10 Crazy Easy Ways to Make Your Halloween Eco-Friendly

by - Saturday, October 07, 2017

You want to make your Halloween a little greener this year? Weirdly enough, this holiday is one of the EASIEST to transform from trashy to eco-friendly. In fact, if you have been wishing you could make your life a little more sustainable, this is the PERFECT PLACE to start.

Not sure why you would want to have a green Halloween? I have some scary info for you...

- All those trick or treating single serve candies create tons (literally tons) of plastic waste. 40 million kids go trick or treating every year. Think about how much candy that is. That plastic will outlive you and all the kids you hand it out to, filling our landfills and water.

- Polyester costumes are made of synthetic plastic (see Big Oil) fibers. These shed off in the washing machine and now there are more microplastic fibers in the ocean than there are stars in the sky.

- Plastic is the cause of endocrine system problems, hormonal irregularities, and other nasty stuff. We don't even fully understand all of the problems plastic is causing us.

Ok, enough! The bad news is pretty obvious, but the good news is that all of this is easy enough to avoid.  You don't have to be the neighborhood jerk with your blinds closed and you lights off. Halloween is fun (and community-building). You don't have to give it up, just some simple switches can transform your approach to the holiday, making it even more fun and saving the world:

1. Buy your Costumes Secondhand

Huzzah! This is the season for secondhand shopping- even if you don't usually do it, you finally head inside your local consignment store. Thank you, Halloween!!

Almost all costumes you see in stores have all kinds of plastic problems. Most are made from 100% polyester to keep them cheap. Not good. Even worse, they come wrapped in those plastic bags that really aren't good for anything else.

When you think about it, it's kind of confounding that we don't all get our costumes secondhand. There are already so many costumes out there that someone (large or small) wore for a few hours. Almost all consignment stores go all out for Halloween (even Thred Up does sometimes). You can get the exact same costumes, barely used, for a quarter of the price.

For example, I just bought a baby lobster costume from a neighbor for 10 bucks. It is so cute, and it originally sold from Gymboree for 33 dollars. If you are celebrating every Halloween with new costumes, that adds up.

So before you do anything else, why not check out your local consignment shops and get inspired? Or join your local Facebook buy and sell groups and see what people are selling? It's the most eco-friendly (and cost effective) thing you can do this Halloween. And if you aren't a regular, why not take a walk around the store while you are in there. You might be surprised at what you can find.


2. Or Get Creative

Can't find anything you are crazy about in consignment (too typical, too obvious, etc) or you have a very specific thing you want to be?

Get creative and make it yourself. You can still combine things from your local Goodwill and consignment, maybe with pieces you will actually use after the holiday. Make your own armor, your own mermaid tail, whatever it is you need, pinterest that business and see if you can make it.

By buying the parts and making it yourself, you bypass the plastic bag of polyester. Plus you are way more likely to reuse things.

Want more advice on how to get plastic out of your life? I have plenty here.

3. Really Think About that Candy

I wrote a handy list of candies (and other things) to give out and what to absolutely avoid. So easy to do, even if you only want to shop at your regular store.

You may not think of this candy as a big issue, but those miniature chocolate bars come with major baggage. You can make a positive difference just by shaking some of that nonsense off. Halloween candy comes in all of those tiny plastic wrappers, because we trust plastic and companies more than we trust our neighbors (isn't that a terrifying thought?). Some of the candy companies are also absolutely terrible for the environment (don't give Nestle one penny of your money).

 Try one of these instead and you can do some good. Check the list in full, but depending on your priorities, you can find something right for you.

If you want to avoid plastic, try Dum Dums, Hershey Kisses (maybe made in Mexico), or boxed raisins.

If you want to buy something American, try Boyer Peanut Butter Cups, Mars Chocolate (Snickers, M and M's, Twix, and Milky Way), Cow Tales, or Jelly Bellies (get them in bulk and package them yourself?).

If you want something really local, go check with your local candy shops! You may even be able to buy them in bulk and put them in paper packaging (depending on how well you know your neighbors.

If you want to hand out fair trade candy, try Unreal Chocolates, Yum Earth Lollipops (also made in the US), or Bug Bites (proceeds go to endangered species).

4. Easy as Can Be, Hand Out Dum Dums

Last minute rush to the store but you still don't want to totally suck? Dum Dums. Wrapped in wax paper, not plastic, and still made in the US. Not perfect, but you can find them no matter where you shop. Easiest option that you can find literally anywhere, and I still think they are a treat!

5. Skip the Candy All Together

Does anyone want to be the person handing out toothbrushes? Eh, not so much, but you have other options that are still fun without being candy (or plastic). Here are some of my favorites:

-Treats- Alright you either need to have balls to do this or know the kids coming to your house. Our neighborhood moves in a whole pack, so we have about 20 trick or treaters, and it is over. I could probably get away with something baked because I know most of the parents. If you have some balls and some time, give out your treat of choice (caramel apples? Rice Krispy Treats?) back. Making things from scratch generally avoids packaging. Just remember to keep your poison and drugs batch separate.

- Rocks- Paint rocks with cool Halloween themes. Kids love a painted rock or anything they get to pick. Fun project, low cost, and they will love it.

- Fruit- Alright, maybe you don't want to be that person either, but have you seen the cute pumpkin mandarins? Super fun, healthy, and zero-waste! Score! Another great option? Raisins. They come in paper packaging instead of plastic, so you are doing a little less damage.

- Stickers- My kid loses his mind, basically daily for stickers. Not plastic free, but not bad, and you can find some good bulk options. I like these ones, because they are at least reusable, so they might be played with longer.

- Chalk- You could hand out chalk or crayons- kids love them. I have also found sidewalk chalk in thrift stores multiple times, so you might check. If you want something more eco-friendly, check these out.

-Seeds- Ok, maybe not for everyone. But I think this might be cool! You could do little succulent pots too if you don't have too many kiddos coming.

- Fabric Fortune Cookies- These are so incredibly cool. If you are crafty and have leftover fabric, this might be awesome.

6. Love Decorations? Love Etsy. Love Thrift Shops. Just Stay Out of Target

I love decorations for all holidays, but Halloween might be the most fun. This time of year, we used to go to Michael's or Target and buy a bunch of fun decorations. It was honestly really fun, but now I realize that we could definitely do better. Lots of the stuff hasn't held up well over time, and it was ALL made in China stuff. Lots of plastic, lots of fossil fuels wasted on shipping, lots of foolishness.

But I am not giving up my decorations. I love being festive, and I am keeping at it. I have just changed my strategy. Every year, I buy one of two things off of Etsy for holidays. You can find all sorts of amazing Halloween goodies on Etsy (50,000 things come up when you search). Work ahead, and you can get some really unique and original stuff in some of their stores. Here is a list of my favorites.

Anything else I want, I have to make myself or find at a thrift store. We've had lots of fun projects. But I also love that I can still find a good/silly impulse buy every so often. it is just a lot better for the environment, because I am keeping things out of the landfill.

Want more advice on eco-friendly and made in America decor? Here is an oldie but goodie on that.

7. Shine a New Light in Your Pumpkin

Those tea lights you get in the "carving sets" and elsewhere are usually petroleum based, meaning they burn off chemical-laden smoke and use fossil fuels. Pass.

Instead, try soy or beeswax tea lights instead. Better for the earth, and you can save them to use the next year.

This is such a simple change, EVERYONE should do it. The next time you are out of tealights, skip the petroleum candles and get something natural.

8. Then Compost It

What is the most environmentally sound way to get rid of the pumpkin once it start to look wrinkyly and sad? Earth911 has a great article on the most environmentally-conscientious ways to dispose of your pumpkin. Definitely worth the read, but I will break it down.

Don't trash it. Compost it.

 Why? A piece of food, like a banana will take hundreds of years to decompose (maybe longer) when thrown away in a garbage bag, the plastic bag and other trash protects it, but it just means there is that much more in landfills and our water. If you compost something, it will become more of something you need- soil! And it does so quickly. Keep those pumpkins out of the trash, so they can stay in the beautiful Circle of Life.

Don't have an outdoor composter? Get one. It's worth it. I promise.

9. Make some Green Crafts

I love a good Halloween craft. Something about the death and horror holiday really brings the creativity out in people.

There are already a TON of genius ideas out there for what to do with your kids (in class or at home). These crafts are genius ways to have fun and save the environment at the same time! Plus, you can save them and use them as decorations in future years. We are totally trying those tissue box monsters.

10. Ditch that Plastic Pumpkin (Or Really Use the One You Already Have)

I'll be honest, I kind of love those cheesy plastic Jack o Lantern tubs for carrying around Halloween candy. We have one, Legos live in it the rest of the year. But, obviously there are better, non-plastic choices for carrying candy:

-reusable shopping bags
-canvas totes

If you already have one, USE it! Use the hell out of that little plastic pumpkin or Halloween bag or whatever you have. You do not need separate accessories every year. Use it until your kids aren't trick or treating anymore, and then gift it to someone else to use, because it will never break down in a landfill. That pumpkin will be around hundreds of years after you are gone, if you want something scary to think about.

What is your favorite Halloween tradition? What do you do to make your Halloween more eco-friendly or zero-waste? Share your tips- I would love to hear them!

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  1. Love this post. Wish I had these tips when my kids were young. Some of them I did but many young parents will benefit from this post. Need to make memories that are not so stressful or wasteful!

  2. i love these ideas. we might skip candy

  3. So many smart ideas! I can't even imagine how much waste all those tiny candy wraps produce! :(

  4. Love those ideas. Sure will enjoy the Halloween. Thanks for sharing

  5. I love the idea of giving out seeds. THese are great tips, thanks!

  6. Love all of these alternative options!



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