Halloween waste. It’s something you may not have considered but Halloween is a holiday that generates so much waste, from those carved and decorated pumpkins (which become food waste that mostly ends up in landfills) to festive food waste (think uneaten food, plastic cupcake toppers and paper wrappers that are thrown away) to the plastic in all of those candy wrappers and costumes.
For example, an estimated 2,000 tons of plastic waste (the equivalent of 83 million water bottles) is generated from store-bought Halloween costumes each year, and 83 percent of the material used in commercially-made costumes is an oil-based plastic that then gets sent to landfills. (Not to mention the plastic packaging that surrounds many of the costumes as they are in transit from the manufacturers and to protect the costume as it sits on a store shelf or in an online retailer warehouse.)
The National Retail Federation says that Americans spend between $8-9 billion on Halloween, which includes money spent on candy, decorations, costumes, pumpkin buying and party food. The U.S Department of Energy estimates that 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins end up as Halloween waste.
We at Whole Champion Foundation aren’t hating on the holiday. We know that you want to have fun but as a Whole Champions, we are concerned about the environment and about Halloween waste. So here are some tips on ways you can still have a spooky good time and reduce your impact on the earth.
The first way seems obvious: if you have children (or are a big child yourself) who plan to trick or treat, use an old pillow case, purse if it fits the costume, or cloth shopping bag for collecting and carting around your candy haul. Or if you’re a pirate, make a bounty box for your treasures by painting and decorating cardboard rectangle and attaching rope handles to the sides.
And if you are in an area where you will need to carry a flashlight, try to choose one with rechargeable batteries (battery acid is toxic and leaches into groundwater) or use a hand-crank or solar-powered flashlight.
WAYS TO CUT DOWN ON COSTUME WASTE
- Make yourself a costume.
- Repurpose old clothes, bedsheets, props, and costumes.
- Shop at thrift stores to create a costume.
- Use waste to fashion a statement costume.
Pattie Gonia shows you how in this YouTube video:
And if you decorate with real pumpkins (that you carve or just leave around with gourds and maybe corn stalks for ambience) there are many things you can do with them after October 31 besides allowing them to become Halloween waste.
WAYS TO USE PUMPKINS
- If the carved pumpkin is mold-free and in good shape, you can cut it into wedges, cook it in a 400-dgree oven for up to an hour (until fork tender) and then use this mashed with some spices as a side dish or puree it and add it to soups and smoothies or use it for pumpkin pie filling.
- Cut into small pieces and add to garden bed soil or to the compost. Pumpkin contains a lot of water so it will break down quickly.
- Reuse the pumpkin or Jack-o-Lantern as a planter (add netting or fabric and then soil) or bird feeder.
- Leave the pumpkin or Jack-o-Lantern out to feed the squirrels and other wildlife.
And if you are handing out treats to youngsters or throwing a festive get-together, consider traditional things like bobbing for apples and making Halloween cookies or you could do one of these three things.
WAYS TO CUT DOWN ON CANDY WASTE
- If you want candy for your party, you could make your own and that way it has no packaging. One Green Planet has some great recipes you can try such a pumpkin peanut butter truffles and chocolate marshmallow popcorn bars and even nightmare-worthy bloody coconut raspberry monster eyeballs.
- Buy candy with recyclable wrapping, such as boxes of Junior Mints, Dots, and Tootsie Rolls.
- Give out treasures instead: cool school supplies, books, fun adhesive bandages, games, temporary tattoos, printed shoe laces, stickers or other fun child-friendly treats.
And the last bit of cutting down on Halloween waste advice comes from the city of Austin, Texas, which suggests you plan ahead: “Making a last minute, frantic stop to the store for a bag of candy, costume or decorations for a Halloween party can really put a jam in Zero-Waste and your wallet. As with all things, plan ahead, and you’ll be pleased with the results.”