How to Have a Green Halloween
Halloween is a fun holiday for both parents and children – what’s not to love about candy, costumes, and scary pumpkins? It’s also a great opportunity for parents to teach their kids about the importance of making healthy, eco-friendly choices. Below are some changes you can make that will help you and your family have a green, healthy, and happy Halloween.
Make costumes at home
Instead of using store-bought costumes, which are usually made with environmentally-damaging plastics and fibers, have fun putting together a costume from what’s available in your home. Turn your child into a ghost with an old sheet (which you can let her decorate with eco-friendly fabric paints) or unpack your silliest-looking old clothes.
As an alternative to purchasing new costumes each year, look around for secondhand ones. Some vintage and used clothing stores will carry gently-used costumes. You can also organize a costume swap in your community or at your child’s school.
Hand out organic treats
For a lot of children, candy is the most important part of Halloween (the average Halloween haul weighs in at 10 lbs.!). You can help kids stay healthy by offering alternatives to traditional Halloween fare. In addition to staples like apples, raisins and nuts, you can also include healthier versions of their favorite candies, such as organic dark chocolate or gummies made with cane sugar or honey instead of high fructose corn syrup.
If you end the night with more candy than you can eat, look around in your area for charities that accept food donations: many organizations that provide aid to children or send care packages to troops overseas love donations of candy. Food banks will often take candy, but they usually prefer something a little more nutritious, so take the opportunity to teach your kids the importance of a healthy meal by packing up your candy along with staples like pasta and canned vegetables to drop off at your local food bank or shelter.
Setting the Mood
Avoid plastic decorations from the store. Instead, look for recyclable and biodegradable products or show your kids how to make decorations using leaves, acorns, and other materials from nature. It’s easy to have fun with the stuff you already have around your house:
- Stuff old clothes with leaves to make a scarecrow for the yard.
- Hang up spider webs made from string and cotton balls you’ve pulled apart.
- Use construction paper, markers, googly eyes, and pipe cleaners to make scary spiders to hang on the front porch.
- Cut patterns in paper bags to make luminaries or light the path to your house with candles in glass jars painted festive orange and black.
If you’re lighting your spooky ghost or front porch scarecrow, use fluorescent or LED light bulbs instead of incandescents, which are much less efficient and harder to dispose of.
Traditional paraffin candles use a petroleum-based wax that will pollute the air with soot and VOCs. So whether you’re lighting up a carefully carved pumpkin or just setting a spooky mood, chose 100% beeswax or soy candles.
Use all of the pumpkin
A Halloween pumpkin doesn’t have to just be for decoration. Their seeds are a great source of magnesium, iron, and protein; to prepare them, just rinse and flavor with your choice of spices, then bake in a 250 degree oven for an hour. The pulp can be steamed for half an hour, then served similarly to squash or used as a base for soups and pies.
Trick Or Treat
Encourage kids to use pillow cases, purses, or hand-sewn bags instead of plastic buckets or bags to collect treats. It’s an excellent way to teach children about the important of reusing everyday items and you’ll be keeping non-recyclable plastics out of the trash.
Light the way without disposables
When trick-or-treating, use rechargeable batteries in your flashlights or bring along solar, shakable, or crank flashlights.
Walk, don’t drive
It can be tempting when the weather’s cold to give the kids a lift, but you can save fuel and get exercise by walking, not driving, while trick-or-treating.
Once Halloween is over, those pumpkins will make an excellent addition to a compost pile. It’s also easy to start if you don’t already compost: just break up the pumpkin and layer it with leaves and other organic material in an outdoor area. Keep moist, turn regularly, and that jack o’ lantern will turn into great fertilizer for your garden. Leftover candy can also be included, just be sure to remove the wrappers. And, of course, any natural items like leaves or sticks you used for decorations can also go in your compost bin.
On Nov. 1st you’re likely to have trash leftover that isn’t biodegradable, so make sure all those decorations, costumes, and party supplies make it in the recycling bin where they belong. And anything you think might be reusable you can pack up for next year or donate to secondhand stores.