Halloween is not exactly known for being zero-waste, with all of the fun-size candy in non-recyclable wrappers, not to mention the polyester costumes that are only worn once.
While we're a long way from making Halloween truly sustainable, there are small steps you can take to reduce, reuse and recycle as you trick or treat.
DecoratingGo for reusable autumn decorations that can be put out year after year, and skip the cheap decorations made of styrofoam or Mylar. Investing in good quality decorations saves you from having to replace them more often.
Don't just throw your pumpkins out! When you carve jack-o-lanterns, save the seeds for roasting. I shared a few links for delicious recipes in this previous blog post. They're such a great seasonal snack, and help reduce the waste caused by carving. If you don't carve your pumpkins, scrape all the seeds out before you get rid of them.
When the holiday has passed, add your pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns to your compost pile. Anyone who's left a pumpkin on the porch a little too long can attest to the fact that decomposition happens pretty quickly.
CostumesFirst off, use what you have around the house already to craft your costumes. If you have to purchase items, look at secondhand shops before hitting up big discount stores. You'll at least give new life to something that's been used already. I'm brainstorming my own costume for our office costume contest on Monday, and I'm planning to check out my local Goodwill to find the one piece I don't already have. (Always a procrastinator!)
With children, ask other families for costumes their children have already outgrown. Swapping with friends and family is a great way to give your children a "new" costume, while giving costumes life year after year.
CandyAs I've written about before, there's really no way you can avoid individually wrapped candy if you actually want to give candy out at all. And you probably don't want to be That Person who gives out pencils or erasers or crackers or seed packets. It's great, and it's more eco-friendly and healthy, but let's face it. Kids don't want pencils for Halloween.
You could look for organic or fair-trade candy, as suggested by Forbes, but you may either have trouble finding it at your grocery store, or not want to pay extra for candy being given out to children who won't know the difference, or care about it. And it is tough to justify spending a lot on responsibly made candy for a holiday such as this one. So think simply. Look for candy in the least amount of packaging possible.
Think about those fun size packs of Starburst. You get two individually wrapped Starbursts inside another wrapper. Three things to waste for one treat. Or you've got all that candy wrapped in cellophane plastic. Definitely not recyclable. Go for something wrapped only once (think, pieces of Hershey chocolate, or other kinds of chocolate candy), in something a little better than plastic. It's kind of just one of those "less bad" situations, rather than "good".
Trick or TreatingGive each child a reusable basket, bucket, lunch bag, or cloth bag that you already own for them to carry their treats in. Get creative, but make sure it's big enough and has a handle for children to carry.
PartiesRecycle as much as you can, and if you choose disposable plates and cutlery, look for ones made with recycled materials.
EnergyConserve energy, and stay safer, by walking from house to house instead of driving. With so many children on the road, it's just better to leave your car parked at home.
Use energy efficient light bulbs on your porch to signal to trick or treaters that you're handing out candy, a tip from Rachelle Carson-Begley.
How do you plan to be greener this Halloween?