Green leaves are turning to shades of crimson and amber. Evenings are growing crisp and cool. Jack-o-lanterns are appearing on front porches. Halloween is near.
The joys of Halloween are exciting. They also create monstrous financial and environmental impacts. Halloween is a $6 billion industry. Consumers buy 1.5 billion pounds of pumpkins every year — 99 percent of which are discarded in trash. Abandoned Halloween costumes create 6,500 tons of waste each year. You can enjoy a ghastly but green Halloween with simple and sustainable steps.
Buy decorations that may be used year after year to prevent frightening amounts of waste.
Create your own devilish decorations from recycled materials such as ghosts from bed sheets.
Purchase your petrifying pumpkin from a local farm or nursery. Choose an organic gourd if one is available.
Conquer the fear of Halloween utility bills by choosing Light Emitting Diode lighting. LED lights last 133 times longer and cost 80 percent less to operate than incandescent lights. They are also safer because they generate less heat than traditional bulbs. If you use lights in your Halloween display, be sure to power them down during daylight hours and when you go to bed for the night to save electricity.
Candles can create ambiance but can also emit gruesome volatile organic compounds into the air. Choose soy based or vegetable based candles instead of petroleum based paraffin candles. Paraffin candles can release chemicals such as toluene and benzene. Prolonged contact with these chemicals is associated with health concerns such as asthma and cancer.
Indulge your boys and ghouls with sustainable treats. Fill your candy bowl with healthier choices such as Fair Trade sourced chocolates and natural or organic candies. Consider items such as dried fruits and pumpkin seeds. Children will also appreciate alternatives to candies and foods including school supplies such as soy crayons and seed paper bookmarks or toys such as recycled paper playing cards or puzzles. Use reusable containers instead of plastic bags to carry your loot.
Trick or treating? Visiting a haunted house? Walk to your destination or arrange a Halloween carpool to reduce eerie emissions and to reduce traffic. You will create a safer experience for the witches and warlocks.
Create a costume from recycled clothing and materials. Polyvinyl chloride lurks in many commercial Halloween costumes. PVC can release detrimental VOCs. Raid your closets and visit vintage clothing shops for treasure troves of potential recycled costumes, or consider a costume trade with friends to save resources and money.
Cosmetics can create wonderful werewolves and grotesque goblins but the chemicals in many Halloween cosmetics can be truly terrifying. Choose biobased options and cosmetics colored with natural dyes.
Halloween parties can also be eek-o-friendly. Send your invitations electronically. Plan a healthy menu. Buy local and organic foods for your guests. Use reusable service ware instead of disposable service ware or choose recyclable and compostable items. Provide access to recycling.
For more information visit www.greenhalloween.org.