With all the polyester costumes, individually-wrapped sugary treats, and discarded decorations, it is easy to lose sight of how wasteful Halloween is. Instead of feeling guilty for participating in a throwaway culture, why not take a bit more time this season and make your Halloween more sustainable? There are many ways to tackle the waste of the spooky season, and this post will offer some tips on how to achieve all the horror with less of the environmental damage.
It is estimated that discarded Halloween clothing will generate 2,000 tonnes of waste this year, with 83% of the material used in these clothes being made from oil-based plastic . This year, to challenge this statistic, instead of buying a plastic-wrapped, plastic costume, why not make your own? By cutting up and sewing together old clothes or second-hand pieces, you can save the environment, and create a look that no one else will be wearing. Instead of buying a cheap plastic mask, create your own by using old newspaper to make papier-mâché, and decorating it with non-toxic paint and biodegradable glitter.
If you are craft-adverse, seek costume inspiration online and recreate outfits using your own wardrobe. If you can’t find the right garments amongst your possessions, visit second-hand shops. You might be lucky enough to find that someone has donated an old costume. As well as this, you can recycle costumes from previous years, or even trade costumes and make-up amongst your friends. Just make sure you are using face paint and makeup without lead or harmful toxins. If you are short on time, it could be worth looking into renting an outfit from a costume store.
Saving the environment does not have to stop at your outfit. Rather than buying cheap, throwaway plastic decorations, invest in ones that will last many years or make your own. Items that might be thrown away come into great use during the holidays because they are multi-purpose. Old newspapers can become papier-mâché monsters or bat-shaped bunting. Ripped bed sheets can become ghosts. Scrap bits of cardboard can be cut into gravestones or coffins. Spiders can be made from small twigs. Old jars can be filled with candles for atmospheric lighting. Making all these decorations rather than buying them will benefit the environment and your wallet.
Pumpkins are the quintessential Halloween item in terms of their iconography and their wastefulness. Supermarket pumpkins are often sprayed with pesticides to grow bigger and faster and are also in possession of a large carbon footprint. If you can: buy a locally grown pumpkin. As well as supporting local growers, you will be supporting more sustainable farming practices and are likely to get a better product.
More than 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin flesh will be discarded this year because consumers will not eat it . With the cost of food waste being transferred onto our environment, we cannot afford to just discard these autumnal jewels. Rather than binning the scooped-out pumpkin flesh, use it to make soup, pie or bread. Roast the seeds and have them as a healthy snack. If you do not like the taste of pumpkin, make sure to cut it into small pieces and scatter into your garden or compost. If you would like to do this, make sure that you carve the pumpkin, rather than paint it, because it cannot be composted if it has been painted.
If you are the host of a Halloween party, there are a number of ways to reduce your event’s impact on the environment. Rather than using plastic-based disposable cups, plates and cutlery, use recyclable or compostable versions, and put out recycling bins. To reduce waste further, you could even look into rental services or investing in second-hand pieces. As well as this, use cloth napkins or tablecloths rather than disposable paper ones. If you do not want to splash out on napkins, cut up a second-hand table cloth and make your own. When considering catering, it would be better to make your own food rather than buy plastic-wrapped party platters. It might be more time-consuming than picking something up at the supermarket, but it uses much less plastic packaging and will taste better.
Another source of Halloween plastic waste is trick-or-treating. To conquer this, you can choose sweets with less packaging, and opt for organic or fair-trade brands rather than mass-produced major brands. If you would like to tackle this further, make the treats yourself: bake spooky-shaped biscuits or small chocolates. Whilst many people are unwilling to take home-produced treats from strangers, a way to deal with the problem is to offer small gifts instead of sweets. Little pencils, wooden letters and small gemstones would all make interesting alternate items for trick-or-treaters.
Whilst keeping on top of plastic waste, use fabric bags for trick-or-treating rather than using plastic buckets. You could even make a fun craft activity out of it; using old pillowcases or t-shirts. If you do end the night with mounds of plastic-wrappers, you could always craft with them. Paper-like wrappers make great collages, and there are many how-to guides on how to craft jewellery and more from these small scraps of plastic.
So, What Are The Takeaways For A More Sustainable Halloween Next Year?
The best ways to make Halloween more sustainable are akin to the old motto: reduce, reuse and recycle. Reduce your waste as much as possible by reusing items already in your possession, and using your craft skills to adapt them, rather than relying on store-bought products. You will have a more unique, more interesting, and more environmentally friendly Halloween. Plus, you will save money.
 Rebecca Smithers, ‘Equivalent of 83m plastic bottles in often throwaway outfits sold by leading retailers’ (2019). URL: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/18/scariest-thing-about-halloween-is-plastic-waste-say-charities
 Rebecca Smithers, ‘Pumpkin waste in UK predicted to hit scary heights this Halloween’ (2019). URL: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/23/pumpkin-waste-uk-halloween-lanterns