Greening Halloween- Treats to Feel Good Handing Out

by - Thursday, October 27, 2016

mario and tutu batman out trick or treat in the neighborhood

After mostly living way out in the country as a kid and in really cold apartment complexes as a young adult, I am still giddy excited when we have trick or treaters come to our house. Ecstatic. It is so cute to see them, and it makes me feel like we live in a real neighborhood (as opposed to the endless strip mall we lived in before).

This year, I was thinking about how we would manage trick or treating when I was hit with a lightning bolt of bougie environmentalist doom.

Halloween candy is super bad for the environment. Crap!

This happens for a number of reasons. The biggest is that candy "has" to be individually wrapped. I have spent some time thinking about this fact, and honestly, it is super depressing (we trust corporations and plastic covering more than we trust our neighbors... blech). All this individually wrapped candy creates so much plastic waste. Think about just how many candy wrappers must land in the garbage this week. It's a bummer.

Also problematic, these candy companies are often shipping their candy shockingly long distances to take advantage of cheap labor. Hershey's makes a lot of their chocolates  (including Reese's and Kitkats- try the Boyer's peanut butter cups) in Mexico now. Nestle makes their pure evil candy bars (crunch, 100 grand, etc) outside of the US as well.

I have reached the point where I just won't give these companies my money. Screw those guys, especially Nestle, because they are essentially cartoon villians. That being said, I just can't be the parent on the block that hands out toothbrushes or apples or something. I have children, and I just cannot bear to embarrass them that much.

So what is a person to do if they want to do something a little more environmentally-responsible but don't want to hand out something the kids will want to give back?

I have figured out some solutions, if only so I can go get candy without feeling crippling guilt. Honestly, none of these are perfect. If your first priority is the environment, you should probably make the treat yourself, but that only works if you know all the kids that will stop by.

But just because there isn't a perfect solution doesn't mean we all couldn't do a little bit better. All candy is not made equal, and if the company is flippant or even problematic, you can bet they also use sketchy practices in what is actually in the food (you can look at palm oil and preservatives as obvious signals of a company's values). All the choices may seem bad, but some are definitely better than others. Let's get started.

I have 13 options to hand out this year. I'll try to organize them by easiest to the most time-consuming. Because it's a few days before Halloween, let's not pretend you have time to search for the perfect candy.

Snickers (or variety bags with Snickers in them)- If you are picking something up at Target or your regular grocery store (which is how most of us do it), pick the Mars bag over the other mixes. Snickers and the rest are still made in New Jersey. You may not cut down on packaging, but at least your candy has only moved a short distance. Probably the easiest option for last minute shoppers (avoid the other chocolate bags! Trust me)
Alright, i have taken some solid criticism about this choice and want to make sure to include it. Ill start by saying i pointed out in earlier in the post that none of these choices are perfect, but they do generally raise fewer problems as you go down the list and get to less easy to find stuff. At the same time, i wanted to point to the even slightly better options in a regular aisle, because most of us aren't going out of our way for halloween andy.

 mars chocolate, like most mainstream chocolate, is not fair trade. the enviromental and more importantly labor costs f chocolate that isn't fair trade is extremely steep, potentially ncluding child labor and slave labor. not good- if this is really important to you, check out unreal candy and bug bites (the other two chocolate choices on this list). they are both fair trade. also, check with your local chocolate shops, they can probably speak very specifically o where their coco or cacao beans come  from.

The other charge against mars is that they participated in animal testing. this was revealed back in 2007, and it was reported on until 2009. no one talks about it now, but that doesn't mean it isn't going on. if that is important to you, this may not be your pick.

So yes, mars is a mixed bag, and you may be better off picking up dum dums or blow pops, but if chocolate bags are your last minute option, i would till go with snickers over the others.

Dum Dums- This was the winner in our house this year. They are a reasonable size, and at least half of their packaging is paper and biodegradable. Plus, these little lollipops are made in the United States. Bad side, they do have chemicals in them for coloring.

M and M's- Also made by Mars, and also made in the USA. My mom's favorite, so if she comes trick or treating at your house...

Tootsie Pops, Tootsie Rolls, and Blow Pops- I am not a tootsie pop girl, but blow pops were the business when we were kids. Candy and gum in one. The packaging is not great (minus the lollipop stick, which will at least biodegrade), but they are made in the US, so

Cow Tales- They don't have especially Halloween-themed packaging, but I have never turned down candy on that account. Made in the USA.

Jelly Belly Jellybeans- Made in the US, can get individually wrapped bunch in many Halloween sections. Jelly beans are gross, but if they are your deal, no judgement for liking the grossest stuff.

Annie's Fruit Tape- Has better ingredients for the kids, is made in the US, and still comes in individual packaging so no one suspects you are a murderer.

Stickers or temporary tattoos- My son absolutely loses his mind for stickers right now. Stickers and temporary tattoos keep you out of the plastic covered candy territory without landing in toothbrush land. Still not a perfect solution, but you can find recycled stickers and domestically-made temporary tattoos. You can find cool temporary tattoos on Etsy too.

Go local! Does your local candy company make something individually wrapped? It doesn't have to be fancy or overblown, but every state in the US has at least one brand of chocolate all their own (off the top of my head, Western Seattle has 5). Stores like Daffins will have individually wrapped chocolates that will be delicious. Are they slightly smaller? No big deal! You are doing good, and the kids probably won't care in the end. Take this opportunity to check out a local candy shop.

Unreal Candy- Unlike almost anything else mentioned, these candies are fair-trade and at least actively trying to think about the environment. You can find them at some targets and whole foods, but check out their website if you want to learn more about them.

Yummy Earth Lollipops- They sell organic lollipops made in America. We have had them in the house, and honestly, they were pretty good. I don't know that the packaging is any better then anything else in that way.

Milk Chocolate Bug Bites- These fair trade chocolates, the mini version of endangered species chocolates. The chocolates are partnered with the Xerces society, so the proceeds go towards the conservation of endangered bug species. Plus, they come with bug trading cards. I love them.

Make Something- Popcorn Balls, Caramel Apples, Fudge. Unwrapped treats may be verboten, bu it might be worth trying where you live if you know most of the  people!

Enjoy your trick or treaters and I hope this helps the last minute shoppers like me! If you want more shopping inspiration, Check the Giant Lists of Shopping Lists!

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