There is something about Halloween that brings out the eco-sinner in all of us. Sure it’s fun to don a costume and consume an endless stream of bite-sized candy and other treats, but most of the activities surrounding the fall holiday encourage gluttony, litter and embracing some Earth unfriendly habits. Does that mean you should sit this holiday out? Should you lock your doors and refrain from handing out goodies to treat-seeking ghosts and goblins who come knocking Halloween night? Of course not. Whether you have kids, go to parties or celebrate the holiday some other way, there are ways to do so in a more eco-friendly way. Below is a break down Halloween’s biggest sins and how you can overcome them.
Litter. One wonderful thing about Halloween is that it encourages kids to get out and walk. After all, nothing gets kids moving like the promise of free candy. While many kids patiently wait until they arrive home to eat their Halloween candy, some do not and they rip open their treat throwing the wrapper on the ground. It tends to be the older kids who do this as when parents accompany their children, they encourage them to wait to get home before eating candy. Regardless of who is doing the littering, the day after Halloween most neighborhoods are littered with candy wrappers, lost costume parts and other trash. Here are some tips to keep your neighborhood clean.
Place a trash receptacle in your yard, near the edge of your drive way or near your front door.
Remind trick-or-treaters to refrain from littering.
Encourage youngsters to embark on a clean-up day after Halloween, going from street to street picking up trash.
Lead by example and get out there to clean the neighborhood yourself. Teaching youngsters to be good wardens of the planet goes a long way in ensuring that they will adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle.
Treats. Another drawback to Halloween is that it encourages kids and adults to consume things that our bodies are simply not designed to eat. As much as I love chocolate (and is there anything better than a Dove chocolate bar?) the truth is, we probably should not eat these things, or at least only eat them in moderation. So, on a holiday designed to help candy-lovers indulge, how do we overcome this?
Let your kids pick out a few of their favorites then donate the rest. Hospitals, homeless shelters, kids groups and a variety of other places will welcome your leftover candy.
When handing out treats, keep healthy in mind. Regrettably, we can no longer hand out hand-made treats to complete strangers, but there are good choices. Popcorn, fruit snacks, pumpkin seeds and even small toys are non-candy alternatives. If you must hand out candy, look for organic candy that is not made with high fructose corn syrup.
Costumes. Most store-bought costumes are made with flimsy polyester material (a man-made, non-organic fabric) and dyed with chemical-based fabric dyes. A plastic mask or other plastic props generally complete the ensemble. It’s OK to occasionally give in to a child’s desire for a store-bought Iron man or princess costume and if you do so, don’t feel overly guilty about it. Try to make up for it by participating in a clean-up day or by donating to a group dedicated to doing work for the environment. If you can avoid buying the store-bought costume, here are some ideas.
Make from scratch. With a little bit of creativity and imagination, just about any costume can be made from things commonly found at home and this is the true fun of Halloween. When most of us were kids, we made our costumes. Planning began a month or more in advance and everything from fabric scraps to discarded cardboard boxes were recruited into service. Aside from ending up with a custom-made creation, teaching kids to make their own costume instills a sense of thriftiness in them and encourages them to think about alternative uses for things that might otherwise be tossed to the landfill.
Buy a second-hand costume. This is another way to save money and prevent things from ending up in the landfill.
If buying new, look natural fabrics that are not dyed with chemical-based dyes.
Parties. Keep the sights, smells and abundance of the season in mind when throwing a party during the Halloween season. One of my favorite Halloween party themes is a pumpkin seed potluck where everyone is invited to bring pumpkin seeds cooked with their favorite recipe. People love this because everyone has their own method for preparing this favorite fall treat. As with a party any other time of year, find ways to keep trash to a minimum, make good use of whatever local produce is in season and find ways to decorate by pulling in sighs of the season like fall foliage, hay bales and pumpkins.