As we near the end of October, I find myself digging through decorations and pulling out that bin of mismatched costumes. I’ve always loved Halloween! But now as an eco-conscious consumer, this time of year brings up mixed emotions.
Like me, you might have conflicting feelings and find yourself caught between enjoying the spirit, the decorations, the festivities, and holding back because you feel guilty about all the ramped up waste and consumerism.
So I want to take this moment to remind you that it’s okay to participate and enjoy this spooky season. That as we strive to reduce waste in our lives, it isn’t going to be perfect.
Choose to refuse, reduce, and reuse what you can, and encourage others to do the same, but don’t let it dampen your Halloween spirit.
To that purpose I’ve put together this inspirational guide to help you seek out sustainable options, while still participating in the festivities. Whether you’re hosting a backyard Halloween party or want to win the annual costume contest, you can feel good knowing that you’re intentioned, solution-oriented, and treading more lightly on the planet.
Sustainable Halloween Decorations
Is your neighborhood getting all decked out a la the Sanderson Sisters? Don’t miss out on the fun! Here are some ways to darken your doorstep, while keeping your carbon footprint clean.
Pumpkins and Gourds (duh):
Of course you should partake in pumpkin traditions!
Painted pumpkins can last for what seems like forever, opt for eco-friendly plant based paints and skip the glitter completely. Also, if you plan to compost or feed your pumpkin to neighborhood wildlife, peel and discard the painted/decorated outer layer first.
Carving pumpkins is my personal favorite way to pumpkin. Take these measures for extra-eco-credit:
- Save the pulp for making pumpkin bread, pumpkin pancakes, or pumpkin soup – it freezes well too!
- Toast your pumpkin seeds with seasonings for a super fibrous snack. (You can find recipes all over but this one offers six different ways to flavor them).
- Don’t forget to refill/exchange your candles at the shop before the big night, or grab some LED lantern lights to use year after year.
- After Halloween be sure to compost your carved pumpkins. Gourds last a very long time and some varieties can be turned into bird houses.
Hay Bales, Cornstalks, and Scarecrows:
A great addition to your lawn decor is biodegradable materials like hay bales, dried flowers, or corn stalks. These are relatively cheap (with a low environmental cost) and can usually be found at farm supply stores or crafting shops.
You can also use hay or straw to make a scarecrow! Use old clothes and rags or dress it up in last year’s costume.
It probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise that one of my favorite “reuse” decorations is old jars. Old jars can be colored or decorated to look like a potions kit or a creepy apothecary.
**Reminder: we have a stock of community donated jars at Life Unplastic that are free for the taking!**
To color your jars simply mix some mod podge with a dash of water and the food coloring of your choice. Roll the mixture around the inside of the jar and prop it upside down to drain for at least 15 minutes. Bake at 200 for about an hour, or until it’s totally dry. You can print out labels and pictures for the insides or get creative! (Think gummy worms in colored water, cicada shells, or painted lollipops to look like eyes).
Craft with Kids
The internet is bursting with cute and fun crafts for the kid in you and actual kids, but I like the ones that involve less single-use plastic.
If you need any boxes for decorations or costumes, we have lots of shapes and sizes for the taking right now!
Don’t Forget the Sounds and Smells
While many of our traditional decorations are visual, don’t forget about the other senses to create a truly delightful Halloween experience.
Hook up your speakers in the window with some eerie sounds and consider adding some scented candles to your ensemble. Celebrating the season we currently have special scents like “A Walk in the Woods” and “Pumpkin Spice” from local maker, Earth Tonix, so you can get the ambiance just right. The Earth Tonix candle jars are returnable for reuse when you’re done.
You can always stop by the thrift store to reuse and recycle decorations, but remember to look beyond just the Halloween section. Keep your eye out for sepia tone photographs in dusty frames, creepy porcelain dolls, or vintage books – all of which make for perfect mantle decorations.
Halloween Tricks to Avoid:
Although I’m all about joining the party (in a responsible way), I can’t help calling out a few particular traditions that any eco-conscious consumer will want to avoid.
- Fake Spider Webbing: While fantastically creepy, this stuff can be dangerous to small wildlife who get tangled in its long fibers, and it’s nearly impossible to reuse (plus it’s usually plastic!).
- Bleaching pumpkins: At some point it became a popular trend to soak or spray your carved pumpkin with bleach to make it last longer. Unfortunately this can be toxic to wildlife who like to munch on the sweet squash after you compost it. There are plenty of other techniques like soaking your pumpkin in ice water, but if you want the foolproof way we recommend just carving it closer to Halloween.
Sustainable Halloween Costumes
Now that you’ve got your ambiance all figured out, it’s time to dress the part. See if you can utilize any of these eco-friendly approaches.
Swapping with a Friend:
Wearing the same costume year after year is just no fun. But swapping with a friend (or a fellow mom for your kids) can get you all the excitement with none of the work. If you’re looking for the kids you can also try Facebook groups or neighborhood forums for this kind of swap.
Digging through the Goodwill bins can be a fun Saturday activity, and it’s a great way to stretch your creativity to go in without a definite idea.
But if you do have a specific costume in mind, it can be a bit of a chore to find exactly what you’re looking for. If you don’t have the time or energy to thrift locally, you can try an online store like Thred Up which offers thousands of second-hand items. And you can even filter your search by things like size and color!
Of course there’s always the DIY costumes for those crafty enough to brave it. There are thousands of guides online teaching you how to create various looks. You can make robots or armor out of cardboard. Paperboard is great for giving shape or stiffness to clothing, and nearly any prop can be fashioned from some creative paper mache.
If you’re going all out we do offer some items such as mascara cakes, plant-based glitter, and even solid perfumes.
Progress, Not Perfection
Overall I want to wish you a Happiest of Halloweens and that you are able to get in the spirit and have some fun this year. Even if you just take a few of these ideas, you’re helping create a culture of reuse and repurpose, and that makes a difference.
I hope you’ll spread the spook and teach your friends, family, and children about making more eco-friendly choices this year. And maybe even offer to compost your neighbor’s pumpkin for them! (Your garden will love you next spring).
🐊 For the Gainesville Locals
If you’re a local to Gainesville, check out The Reuse Planet (a new location by The Repurpose Project) which is currently stocked full of Halloween decorations and costumes!
When you pick up your treats for the candy bowl this year consider avoiding unsustainable palm oil (which is causing rampant habitat loss for orangutans and tigers) as well as toxic ingredients like high fructose corn syrup. Bonus points if the candy comes in paper, little cardboard boxes, or foil as opposed to single-use plastic. GreenHalloween.org highlights what to look for here.
Remember, your purchase has power and every sustainable decision makes us better.