As Halloween quickly approaches, I wonder how many DIY Halloween costumes I will see this year. For me, whether you lean towards the scary side or incorporate humor into your costume, being artistic and using creativity to make a costume is simply better than buying something off the shelf. However, regardless of personal opinion, there is a much deeper need for a large scale shift from purchased costumes to ones that are homemade. This need can be defined by one single concept - waste.
The amount of waste generated by single use costumes, packaging, decorations and other non-sustainable elements of Halloween is downright spooky! On average, every trick-or-treater will generate a minimum of 1lb. of waste over Halloween. Multiply this by the 41 million trick or treaters that participate each year and things start to become scarier than any costume or haunted house by far! To put this into perspective, the waste associated with Halloween is the equivalent to 83 million single use plastic water bottles, and that is in the UK alone!
Unfortunately, the waste generated from these novelty products is not the only damage being done. Research has shown that more batteries are disposed into landfills over Halloween than any other time of the year. Harmful chemicals from these batteries eventually leaks into our soil and immerses into the environment. And along the same lines, with over 90% of costumes being manufactured out of synthetic fibers, tremendous amounts of greenhouse gasses and other harmful pollutants are released into the atmosphere in a short duration.
These issues, along with a long list of others, continue to pose a huge risk year after year. Waste management companies struggle to dispose of the abundant waste and our global environment continues to suffer the consequences. However, this is not to deter you from enjoying Halloween or trick-or-treating with your little ones. Instead, this information is to inform you of the issue and inspire you to become more pro-active this year when planning your holiday. Below is a list of ideas that you can implement this Halloween to help reduce your environmental impact. And if you feel inspired, please share this article to help spread awareness of this severely important issue. It would be amazing if we could all work together and help the environment enjoy Halloween as much as we do!
- Decorations. Instead of buying materials for decorations, gather supplies, arts and crafts throughout the year. Examples include:
- Turn stockings with runs into spider-webbing
- Paint foam peanuts (packing materials) and turn them into worms
- Clean Styrofoam and make Halloween masks
- Turn cardboard boxes into tombstones
- Make other creative decorations from netting from bags of oranges, cotton balls, leaves and branches from the yard, etc.
- Reuse your decorations from the previous year
- Costumes. Make your own!
- Keep old clothes that can be used as good pieces or parts of costumes, like worn t-shirts, black pants/shorts, etc.
- If necessary, shop at thrift shops, consignment stores and yard sales, instead of buying retail
- Let your kids' imaginations run wild! Make a game of turning old clothes into costumes.
- Parties. When having a party, cut down on waste by avoiding disposable cups, plates and cutlery. Use regular dishes or buy biodegradable ones, and use a marker (or apply cute labels) to identify cups so party-goers can keep track of theirs.
- Treats. Buy locally produced foods, candies and treats. Look for goodies with minimal packaging and/or those made packaged in recycled materials.
- Trick-or-Treat Bags. Use (and decorate) household items to collect candy in. A bucket, pillowcase, or old even an old bag can be decorated inexpensively at home - and reused year after year.
- Pumpkins. Buy pumpkins from local farms or farmers' markets. Better yet, grow your own -- kids love to watch them grow! Use the entire pumpkin if possible, and dispose of any unused pumpkin in food waste, not normal trash.
- Jack-o-lanterns. Don't throw away all the goodies from inside your pumpkin. Toast the seeds for tasty treats. Make pumpkin pie or muffins with the fruit - or compost it.
- Transportation. Trick or Treat by walking around your neighborhood instead of driving to another destination. Get to know your neighbors, reduce your carbon emissions and help keep the streets safe for other walkers.
- Compost and Recycle. From party food to treats to pumpkins, consider composting all organic matter and recycling other items.
- Reuse! Reuse as much as you can from year to year. Instead of throwing away an old box or bag, use it to gather all your decorations and keep for next year. Plus, you can surprise your family and friends by quickly pulling out your box and throwing an impromptu Halloween party any time of year!