How to Have a Less Wasteful Halloween
Halloween is still scary, but in a different way.
Some of my favorite childhood memories involve dawning a witch costume and running through yards of crunchy leaves and glowing pumpkins, to a front door that opens in the anticipation of giving me candy.
I’ll always have a fondness for Halloween. But the thrilling fear of the skeletons and zombie masks has been replaced with chills of dread that run down my spine when I think about the ghastly volume of plastic - and other waste- that results from the holiday.
I guess you’re really a grown up when you find the real world more terrifying than the imaginary. But don’t worry, we have some tricks to keep Halloween scary for the kids and not so scary for the environmentally-minded adults.
Here are some tips to avoid the triple threat of Halloween waste: Decorations, candy, and costumes.
Most of the plastic used at Halloween is totally unnecessary. And for those of us with chronic arachnophobia, going without the little plastic spiders would make the holiday a lot more enjoyable. Here are some better ways to decorate.
You don’t have to buy those huge plastic bags of overpriced candy from the drug store. But if you do, go for the candy in cardboard boxes, like Milk Duds or Junior Mints.
Or, opt for foil-wrapped candy, like Hershey Kisses or gold coins. Of course, it’s unlikely that tiny wrappers foil will actually get recycled, but at least they won’t leach microplastics into the soil. Be aware that sometimes wrapping that looks like foil is actually a plastic-foil composite.
TerraCycle sells a Candy and Snack Wrappers Zero Waste Box. The box will allow you to collect and send in candy wrappers and snack bags for recycling at the TerraCycle facility. The box costs $86, but if you can get your neighbors to chip in a few dollars, it would also incentivize them to save and contribute their candy wrappers.
Explore your local bulk candy options. It’s unlikely in these times of COVID that the already-too-few stores that did have bulk candy will have this option, but if you do have any luck, be sure to bring your own organic cotton produce bag. Of course, make sure that you repackage any loose candy that doesn’t come individually wrapped in small paper bags.
Fruit or home-baked goods are acceptable if you have a healthy level of trust among all of your neighbors. Otherwise, such treats may draw a suspicious eye from parents and end up getting tossed out.
You don’t necessarily have to give out anything edible. Pass out small items that will actually get used, such as bracelets or school supplies (think recycled rubber erasers or recycled newspaper pencils). It might not be candy, but I loved getting little gifts as a kid.
Homemade costumes are far more imaginative than those wasteful, mass produced costumes bought at a pop up Halloween store that reek of chemicals. With a pair of scissors and some old fabric, you can make practically anything. The key is to not buy anything new.
First, check your closet. Last year, my dad found some white pants and a white t shirt and dressed as Mr. Clean. Very simple, but it was a hit. Even if you don’t want to represent a corporation like P&G, chances are you can find the outfit to imitate someone or something iconic.
Go to the thrift store. You can usually find perfectly good used costumes for sale, for much less than anything new. Or, look for cheap old t-shirts to sew, tie, or pin into something else.
Or look around the house. That old sheet mentioned above? Fashion it into a toga and smear some activated charcoal on your face for a simple Greco-Roman zombie look. The key is to be creative. When it comes to Halloween costumes, it’s the thought that counts.
Do you have any zero waste Halloween tips? Please share them with us!