I enjoy Halloween, and even dress up to hand out candy, but for some reason it always sneaks up on me. We’re always the last ones on our street to get a pumpkin, and by the time I get around to figuring out what to hand out it’s so late in the game that I grab whatever box of treats are available. Completely un-green of me, I am aware. On the flip-side, the kids have only worn used or home-made costumes, and we save the costumes I make for myself in our costume bin for later use. This year, I was reminded early about preparing for the big day so I want to do things better. But how on earth can you have a greener Halloween without worrying about getting your house egged?
Let me help you out. Here are ways you can have a waste-free (or at least less-waste) Halloween, and still have fun.
This is an easy one, but often over-looked. Ask your local children’s consignment store when costumes are being put out. Then go on that day for the greatest chance of getting something you want. If your child is older, ask what they want to be and then look through their existing clothes to see if there’s a way to build on what they already have. If you have to purchase accessories or a wig, for example, look for something that can be reused. Make sure you avoid costume jewelry and dollar store trinkets though, as alarming levels of toxic heavy metals or hazardous chemicals have been found in these products.
I do love a well-decorated house. If you want to go all out on the decorations, keep them in good repair and store them properly during the off-season to prolong their life. Even things like fake cob-webs can be kept and reused for a few years at least, if stored properly.
One of my favourite parts about Halloween is pigging out on roasted pumpkin seeds for the week after. Save the seeds when you scoop out the pumpkin and rinse all the pulp off. Leave them to dry on a cookie sheet, patting them with a tea towel to get them started if you like. I wait overnight, and then toss them in salt (seasoned or sea) and olive oil and bake at 350ºF for about 15mins or until golden brown (keep an eye on them because they burn quickly!). You can get way more creative with flavours but this is a simple way to get started.
OK, so here’s the kicker. And what I struggle the most with. There are a few reasons to reconsider the treats you offer:
- Allergies (the Teal Pumpkin Project focuses on this),
- Health (there is obviously nothing healthy about chips and chocolate bars),
- Waste (candy wrappers cannot be recycled in most municipal systems, if any).
I’m going to focus on the waste aspect here. The way our society works these days essentially requires food distributed by strangers to be wrapped in single-serving containers. I don’t know about you, but if my kids came home with a homemade collection of stuff, and I didn’t know all the houses they went to, I’d err on the side of caution. So I’m not convinced that homemade treats are going to solve the waste issue (food waste is still waste).
One way is to limit the number of houses they go trick-or-treating to. This is definitely easier for little kids, but it’s an option none-the-less. Nobody needs (or even wants, really) as much candy as kids are getting. So let’s stop the madness, help your neighbours save a few bucks by having to buy less candy, and just visit fewer houses.
If you’re handing out treats, consider opting for cardboard wrapping instead of foil wrappers, since cardboard can at least be recycled. TerraCycle does offer candy wrapper recycling at a cost, and GoJava will collect wrappers from snack products purchased from them. You could consider going together as a neighbourhood or parent council to purchase a TerraCycle recycling bin and share the cost to make it less of a barrier.
You can also go the non-food route and offer things that kids will use and might actually have purchased (or had purchased for them) otherwise. Things like notepads, stickers, pencils and erasers, crayons, tattoos, bookmarks, etc. These aren’t zero-waste, but they are a step up from candy wrappers. I would avoid small-sized packaged items like playdough as those create excess plastic waste (even if it is recyclable). One mom in a local Facebook group suggested packets of wildflower seeds, which I think would be super-fun to do with the kiddos in the spring.
Do you have a trick to reduce your treat waste? Let us know in the comments!