Halloween is a big deal in the United States, and it’s getting bigger all the time. Americans spent around $8 billion last year — that’s billion with a “B” — for costumes, candy, decorations and parties, and of course, all of this generated a considerable amount of waste along the way.
However, one of the great things about Halloween is that it’s relatively easy to reduce the attendant garbage if you take a little time to think about it. And there are numerous movements afoot to make Halloween a greener holiday.
• In 2011, GreenHalloween.org and Kiwi Magazine started a National Costume Swap Day on the second Saturday in October. Organizers in various communities set up times and locations where parents can swap their kids’ costumes with other parents.
Not only does this have the potential to save a lot of money, it cuts down on the number of costumes that are tossed or go unused. You can organize a costume swap in your community, too — find details at www.greenhalloween.org/CostumeSwap.
And of course, you can trade costumes on a more casual basis with friends and neighbors.
• It is a time-honored Halloween tradition to make your own costume from items that you have around the house, thrift store finds, or cast-off stuff. It is no trick at all to find numerous creative ideas on the Internet. Or just go to your local resale shop and be inspired by what you discover there.
• The same standard applies to Halloween decorations. It really is a lot of fun to make your own, and again, websites like Pinterest have oodles of ideas for scary stuff you can make from recycled items, such as ghost lanterns made from plastic milk jugs.
• If you’re giving out treats, think about items that don’t need to be unwrapped, and thus generate less trash. (Let’s face it, kids will get enough candy anyway.) Instead, hand out items like pencils, tiny toys, collectible cards, stickers, polished rocks, seashells, beads, coins, mini cookie cutters, or any of a number of kid-friendly swag. (Of course, some of these things shouldn’t be given to babies or children younger than age 4 to prevent swallowing hazards.)
• Trick-or-treaters can also lead the way to reducing waste by becoming involved in charitable collection events. Instead of asking for candy, they can ask for canned food for the local food bank, books for the Books for Treats nonprofit (www.booksfortreats.org), eyeglasses for people who can’t afford them (www.sightnight.org) or other good causes.
This is a movement called “reverse trick-or-treating,” and it’s a way for kids to learn the value of doing good in their communities.
• You can also find a home for all that extra candy through Treats 4 Our Troops (www.treats4ourtroops), which collects candy to send to military personnel overseas.
• Last but not least — don’t forget to compost your Halloween pumpkin once the howling holiday has come to an end.