Zero Waste Halloween: Sustainable ways to Have Fun

  • By: greenorb
  • Date: October 15, 2020
  • Time to read: 11 min.

The holidays are times when most of us can sit back, let loose, or spend time with loved ones. It’s also usually a time when diets and good habits get thrown out of the window, and months progress, lost! Well, Zero Waste is no different. It can be hard to stick to a low waste lifestyle when temptations surround you! It’s so easy to fall back into hard habits.

Halloween is cram-packed with candy, sweets, decorations, costumes, and the opportunity for so much fun! Unfortunately, in today’s consumer-based society, each year, we need to have the latest, newest, and flashiest costumes!

We feel pressured to give in to those sweet tooth cravings when grocery stores are starting Halloween candy sales right after school has started!

Our competitive sides come out when we battle our neighbors for the scariest lawn on the block, and we purchase bigger, more terrifying, more technologically advanced decorations than the last year! What’s truly scary – is we don’t even see the candy wrappers piling up until the candy bowl is empty!

10 Terrifying Facts Of Halloween

  • 18,000 Tonnes of pumpkins are sent to the landfills each year in the United Kingdom alone, though entirely edible. (edie)
  • GHG emissions from annual pumpkin waste are equivalent to over 1 million tons of CO2, or seven billion beef patties. (wbcsd)
  • 12,500 Tonnes of Halloween costumes get sent to landfills each year in the UK, about 7 million costumes just in the city of Britain.(edie)
  • 32% of Americans buy their costume brand new, from a retail store.(huffpost)
  • The 600 Million batteries that are thrown away each Halloween could form a single line to and from the UK to Australia, and back! (globalcitizen)
  • Americans buy roughly 600 million pounds of candy each Halloween, most of which comes in single-use packaging that is not properly disposed of. (budgetdumpster)
  • 30% of all plastic packaging waste is from candy or snack wrappers. (budgetdumpster)
  • 41 million trick or treaters a year, means 41 million pounds of trash. (budgetdumpster)
  • average consumers spend about 87$ on decorations, candy, and costumes for Halloween. (CNN)
  • an estimated $350 million is spent on pet costumes. (recyclenation)

172 million Americans participate in Halloween activities each year. If each spooktacular person could make more sustainable choices during these seasonal festivities, at least 172 million pounds of trash could be averted.

Treat Or Trick Halloween

No Garbage Monsters Here! Your Guide to Sustainable Costumes.

Growing up, it was always exciting to pick out our Halloween costumes. I remember going to multiple stores and scanning every aisle for that perfect one! Each year had to top the last.

When I entered the world of sustainability, my eyes opened to just how wasteful this time of year can be!

The candy that is all individually wrapped, the costumes and coordinating candy baskets with many plastic components and accessories, the glitter, and latest scare-technology that we had to keep adding to our collection was not helping the environment that makes this time of year so beautiful.

Not only because of their versatility and cheap production costs, synthetic plastic fibres are highly desirable, but they create a warming, breathable, stretchable material perfect for costume materials.

These plastic-based fibres find their way back into the environment through laundry water, wear and tear, and disposal. Another common costume material is oil-based materials.

In addition to the wasteful production habits of these two fibres, oil-based plastics are 83% of the contributing pollutants from Halloween in landfills, according to an investigation performed by Hubbub, an environmental charity.

Halloween doesn’t just open doors to connect our world and the world of the dead, but it also connects creativity with sustainability! Halloween helps put all of your zero waste skills to the ultimate test, so get ready to refuse, reduce, reuse and recycle like never before!

Fortunately, we don’t have to resort to plastic PVC costumes, harmful glitter and chemical-filled Zero Waste make-up to have a freaktastic Halloween!

There are many sustainable options to choose from! Selecting a waste-free costume isn’t the only way to help offset your Halloween carbon footprint; what you do after the holiday with that costume is just as important! Here are a few great ways to crush the costume contest competition without crushing the environment:

Zero Waste Halloween Costume Ideas

  • Plan Ahead – deciding your costume well in advance can save time restraints from pressuring you to buy something you don’t need! With a little time and thought, you can probably create that perfect costume with things you have leftover from years passed, or tucked away deep in that closet! You’ll have enough time to make the perfect prop or accessory, and convince your friend to loan you that perfect edition from their costume last year! This even makes any purchases you do end up making be a little more sustainable. When purchasing, it’s always advantageous to see multiple uses in a product before deciding to buy!
  • Repurpose – while having a new costume is shiny and glamorous, more often than not, we can repurpose things around our house to make that costume ourselves! This saves money and can be a whole Halloween activity in itself. Transform that sheet into the most traditional ghoul, use an old paper bag, and become Frankenstein faster than a lightning strike! The possibilities are endless. You can even reuse props and costumes that are taking up storage space in the attic!
  • Shop Second Hand – “one man’s trash, is another’s treasure” is perhaps a zero waster’s second-biggest motto! Thrifting lets us find those one-of-a-kind details that bring the costume together, and perfectly identifiable! It also gives the satisfaction of buying second-hand clothes online, with less of the guilt! Check out some of these thrift inspired looks!
  • Rent – Halloween is one of the most popular holidays in today’s society. The haunted houses, trick or treating, and costume contests let everyone join in on the fun and dress up as someone – or something – else for the night! The collective interest has evolved the costume industry, and costumes have become more realistic and convincing! If Halloween is your one area to splurge, renting can be a great option! You can get a like-new costume that you’ll pay to use for just one night, and return it so it can be used again and again! Even though you are still spending, and still using something new, it enforces the ‘circular’ ideologies that zero waste is all about! Check out this online costume rental site! 
  • Borrow/Swap – something I often forget in my zero-waste journey is the power of networking! I often ask others for advice on specific products, companies, etc. but I forget to ask if they have anything lying around they don’t need that might be of use to me! Borrowing from friends or work (with permission) can help enhance a costume! Maybe you and a friend want to swap costumes and modify them for the occasion! 
  • Donate – putting together and coordinating costumes can be loads of fun! But it’s not a fun time when Halloween is over, and we don’t see a use for our costumes anymore. Instead of throwing them away, donating them is a great option to give them a longer life and prevent them from ending up in a landfill!

There are other ways to dispose of your costumes after rather than the trash can! In addition to donating, you can take them apart for fabric, accessories, and save them for future years.

Thanks to technology, there are even online platforms where you might even be able to sell your old costumes, such as poshmark.

Zero Waste Halloween Decor

Scare Your Neighbors Silly – With all “New” Fright and None of The Waste!

Have the upper hand each year when competing for the scariest house on the block! Your neighbours will never see this coming! Thanks to sustainable living, your haunted house just got more popular!

  • With its low production costs – plastic is still the material of choice when creating seasonal decor! To avoid consuming and adding the rising plastic waste, decorations can be made or sourced second hand! Buying secondhand is giving something you have used for a second home, and preventing it from ending up in landfills. Of course, before we reuse and recycle something we want to try and refuse it!
  • DIYs – are a sustainable Halloween lover’s best friend! Who needs to spend money when you can make this crocheted pumpkin or this festive mantle with things from the junk drawer! If you’re crafty, give these Upcycle Decorations ago! Some of the scariest Halloween decorations I’ve come across were homemade; the idea of something we use every day becoming terrifying just hits that scare button, different! 
  • Don’t forget to reuse – not just refuse! Remember those old costumes and props you had a feeling you should keep? Dig those out and get crafting! Use dried ears of corn or strings of orange garland, even haystacks to keep things natural, yet festive if carving pumpkins be sure to do so sustainably! Find out more below, if you dare.

Sustainable Halloween Activities

Use these simple hacks to make those fall activities you love even more exciting! 

When I think about Halloween activities, I think about trick or treating, pumpkin carving, and Halloween parties! If not done mindfully, although serotonin packed, these activities can be packed full of plastic waste and other pollutants! I gathered these secrets from the cats, monsters, and witches, to get the most magical waste-free hacks I could find!

Trick or treating, apple picking, pumpkin carving, OH MY! 
  • Candy Hunting -Haunt the streets for candy while skipping the plastic pumpkin candy bag, and use something from home. You can even decorate it to match your costume! Brown paper bags, pillowcases, drawstring bags, totes, and other reusable bags can be a benefit to both the costume and the planet! 
PRO-TIP: If you’re accompanying a little werewolf or vampire, take an extra bag with you for bio candy wrappers, trash, or treasure, that you find along your way. Check out Terracycle   to recycle candy wrappers and other hard to recycle items!
  • Tricks and Treats – Are you handing out Tricks and Treats instead? There are a variety of sustainable alternatives that call for tiny changes, but make huge differences! Fill your candy bowl with biodegradable candy wrappers wrapped in aluminum or cardboard, like Hershey Kisses, Milk Duds, and Nerds. Opt for mint tins, and canned soda, both recyclable treats for kids! Check out Alter-Eco Truffles or these ethically sourced candies! Don’t forget every kid has a sweet tooth! Hand out paperless crayons, fruit that is in a peel like oranges or bananas, money, or origami kits from recycled materials to accommodate everyone!
PRO-TIP: offer extra candy to trick or treaters who give you their candy wrappers. Gather all the wrappers and send it to Terracycle with other harder to recycle items and prevent the Ghiradelli wrappers from ending up on your front lawn. 
  • Pumpkins Carving – Pumpkins and gourds are great for fall decor, but it’s essential we remember that we use it, not waste it, and dispose of anything afterwards correctly. Those emissions add up, remember? (Terrifying Fact #1)

Whether you enjoy pumpkins for the aesthetic or like to carve them as an activity and show off your hard work in the form of a Jack-O’-Lantern, there is amazing waste to not have to take out the trash immediately after carving or clean up rotting pumpkins off the front step!

Zero waste Halloween Pumpkins

Steps to Dispose of Pumpkins Sustainably

  • Have a snack – or a meal! Pumpkins are rich in vitamin A and antioxidants. When you remove the seeds and innards for carving, or when you’re done with having the uncut pumpkins on display, you can use the insides for cooking soups, pasta, desserts – anything! The seeds can even be toasted and eaten as a tasty snack or salad topping! Even after they’ve been carved and the insides exposed, they can still be used if the weather was cold enough to postpone any rot.
  • Share with your fur friends – dogs, cats, and hamsters all can enjoy the benefits of pumpkin flesh, but check with your vet about your furbaby first, some require specific diets. Pumpkin, not their favourite? Share the wealth with the local wildlife. Squirrels in your backyard will love the sweet autumn treat! Are you living on or near a farm? Chickens can eat the stringy parts of the pumpkin’s innards and the side scrapings! Ask permission from the farm owners first if they aren’t your chickens. 
  • Share back with Nature – a great thing about pumpkins and gourds is that they’re biodegradable and great for making compost! Slice them into smaller bits, and throw them into a compost bin. Don’t how to compost? Let Nature run its course, place the slices into a corner in your yard and cover lightly with soil and leaves to help assist in the composting process. The nutrients will be absorbed into the soil, creating no waste, only constantly giving. 

Fall is a beautiful time of year with loads of outdoor and festive activities. Whether your family enjoys Donuts on a string, Gourd bowling, or bobbing for apples, these are all great ways to enjoy the season sustainably!

Opt for biodegradable string, and be sure to dispose of any gourds or apple cores in your compost bin/pile! Bobbing for apples is a great activity – and snack that requires no cutlery.

It also helps to use up that basket of apples you go apple picking that you thought you could eat by yourself. No matter how you choose to enjoy the season and festivities, make sure anytime you’re outside you are leaving it as clean – or cleaner than you found it!

Halloween Parties with Low-Waste

Halloween Parties can be an exciting part of Spooky Season. Getting together with friends, costume parties, games, haunted houses… but they can also be pretty waste-producing!

Everyone wants to be dressed up, which requires costumes and often make-up. Dishes for large groups are a nightmare, so disposables are typically preferred.

But there are so many creative ways to turn these parties into sustainable ones and spread the zero waste lifestyle as you do it!

  • Costume Contest: offer guests and participants bonus points if they come in a sustainable costume, let them know all of their options! Imagine what your friends and family can come up with!
  • Get biodegradable paper plates, cutlery and cups, and encourage cups to be reused. You can write names on them to tell them apart. 
  • One of my favorite parties I ever went to was an ABC– or Anything But Cup party! Encourage people to use things they can clean and reuse, or recycle after your party. These can often be costume props and will make for a tighter competition in the costume contest. This limits the need for any cups altogether. 
  • Avoid plates and cutlery by selecting a finger foods menu, (with reusable unpaper towels available) or encouraging guests to bring grab n-type treats as well. Odds are if they’re your guest, they know your lifestyle choice by now! 
  • If you’ve read our last post, you’ll know ⅓ of the food produced in the food industry is wasted, so incorporating zero waste snacks is a great way to stay sustainable during October! Check out these Halloween recipes that are zero waste! 

The most important thing to remember when staying zero waste throughout the spooky season is that it’s okay if you don’t do it correctly.

It’s okay if you only change a few things this year, and a few more next years. It can seem overwhelming, but as you are further along on your zero waste journey, it will all seem like second nature, and before you know it, you’ll have your tips and hacks to share.

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