halloween without the carving? You can still roast the seeds – I use pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas, on just about everything. You can even save a few of the seeds to try and grow your own next year. No need to buy a special product just for illuminating your pumpkins. Give your LED Christmas lights* something to do before their season rolls around.
- Make sure you dump the rest of the pumpkin in the compost bin, before it rots on display. Once they start to rot, they rot fast! One year, my carved pumpkin began rotting from the mouth, which wasn’t a pretty sight….
- Avoid painted pumpkins – you don’t want those nasty chemicals mixed in with your compost.
- Although they are tempting, avoid the pull of cheap plastic decorative items. There are plenty of natural materials to use for decor. Examples include sticks, dried corn on the cob, gourds, even dryer lint!
I saved the best for last: Eco-Friendly Halloween Treats
Satisfy your Halloween treat craving the healthy way by making pumpkin hummus, Frankenstein avocado toast, or melon brains. Most likely, the healthy snacks won’t be enough, so on to the trick-or-treat ideas.
Do you happen to be in an area where “everyone knows your name”? Then go old-school and make your own treats (such as this vegan candy corn recipe). I grew up with horror stories ranging from razor blade apples to poisoned chocolate. Sometimes I wonder where these rumors actually started…
Not quite ready, or able, to give up on the traditional candy you know and love (and your kids love too)? Below are a few options to still keep things green:
- Choose candy that comes in a recyclable cardboard container, such as Dots. Add a note to the box asking your “candy patrons” to recycle at the end of its life.
- Hand out candy that children can upcycle into something new. A good option would be purchasing a large box of Starbursts*. Provide a small handful to each child with a card directing them to upcycling ideas. I created a shortened link for this particular site to make it easy to share: http://bit.ly/upcycledcandy
- Organize a recycling brigade with a Terracycle candy wrapper zero waste box. Unfortunately, the free program sponsored by Mars is no longer available. Recycling is still an option, but at a cost to the consumer. In my opinion, the cost is too expensive for a household to bear. Instead, reach out to a local grocery store to see if they would sponsor a box to carry in their store until full. This year, I sent the following email to three local markets in my area. Although I haven’t yet heard back for proof of concept, it is worth a shot. Feel free to copy my email below for use in your own community!
Hi [name of contact],
My name is [INSERT YOUR NAME] and I [GIVE A LITTLE BIT OF PERSONAL INFORMATION HERE ABOUT YOURSELF, I.E., DO YOU GO TO THE STORE FREQUENTLY? WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION FOR WANTING TO RECYCLE YOUR CANDY WRAPPERS?]
I am reaching out to you about an opportunity to drive more traffic from the community into your store.
Many young families are interested in reducing the amount of waste they generate. But, they aren’t quite ready to give up on the Halloween candy tradition. These delicious treats generate a large amount of waste each year, all which is not recyclable in traditional municipal recycling programs.
A company, Terracycle, is offering a candy bar wrapper recycling program. Unfortunately, this recycling process is not currently free for the consumer. The small-sized take-back box costs $85, which is too cost-prohibitive for my personal expenses.
Would you be willing to buy a box for your location? I think it could be a great way to bring in new traffic from eco-conscious consumers.
In exchange for your sponsorship of this program, I will do the following:
1) promote your store on social media
2) advertise the program on a small card provided to all trick-or-treaters
3) spread the word among my local friends and family
Let me know what you think!
Thanks ahead of time.
Love the tradition of trick-or-treating but not so keen on all the candy lying around? Freeze it to last through winter and use in holiday cooking recipes. Or, take part in the Halloween Candy Buyback program to support our troops.
Please comment below if you were able to convince one of your local stores to carry a box or if you have any additional tips on how to celebrate an eco-friendly Halloween!