Halloween is right around the corner! It’s the one day of the year when you can pretend to be anything you want, enjoy all things pumpkin, and eat a few too many sweets. But did you know there are a few spooky aspects to Halloween? No, we’re not talking about the ghosts and ghouls, but the frightful amount of waste generated as a result of Halloween.
A scary amount of waste
Over 158 million Americans will participate in Halloween, and 95% of them will purchase candy. It’s estimated that Americans purchase nearly 600 million pounds of candy each year for Halloween. To put that into perspective, that’s the weight of 6 Titanic ships.¹ Every Halloween, one pound of waste is generated per trick-or-treater.² That’s a lot of plastic wrappers that will eventually end up in our landfills.
Unfortunately, the Halloween waste doesn’t end there. Decorations and costumes are a big part of the waste that is generated as a result of Halloween. In 2017, Americans spent an estimated $3.4 billion on Halloween costumes, and $2.7 billion on Halloween decor.³ Not only are store-bought costumes expensive, but they are often filled with toxic chemicals. Since most people only wear their Halloween costumes one time, the holiday generates about 12 millions tons of textile waste each year.²
How can we reduce our waste on Halloween, and still enjoy all the festivities? Here are a few tips to celebrate a more environmentally friendly Halloween this year.
Tip #1: Decorate naturally
Fall is full of beautiful, natural decor, including pumpkins, gourds, and seasonal flowers. Unlike traditional Halloween decorations made from unrecyclable plastic, natural decorations like pumpkins and flowers can be enjoyed during the entire fall season, and then composted when the season comes to an end.
We think forests should foster biodiversity, pollination, and ecotourism - not pizza boxes.
Tip #2: Candy that's dandy.
Candy wrappers are one of the most wasteful aspects of Halloween. Instead of passing out candy in plastic wrappers to trick-or-treaters, opt for candy in cardboard boxes (which can be recycled) or compostable wrappers instead. Alter Eco makes chocolate truffles wrapped in compostable wrappers.
Also, choose chocolates that are Fair Trade Certified. After all, October is National Fair Trade Month. You'll be showing support for the cocoa farmers in areas of the world like Western Africa that are severely challenged to meet basic financial needs. You'll be also supporting efforts to end labor practices such as cocoa harvesting by children, many of whom could be as young as your own trick-or-treater.
Tip #3: Trick out your trick or treating
Rather than purchase plastic buckets for trick-or-treating, have some fun making your own instead. It’s easy to turn an old pillowcase or t-shirt into a fun trick-or-treat bag. Here are a few fun DIY trick-or-treat bag craft projects you can do with your family. With custom bags in hand, head out on a walk to all the trick-or-treat spots with your family, rather than driving.
Tip #4: Use every part of the pumpkin
Most people purchase pumpkins as decor, unaware of the many other ways they can be used. Challenge yourself this year to use the entire pumpkin. After Halloween, cut open your pumpkins and roast the seeds. Or, take the seeds and plant them; they will grow into new pumpkins. You can also roast the entire pumpkin, and scoop the flesh away from the rind to make a pumpkin puree. Everything that’s leftover is completely compostable, so there’s no waste.
Tip #5: Be a hero: reuse a costume
Every year we purchase new costumes that are only worn once and then disposed of in a landfill. If you don’t already have your costume this year, put something together from the items you already have in your closet. Or, find a local costume exchange in your community. After Halloween has come and gone, donate your costume so someone else can enjoy it as their new costume next year.