Don’t Scare the Planet This Halloween

Between adding cobwebs and scary spiders to your home, stocking up on treats for the kids and deciding how to dress a Dracula, you’ve got a lot to do before Halloween.Though tradition is wonderful, there are some Halloween rituals that could do with a green makeover. But don’t be scared, adding green to this orange holiday is easier than you think.

With a few simple swaps, you can guard the health of the planet and your little ones (and your own, if you’re still a kid at heart) without sacrificing a ghoulish good time. Here are some scary ideas to have a greener Halloween.

Pass on the Plastic Pumpkin

There’s no need to collect candy in a petrochemical-based plastic pumpkin holder when any reusable bag will do. Plus, you can collect more goodies by going retro and reusing an old pillowcase.

Decorate with Nature

A trip to your yard or the farmers market will provide everything you need to dress up your house for Halloween: leaves and branches, hay bales, gourds, pumpkins, mums, dried flowers.

Compost your Jack-O’-Lantern.

A pumpkin may be all-natural, but send it to the anaerobic environment of a sealed landfill and it will emit methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Help cut down on the 1.1 billion pounds of annual pumpkin waste by composting yours.

Make a Swap

We know, we know: You can’t be the same thing you were last year. But that doesn’t mean you have to spring for a brand-new, plastic-wrapped polyester getup. You can, however, get a new-to-you disguise simply by swapping with a similarly sized friend.

It’s all about the Bag

While those orange plastic pumpkin buckets are cute, they’re less cute when you realize how much petroleum goes into their production and how many get tossed in a landfill. Give your trick-or-treaters the eco-tools they need by making reusable Halloween bags.

You can make one from an old pillowcase, scraps of fabric, old clothes or towels, used paper bags, or other found items around the house. Alternatively, buy some bamboo, organic cotton or hemp fabric and sew up two sides. Get creative with the decorations as well. By using washable markers, you can actually sleep on that pillowcase again!

Leave the Car Behind

With roughly 36 million kids in the U.S. out trick-or-treating, that’s a scary amount of fumes being emitted. And since every two minutes of car idling consumes the same amount of gas required to drive approximately one mile, you might want to choose a more eco-conscious way of accompanying your little Ghost like walking or riding your bike alongside him.

A Eco-House of Horrors

Americans spend a spine-tingling $5 billion annually on Halloween decorations and supplies. This year, haunt your halls with a greener decor. Create decorations from recycled materials lying around the house. And don’t let your decorations become trapped for eternity in the most ghoulish graveyard of all: the landfill. Bury them in storage boxes and bring them back from the dead to reuse every year.

A few ideas:

• Cut out Halloween patterns in a small paper bag, place sand at the bottom, add a votive candle (made with soy or natural wax), and presto—an easy green light source.
• Use old bed sheets to make ghosts or tablecloths.
• Use newspaper as stuffing for witches’ arms and legs.
• Paint cardboard boxes with low-VOC paint and transform them into gravestones or coffins.
• Decorate tables with gourds, pumpkins, apples, leaves and branches.

Don’t Waste That Pumpkin

Most of the pumpkins used to illuminate Halloween festivities meet an untimely demise, buried alive in landfills before their full potential is realized. This year, take those gooey insides, separate out the nutritious and delicious seeds, and roast them for 30 minutes. All it takes is a warm oven, a cookie sheet, salt and olive oil. The rest of the pumpkin’s insides make perfect compost, as does the entire pumpkin after it has served its time as a jack-o’-lantern.

Healthy Halloween Treats

Look for organic, as well as no artificial flavors or colors. Consider handing out sinfully delicious organic chocolates, natural lollipops and whole-grain granola bars. You might even offer some non-edible options that kids can enjoy well after the candy is eaten.

Hold the PVC, Please

Did you know that most store-bought masks are made from PVC, which is not only bad for the earth but bad for your health? Store-bought costumes are also made from low-cost polyester, derived from petroleum. Instead, look for costumes that use naturally sourced material like bamboo, hemp, organic cotton and wool. Better yet, make your own!

A few ideas:
• Convert an old prom or bridesmaid dress into a Barbie or Tinkerbell costume.
• Stuff stockings with socks to make spider or turtle legs.
• Grab a graduation gown and add a scarf, tree branch (wand) and glasses to turn your child into Harry Potter.

Have a safe and Happy Halloween!

Tell us: How will you keep your Halloween green?

Tell us what you're thinking...

Please share your thoughts and ideas with the Who's Green community.