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5 eco-friendly ways to have a green Halloween this year

Halloween is quickly approaching — and we’re so excited! For many of us, this will be the first time in a while that we’ll get to put on scary costumes.

You know what else is scary about Halloween? The holiday’s impact on the environment — and it’s not just the candy wrappers and all the single use plastics. Your old jack-o’-lantern could be emitting potent greenhouse gasses, and your costumes are likely derived from fossil fuels.

But we don’t want to troll your party — so here are 5 eco-friendly ways to have a green and sustainable Halloween this year and reduce your impact on the planet.

Don’t throw away your pumpkin!

Whatever you do, don’t throw away your pumpkin in the trash, if you can. Each year, roughly 1.3 billion pounds of pumpkins end up in landfills, where they decompose and eventually emit methane, a greenhouse gas 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide, according to the EPA.

So what can we do with all our leftover jack-o’-lanterns? Composting is one of the best ways to dispose of your pumpkin. Don’t have a compost bin or service? If you have a yard, you can actually bury your pumpkin in the ground (no, you really can!), and pumpkins also make great snacks for wildlife, especially deer.

If you don’t have the outdoor space, you can eat your pumpkin, too, especially the seeds. However, be mindful that most Halloween pumpkins are the Howden variety, which are bred for size and color, not taste, so choose your recipes wisely, like this one for curried pumpkin soup.

Hand out organic, fair trade and ethically-sourced candy

Candy is sweet, but the environmental fallout is bitter. Candy manufacturers require lots of sugar, palm oil and cocoa which contribute to deforestation around the world and add stress on endangered species. In addition, many large chocolate manufacturers continue to source cocoa harvested by child labor.

And then there’s all the non-recyclable packaging that comes with mass-market candy. Chances are, the candy wrappers your parents tossed out when you were a kid are still in a landfill somewhere, leaching toxins into the ground.

So this year, hand out fair trade, organic or ethically-sourced candy. You can find lots of brands online or at your local natural foods store.

Make your own costume – or thrift it

This year, Americans are expected to spend $3.3 billion on Halloween costumes. That’s a lot — but it also means a lot of waste, since many costumes are one-and-done, because they are cheaply made and probably won’t be worn again. A recent survey found that 83% of material in the costumes studied were made from plastic, which is derived from fossil fuels and contributes to climate change. 

Worse, many plastic costumes contain hidden toxic chemicals like PVC, and many disposable costumes are made by workers who may endure human rights abuses or work under harsh conditions in factories overseas.

Instead, consider making your own costume. You can make one out of pieces you have around the house — or head over to your local thrift store. Many now have sections dedicated to Halloween in October. Another option is a costume rental shop. Most have a wide selection of elaborate Halloween costumes at this time of year.

If you’re painting your face or your kid’s face, be aware of the chemicals in the paints. According to one analysis, almost half of the paints examined contained at least one heavy metal. Some had up to four heavy metals.

Decorate sustainably

Halloween decorations are in very high demand this year. In fact, some big retailers have reported selling out of Halloween decorations almost immediately. So if you haven’t yet decorated, you can make your own decorations and help reduce your use of plastic products. Here are a couple ideas:

You can make a big black widow out of a (recyclable) black garbage bag stuffed with newspaper. A ghost from an old bedsheet. Gravestones from cardboard. And as always, reuse your decorations from year-to-year to reduce waste.

Here’s a crafting site with a bunch of ideas for eco-friendly decorations.

Skip the plastic trick-or-treat bag

If you or your little one are trick-or-treating safely in public this year, take one more step to stay safe and skip the disposable plastic bag or hard plastic pumpkin. A recent study by found that some popular trick-or-treat bags and Halloween products contained toxic chemicals like bromides, polyvinyl chloride and phthalates, which are banned in children’s products.

Instead, use an old pillowcase or a reusable shopping bag to avoid these nasty chemicals.