How to Make Halloween Sustainable

October 23, 2019  •   4 min read

Ghouls, goblins and ghosts, oh my! Halloween is one of the biggest holidays here in North America, where getting a good fright is all part of the fun. What isn’t fun though, is the excessive waste this one-day holiday generates. From costumes and candy to decorations and pumpkins, the scariest part of Hallow’s Eve is in the trash bin, once the festivities are over. Here’s a quick guide on how to still keep things fun while being mindful of the earth!


How to Make Halloween Sustainable:

1. Costumes

Ready for some spooky stats? The Halloween costume industry is worth billions of dollars a year. An average of $3.4 billion is spent on 88 million brand new costumes, every Halloween! Because pre-packed costumes are often bought in a hurry before a party, most people aren’t too attached to their ghostly garbs. This means 33 million pounds of landfill waste is generated on November 1st alone! This is a serious problem. The costumes are generally made of the cheapest polyester materials available (not to mention using unethical and questionable labour), meaning those trashed costumes sit in landfill and leach out plastic microfibres into our soil and waterways.


What can you do?

  • Repurpose old clothes: We’re sure you have some old things lying around that will make your costume perfect! Root around in your wardrobe and get crafty. Scouring your parents’ or a friend’s wardrobe also counts!
  • Shop second-hand! Put the creativity back into costume-making and source your pieces from second-hand shops. Not only is it way cheaper, but you’ll be giving those clothes a second lease on life. The things you can find in a second-hand shop are truly inspiring and will bring out the inner child in you! Grab some friends and make a day out of it.
  • Read the entire post on Halloween costumes here for more ideas


2. Decorations

Traditional decorations like plastic wreaths, leaf garlands, spiderwebs, silly string, etc. are all cheaply made, made from plastic, and will sit in landfills, or in our oceans, forever. So instead, try decorating for your party or home in a way that is sustainable.


Please stay away from fake spiderwebs! The cotton-like material is meant to mimic spiderwebs and is a very popular Halloween decoration item. Unfortunately, it is often made from plastic fibres and is extremely harmful. Not only is the material itself a problem (micro-fibres that inevitably get released into our environment and that end up in oceans and waterways), but wildlife such as birds, rodents, and insects get trapped and tangled in it (like a real spiderweb), and can often die. Please check your neighbours’ homes at least twice a day to see if any living things are stuck in their fake spiderweb decorations!


What can you do?

  • Go eco with your decorations and opt for things that are biodegradable, sourced from nature, or long-lasting. Forage for things like naturally-fallen leaves, sticks, branches.
  • Get creative and make your own decorations out of cardboard boxes and tissue paper.
  • Hit up your local farm and grab hay bales, pumpkins, gourds, baskets, and corn stalks.
  • Try finding second-hand decorations from thrift stores or places like Facebook Marketplace and Kijiji. Instead of going for the cheap stuff from the Dollar Store that will only get used once, get creative!


3. Candy:

The best part of this freaky holiday is of course, the candy! Trick-or-Treaters everywhere eagerly await the bags of goodies they’ll get, though candy-givers are not always concerned about the waste created, not to mention the child labour and ethics involved in many of the biggest chocolate companies. Did you know that Hershey’s, Mars, Nestle, Fowler’s and Godiva all use child labour to produce the cocoa that is in their chocolate? Read more here.


What can you do?

If you’re giving out candy this year, consider brands that make things sustainably. While homemade goodies are no longer an option because of safety and allergy concerns, you can think a little bit outside of the box. We have to choose our battles here, as not all ethical companies use eco packaging, but doing a bit better is still worth it!

  • Try Smarties, Nerds, Reese’s Pieces, Dots, Junior Mints or Popeye Sticks that come in paper boxes.
  • You can also opt for candies wrapped in foil (it’s recyclable) such as: Hershey’s Kisses, Chocolate coins, Chocolate pumpkins, etc.


Other options include:


Unreal: This brand is Non-GMO, Fair-trade, Organic, Sustainably Sourced, Certified Gluten-Free, Vegan and made without artificial ingredients. Ingredients include things like dark chocolate, organic blue agave inulin, coconut flour, sunflower, organic cane sugar, with things like beet root, carrot and red cabbage juice used to colour the candy. While they are packaged in plastic, at least no child labour is involved!


Yum Earth: This brand is certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO, Gluten-Free, Vegan, Nut-Free and uses better ingredients like cane sugar, organic brown rice syrup, and natural colours like turmeric. Their packaging is still plastic, but their factory is built with LEED sustainable guidelines using equipment that is powered by 100% wind-generated electrical energy.


Glee Gum: Packaged in paper and Non-GMO verified, Glee Gum is one of the few chewing gum companies that is made with chicle, a sustainably-harvested tree sap, instead of plastic (yup, that’s what regular gum is made from!). The company partners with a non-profit group to plant trees, revitalizing degraded lands. 


Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups: Replace Reese’s Cups with these sustainably-made, fair-trade ones! Made with organic, Rainforest Alliance Certified™ cocoa, and locally-sourced ingredients, this company also donates part of its proceeds to worldwide hunger and poverty relief.


4. Pumpkins:

After the festivities are over, the Jack-o-Lantern on your doorstep will probably start to look a little weathered. Every year, 1.3 billion pounds of Halloween pumpkins make their way to landfills, where they generate greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to global warming. While many people think that anything “natural” breaks down in landfill, this is far from the truth. In reality, organic waste releases methane in landfill, which has more than 20x the warming effect of carbon dioxide!


What can you do?

  • Instead of trashing your pumpkins, try composting them. They will break down the right way, and can then be used to enrich your soil.
  • If you don’t have a compost bin at home, see if your local farm / farmer’s market will take them.
  • You can also try leaving out chunks for wildlife to consume, but be sure the pumpkins aren’t seasoned or salted.
  • All of these suggestions of course only work if you haven’t bedazzled the hell out of your pumpkin (if there’s glitter, paint or marker on your pumpkin, it’ll sadly have to be landfilled).


This spooky season shouldn’t come with the scary stats and waste – try to be as sustainable as possible this year and see how easy it is to still join in on the fun!

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