This week we celebrate one of the stranger holidays on the calendar: We dress our kids up in cheap, plastic costumes and send them to strangers’ homes for candy. This custom is one that arguably has led to millions of pounds of waste generated by the disposal of outfits that are generally used only once. In recent years, though, efforts have sprouted up to tackle that problem – trying to mitigate the wasteful nature of the costuming and candy-eating tradition (there’s even a website and blog dedicated to this cause specifically at http://greenhalloween.org/). In the spirit of the holiday I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight some of the easier ways each of us can make Halloween a bit more green.
Probably the most obvious, but also the most effectual, environmental twist on the holiday is the concept of a “Costume Swap.” The idea is quite simple. Instead of throwing away last year’s Halloween costume, trade it with someone else who has a different one for use this year. This is recycling in its most pure form. Costumes that would be part of the waste stream, because they are either out of favor with a particular child or no longer fit, are instead reused year after year. This year, October 8 was National Costume Swap Day. Parents in all parts of the country designated local outposts where they could exchange costumes; information about the locations and times was made available on social networking sites. According to Green Halloween swapping half of the costumes worn by children on Halloween would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, which is the equivalent of 2,500 midsize cars.
Buy Organic and Local
The growing popularity of the organic and local food movement has made some reconsider the source of the traditional Halloween decorations and treats. (see this article from Slate). For the environmentally conscious, the criteria for the perfect pumpkin for this year’s jack-o-lantern included two more traits besides size and shape – organic and local. Fortunately, a pumpkin is a type of produce that for many of us has always been locally sourced – a fall weekend outing to pick a pumpkin complete with the obligatory hayride is almost an American tradition. Finding an organically grown one is slightly more challenging, though by no means impossible. Much more trying, however, is the task of procuring organic, yet still tasty and affordable, treats to delve out on Halloween. Despite the difficulty of this task, it is an environmentally important one, as separate studies by environmental scientists in Sweden and Great Britain have suggested that consumers cut the amount of sugary foods in their diets by as much as 50 percent. With the National Confectioners Association projecting that at least $2.2 billion worth of candy will be sold this Halloween season, if a larger portion of that were spent on organic candy the environment and our health might be improved.
The final tip is the simplest of them all, and it has the dual benefit of saving money and the environment, though it may upset some children. On October 31, when trick-or-treaters come knocking, by all means bring out the candy, but instead of allowing them to take handfuls from a giant bucket, consider giving only one piece to each child. This simple act of moderation will not only serve a similar function as buying organic in that it reduces the amount of sugary foods in our diets, but it will also reduce the waste created by candy wrappers. Though most candy wrappers are made from plastic they are generally not recyclable and therefore end up in landfills. Different from the one-type plastic used to make soft drink bottles, candy wrappers are usually made up of mixed materials, making the recovery of useful materials difficult and expensive. Taking even a fraction of this waste out of the stream will undoubtedly help the planet.
YCELP wishes you and yours a Happy (and Green) Halloween!