Ah, Halloween! A time for trick-or-treating, haunted houses, and dressing up in our spookiest outfits. As children and adults alike revel in the festivities, there's a scarier side to this celebration: the massive amount of waste produced. From disposable decorations to single-use costumes, Halloween is haunting our planet in ways we might not consider.
The Spooky Stats:
- Costumes: Millions of people purchase Halloween costumes each year, many of which are worn once and then discarded. With an estimated 85% of all textiles thrown away in the US each year, Halloween costumes form a sizable chunk of this waste, given the seasonality and single-use nature of many costumes. Based on studies reported by Hubbub, 2,000 tons of plastic waste are generated from “disposable” Halloween costumes in a single year alone.
- Decorations: Common items like synthetic cobwebs (which often trap birds and other wildlife), plastic skeletons, rubber bats, and other plastic decor are not recyclable. This means that once the festivities are over, they're destined for landfills where they can linger for centuries, contributing to the mounting problem of plastic pollution.
- Candy wrappers: Halloween's sweet treats come with a bitter aftertaste for the planet. Billions of pieces of candy are handed out each year, each encased in generally non-recyclable wrappers. These tiny packets, though individually small, accumulate into a massive waste problem. And since they're so lightweight, they can blow away and easily enter our waterways.
- Pumpkin Waste: The quintessential symbol of Halloween, pumpkins! Though naturally biodegradable, when discarded in landfills rather than composted, they undergo anaerobic decomposition, releasing methane. This Halloween, 15.8 million pumpkins will be carved but end up going to waste, uneaten. This greenhouse gas from food waste is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide, accentuating the climate crisis.
What Can We Do Better?
- DIY: Use items you already own to craft unique costumes. Old clothes can be transformed into zombie attire, or sheets can become ghostly cloaks.
- Swap: Organize or attend costume swap events in your community.
- Buy second-hand: Local thrift stores can be a goldmine for costume pieces.
- Reuse: Store your costume for future Halloweens or repurpose them for other themed events.
- DIY: Opt for homemade decorations using recyclable or compostable materials. Pinterest is the perfect place to get ideas!
- Choose natural: Use real gourds, corn stalks, and leaves for a festive, but compostable touch.
- Invest in quality: Buy durable decorations that can be reused year after year and look for them secondhand first and foremost. Thrift shops have an abundance of quality seasonal decor.
- Avoid single-use plastics: Steer clear of decorations that are designed to be used once and discarded.
- Check out these 3 low waste decor ideas.
- Buy bulk: Purchasing candy in bulk reduces the quantity of individual wrappers. BONUS: Bring your reusable cloth bags.
- Choose recyclable or compostable packaging: Some brands now offer candies wrapped in eco-friendly materials. These wrappers can either be recycled or, in some cases, composted. Check labels for mentions of compostable or recyclable materials.
- Offer non-candy treats: Think pencils, erasers, or small mandarins that look like jack o' lanterns... items that can either be used longer than the fleeting life of a candy bar or with natural compostable packaging. These items reduce the immediate waste associated with candy wrappers.
- Eat it: Make pumpkin pies, soups, and roasted seeds.
- Compost: Harvest the seeds and compost the rest! Like regular food waste, a pumpkin will break down and turn into soil in the compost. Remember to remove the seeds and roast those babies but also so you don’t end up with a pumpkin patch in your compost bin!
- Donate: Some farms and organizations accept old pumpkins to feed animals. Google “Pumpkin Recycling near me” for a drop off location. These “recycling” collections typically feed livestock, farms, or animal rescues in your area.
- Local Friends: Leave it for wildlife. Squirrels and birds LOVE pumpkins 😋Just be sure not to feed animals any painted pumpkins. Look at our squirrel friend go!!!
The environmental implications of Halloween costumes loom large, but they are challenges we can rise to meet. By opting for sustainable alternatives and questioning the cycle of throwaway fashion, we can strike a balance between festive joy and ecological responsibility. This season, let's reimagine our Halloween narratives, blending cherished traditions with a commitment to our planet's well-being. Celebrate with care, for both the memories we create and the world we inhabit. 🌎🍂👻🌱🎃