Until becoming a parent, I had forgotten how important Halloween is to children. As a dad of three school-age kids, I well know the day is filled with no shortage of excitement and imagination, which does not even account for the temporary jubilation the taste of candy provides. Nevertheless, parents have an equally important duty to ensure this fun day is handled responsibly. Just as we prevent our children from unhealthy access to limitless sugar, parents should use resources wisely so the environment does not suffer while we create special memories.
Here are 10 eco-friendly Halloween tips that offer the additional benefit of saving money:
Participate in planned trick-or-treat events
Trick-or-treating offers a perfect opportunity for additional exercise. However, many children in search of hoards of candy encourage parents to drive from neighborhood to neighborhood. This leads to excessive idling of cars and burning of gasoline. Why not instead consider “trunk-or-treat” style events, in which children get candy in parking lots or by visiting stores in the mall? Not only does this benefit the environment, it is arguably a safer form of trick-or-treating.
Use sturdy Halloween buckets
One of the wisest purchases my family made was buying three unique Halloween buckets several years ago. Each child selected a preferred choice and we only use these pails one day per year for trick-or-treating. This is an ideal way to receive and store candy and it further eliminates the need for plastic bags.
Like many suggestions, this not only helps the environment, but saves money. As a parent of three, it brought considerable satisfaction when my younger son wore a police costume that my older son used several years earlier. Essential to this strategy is finding a reliable place to store costumes and putting them away immediately after Halloween. If you wait much longer, and your children are like mine, those old costumes won’t be worth saving.
In addition to recycling old ones, consider making your children’s costumes as your mother likely created yours. Of course, the benefit to the environment depends on the level of external materials in the process. However, homemade costumes offer the immediate benefit of less packaging and reducing post-Halloween garbage.
Turn on lights only if welcoming trick-or-treaters
Each Halloween, I become frustrated when a handful of houses turn on their outside lights, despite not participating in neighborhood trick-or-treating. Not only does this disappoint excited children, but it is simply a waste of electricity. Unless you have yummy candy to distribute to well-dressed kids, leave the lights off.
Skip bagging treats
Candy givers sometimes prepare individual baggies to ensure a pre-determined amount is given to each trick-or-treater. While the sentiment is noble, it is simply not necessary to separate candy in such a manner, since kids inevitably lump their goodies together. Save paper (and money) by putting your candy directly into a child’s trick-or-treating bag/bucket.
Roast pumpkin seeds
While the orange squash itself can be cooked or composted, make sure to set aside its seeds when carving pumpkins with your children. There is no need for waste here, as seeds are a tasty treat. To prepare, rinse the seeds with cold water and lay them on a greased baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and bake at 325 degrees for 20 minutes.
Compost unwanted parts of pumpkin
Though most parts of the pumpkin can be eaten in various forms, some people may not enjoy the taste or extra work. Even if not composting regularly, Halloween is a perfect time to start, as millions of old pumpkins otherwise fill landfills in early November. Why not keep yours closer to home? Find an out-of-the-way spot and let your backyard insects take care of the waste.
Give away unwanted candy
This seems straight-forward, but too often we fail to use resources properly. If left with extra candy after Halloween, don’t throw it away, even if wanting to avoid extra calories. Many schools and after-school programs would benefit from using unwanted candy as snacks or rewards throughout the year. While such sweets are far from healthy, if doled out in moderation, they can accomplish substantial good in this manner.
This is another tip that saves significant money, while keeping the planet much cleaner. Just as retaining old costumes and buckets are worthy ideas, so too should you properly store Halloween decorations. Though it is fun to add to the collection, there’s no need to buy annually the same plastic spider, paper skeleton, or door-hanging witch. These products may be cheap, but nothing beats free. Just make room in a closet and keep them in a clearly labeled bin so you don’t forget.