It’s that time of year again. A crisp, coolness lingers in the air, the trees have become brilliant displays of reds, yellows, and oranges, and pumpkin spice is everywhere. Fall is here.
Fall weather also means the start of a string of holidays, one of the first being Halloween.
At its best, Halloween is all about creativity and resourcefulness: carving pumpkins, creating a costume, and planning the perfect trick-or-treating route or scare.
At its worst, Halloween can produce a lot of waste: single-use candy wrappers, cheap costumes, and shoddy decorations that end up in landfills or as litter just days after they’ve left the store.
To keep October 31st feeling as wholesome as pumpkin spice, aim for a zero waste Halloween. While it’s hard to achieve a completely waste free Halloween experience, it’s amazing how close you can get while still being festive and celebrating in style.
Here are some things to think about to plan your eco-friendly Halloween.
Plastic Free Halloween Decorations
It’s not hard to decorate with a zero waste Halloween theme in mind, you just have to think a little more creatively.
But the good news is that it’ll probably save you money, and it doesn’t take a lot of time to make your home look fit for fright night. Check out our favorite eco-friendly Halloween decorations below.
Pumpkins, Squashes, and Gourds
These quintessential plastic free Halloween decorations mesh perfectly with a zero-waste lifestyle. Once pumpkins and squashes are done adorning your porch or doorstep, cook them into a tasty dish or compost them if they’ve gone bad. Gourds are generally grown for decorative purposes only, so those you can just compost when the time comes.
When carving pumpkins, make sure you don’t throw out the insides. Americans generate a ton of food waste – about 40.7 million tons a year according to the EPA – most of which can be avoided through proper storage, composting, and cooking. The flesh of pumpkins, for example, is perfect for baking, and roasted pumpkin seeds make a tasty zero waste snack.
Fall Farm Classics
Pumpkins and gourds aren’t the only options for naturally festive decor. If you live near a farm or farming supply store, look for straw bales or dried corn stalks to give your house an autumnal vibe.
These are great to leave up through Thanksgiving, and they can be composted, added as garden mulch (in the case of straw), or donated to someone with horses, chickens, or outdoor animals afterwards.
For an extremely simple zero waste decoration, artfully scatter leaves to give your house a more spookily unkempt look.
For more Halloween-specific decorations, try to repurpose. Ghosts made from old sheets and bats made from nylons and old hangers might just be a perfect way to reuse things that are worn out, and the internet has tons of ideas for easy DIY plastic-free decorations.
If you want something more elaborate, source secondhand and think about getting eco friendly decorations that will last. And of course, if you already have items that you bring out year after year, it’s fine to use these as well.
Zero Waste Halloween Costumes
Maybe you were that kid who had an amazing parent or grandparent to help you realize your unique costume dreams. Now you get to be that person – to make costumes for kids or for yourself!
For a nearly zero waste Halloween costume, think about things that can be reused, reworn, or recycled.
Characters Inspired By Your Closet
A unique outerwear item like a trench coat can transform you into a spy, a leather jacket can add to a 50s rock and roll look, or a fishing vest can make you a safari guide or zookeeper.
Sweatpants and sweatshirts easily transform into different animals with a few add-ons and accessories. Even normal clothing or an old uniform with a bit of makeup and fake blood can be perfect for something like a zombie.
Make Something You Can Recycle
Cardboard is great for a costume like a robot, Rubik’s cube, or Minecraft character, and thick colored paper can add wings, stripes, signs, and whatever else you need to make a costume complete.
As long as you don’t add anything that will contaminate the paper or cardboard, you can recycle it all once you’re done.
Swap or Crowdsource
If you don’t have the time or desire to make your own costume, consider hosting a costume swap or asking friends to lend you something that will easily create a look.
Even if you feel like you’re throwing something together quickly, it will likely be better quality than prefabricated costumes bought online, which sometimes barely last through the night, much less from year to year.
Zero Waste Trick-or-Treating
Perhaps the most difficult part of an eco friendly Halloween is trick-or-treating. Since kids these days are taught only to accept candy in packaging for their health and safety, there’s no escaping waste unless you are only handing things out to people you know well.
Choose Candy in Recyclable Packaging
Luckily, some candy comes in packaging that’s easily recycled. Look for Milk Duds, Nerds, Dots, or Junior Mints, which come in small cardboard boxes, or Pixy Stix packaged in paper.
For foil-wrapped candy, think mini Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Hershey’s Kisses, Dove chocolates, or chocolate coins. There are even some bulk stores that stock foil-wrapped chocolate, but if you don’t have this option, choose bags that will give you the most candy for the least amount of waste.
As you hand out your eco-friendly Halloween candy, you can also remind kids to recycle paper and foil. In the midst of their candy comas, they might not remember, but it’s worth a try.
Make Fruit Enticing
If your neighbors are trusting, fruit can be a good alternative. A bowl of “poison” apples or clementines with jack-o-lantern faces drawn on might be a nice change from all the processed sugar.
You could also give out small gifts instead of candy. Things like Halloween-themed pencils, erasers, mini coloring books, or bookmarks are relatively low waste even once they reach their end of life.
For a true zero waste trick-or-treating experience, give out quarters or other coins. These rarely go out of circulation and might just make you the hit of the neighborhood.
Turn Wrappers into Ecobricks
If you have kids or a big sweet tooth yourself, you’re bound to end up with some plastic wrappers, despite your best efforts. Instead of feeling guilty, make an ecobrick out of them!
Ecobricks are PET bottles tightly packed with clean and dry used plastic. Once they reach a certain density, they can be used as building materials.
People have made walls, furniture, tables, and even homes using ecobricks and you can find plenty of ideas and construction guides online. If you don’t want to make anything with them yourself, search for a place where you can drop these off so that they can be used by others.
Halloween is meant to be a scary holiday, but this doesn’t mean it should have frightening effects on the environment. By putting a little bit of thought into your decorations, costumes, and candy, you can make a big difference in how much waste you generate without taking anything away from the spooky spirit of the holiday. Get planning your plastic free Halloween today!