This may be stated a bit bluntly, but there is no denying that many of the Halloween costumes and decorations represent a waste of natural resources. Millions of costumes are produced that are worn once and then tossed, or are never sold and eventually end up in landfills. The most nightmarish aspect of Halloween is the level of consumption that occurs because people buy millions of costumes and decorations made out of plastic and paper and decorate houses with energy consuming lights and yard decorations. Anyone in a Big Foot or Sasquatch costume has nothing on the size of the Halloween carbon footprint this holiday leaves on our environment
At the risk of sounding like a Halloween Grinch, the wasteful use of resources to produce junky costumes and decorations is really unjustified. There are plenty of ways to dress up, decorate the house and have fun, while minimizing the consumption of natural resources. Is there a real need for giant plastic jack-o-lanterns that have electric powered air blowers attached? Is there a reason that real pumpkins and cornstalks purchased from the farmer’s market are no longer adequate as decorations any longer?
Shifting Halloween Towards Green
Some costumes will inevitably be made in factories because kids like to dress up as popular cartoon characters. Reasonably speaking, it is difficult for working mothers to sew a Spiderman costume. However, in many cases, it is quite possible to turn Halloween into a green lesson by encouraging younger children to use their imagination when choosing a costume, while limiting most costume materials to what is on hand in the home. Costumes that represent scarecrows, Indiana Jones, Batman and many other popular characters can easily be assembled using clothing and materials already owned or that can be bought at second-hand or thrift stores. This can also become a fun family tradition, and encourage kids to take pride in their creations. This holds true for adults in the party spirit also.
For those who are ready to explain that Halloween sales help the economy, we would suggest that sales should shift to green (or at least ‘greener’) products. For example, Fair Trade or organic candy is a good choice. Energy efficient decorative lighting (LED), organic makeup, and Halloween games like apple bobbing are all green ideas.
Scarier Than Ghosts and Goblins
Communities are also moving towards a green Halloween. Downtown Oak Park in Illinois is a business association comprised of downtown shop and property owners. The association holds a Green Halloween event before Halloween that includes a number of environmentally sound activities. For example, there is a Pumpkin Patch decorating event, a costume swap and storytelling time. Costume swaps are a particularly green event because parents exchange costumes instead of throwing them away and buying new ones. In fact, there is a National Costume Swap Day that a number of cities and towns are already participating in. On the designated day, adults bring a clean child’s costume in good shape to a named location and exchange it for a different one.
If your community does not have a green Halloween event, next year would be the perfect time to start. We have always promoted projects oriented to community involvement because it ‘takes a village’ to make a green impact.
There are plenty of ways to make Halloween green. It does take a little extra effort, but not much. It mostly takes a willingness to spend some time thinking about ways to avoid purchasing items that leave a big carbon footprint. Halloween is meant to be spooky, but there is something much more frightening on the horizon than ghosts and goblins. It is a world in which there are not enough natural resources, like clean water, left to support the human population. Now that is truly scary!