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Tips for a More Sustainable Halloween

"I bet I could improve it too, and that’s exactly what I’ll do!"

frowning rotting jack'o'lantern

Halloween is my favorite holiday, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Unfortunately, the spooky season is replete with disposable decorations, detritus, and wrappings. Cheap costumes and individually wrapped candies make mountains of plastic waste that will haunt landfills for all eternity. But there’s no reason to be scared off of sustainability. From reducing the trash left behind to not creating trash in the first place, here are a bunch of ways to make your Halloween more environmentally friendly!

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Of the two billion pounds of pumpkins grown for Halloween every year, about 1.3 billion pounds will be tossed in the trash. How to stop that? Not buying a pumpkin in the first place is a good start.

Getting round, orange paper lanterns to decorate can be a cheap and eco-friendly alternative to foam carve-able pumpkins. There’s also a wide variety of ways you can decorate them including markers, stickers, cutting outlines, adding lights, etc. You can also decorate orange peels with a sharpie and then eat it afterwards.

If you do get a pumpkin, roast the seeds as a tasty treat, look up tips for keeping them from rotting so quickly, and ‘recycle’ the pumpkin when you’re done (here are a couple of articles on how to do that). ‘Pumpkin smash’ events can also handle composting for those who don’t have the ability to do so themselves.

Make your own decor and costumes out of recyclable materials

Reusing materials is almost always preferable to buying new ones regarding sustainability, especially if you don’t have the space to store them for future use. Whether it’s making tombstones out of cardboard or foam that can’t be recycled or using old stockings to make spiderwebs, there’s a whole host of things you can do.

Thrift your costume or buy used

screenshot of ThredUP's Halloween page where people can build outfits to fit a certain "theme"
Via thredUP

I love Spirit Halloween and Hot Topic as much as the next person, but fast fashion is not eco-friendly (also frankly the oversaturation of ‘sexy’ Halloween costumes has got to stop). It helps that for the price of a costume from those stores, you can thrift pieces from places like thredUP or your local vintage/thrift stores that you may be able to reuse in everyday wear. I got some beautiful leather boots from thredUp that I wear without my Captain Carter costume.

Even better, you can go into your closet and use items of clothing you never wear to make a costume. Got some out-of-style outfits? Be a fashion zombie! Bridesmaid dress you wore once? Turn it into Miss “always the bridesmaid, never the bride.” Graduation robe? Turn into a wizard or the ghost of student debt! The possibilities are endless!

Buy local/vegan/fair-trade candy

Buying candy from local stores is an excellent way to 1) support local businesses and 2) cut down on the transportation associated with name-brand candies. It also gives you a chance to look into local sweets like maple candies, salt-water taffy, or Abba-Zabas. Here are some articles if you want more inspiration.

Alternatively, you could hand out vegan candy that doesn’t use animal products or fair-trade chocolate. Equal exchange is best for mini chocolate bars and UnReal does gluten/corn/ soy-free candy for those who want to account for allergies.

If you can’t fit these into your budget, getting candy in paper boxes like Dots, Nerds, Milk Duds, and Junior Mints cuts down on single-use plastic wrappers.

Also, if you plan on going outside of your neighborhood to Tick-r-Treat, carpooling, going by bike, or using public transit can cut down on emissions.

Halloween is the second biggest holiday for American spending. But that doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate it in ways that are good for the planet too! If there’s ever a holiday that encourages both creativity and celebrating the natural world, it’s Halloween.

(featured image: Dean K. Terasaki)

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Kimberly Terasaki
Kimberly Terasaki is a contributing writer for The Mary Sue. She has been writing articles for them since 2018, going on 5 years of working with this amazing team. Her interests include Star Wars, Marvel, DC, Horror, intersectional feminism, and fanfiction; some are interests she has held for decades, while others are more recent hobbies. She liked Ahsoka Tano before it was cool, will fight you about Rey being a “Mary Sue,” and is a Kamala Khan stan.

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