A Green Halloween

It's October. Time for visions of ghosts and goblins (plus costume parties and candy) to start dancing in our heads. Halloween can be a fun and exciting time for children and adults alike. But you don't need to spend a fortune on plastic décor, cheap costumes, and processed foods to have a great time. A Green Halloween is healthier, costs less, and has less of an environmental impact than a traditional Halloween, without sacrificing any of the holiday fun. Check out how to make this Halloween a green one.

The Treats
The processed food industry uses over 6,000 different synthetic chemicals (check out Food Additives To Avoid). Do your trick-or-treaters (and their parents) a favor and opt for healthier options that, at the very least, do not contain hydrogenated/partially hydrogenated oils or artificial coloring. Organic and fair-trade treats with limited salt, sugar and caffeine are an even better idea. You may be surprised by the number of healthier, greener options on the market today. A few options include fair-trade chocolates, organic dried fruit, granola bars, or candy made with fruit juice and natural colors.

Also, try handing out less. Back in the day we had to work for our candy – walking a couple hours to fill our little plastic pumpkins. Now with so many households handing out full-size candy bars or fist-fulls of minis, kids can be done filling their basket after a single block. What's the fun in that?! Hand out just one or two pieces of good quality, healthier candy. Encourage friends and neighbors to do the same.

You could even forget the sweets all together and offer non-candy treats like a small toy made from recycled plastics, pencils, tattoos, crayons, coloring books, or stickers.

You can also think green when you are doing the trick-or-treating. If you already own a plastic pumpkin for carrying candy, use it year after year rather than buying a new one. If not, craft your own tote from a pillowcase, basket, or other already-owned item that goes with the costume. If possible, walk to where you trick-or-treat rather than drive. Older children can do reverse trick-or-treating and collect donations for charities like UNICEF, the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, or the Red Cross. Or, skip the trick-or-treating and organize a neighborhood party instead.

Forgo costumes and accessories made of plastic, especially soft vinyl/ PVC which offgases dangerous chemicals and cannot be recycled. Instead, opt for costumes made from all-natural materials such as cotton, silk, and wool. Check thrift stores or even around your home for clothing and other materials you can use to craft your own unique costume.

Carefully consider the makeup you use as well. Many cosmetics, even the ones labeled “nontoxic”, contain mercury, lead, pthalates, parabens, and/or other harmful chemicals.

In fact, last year the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in every makeup sample it analyzed. Look for eco-friendly makeup or make your own with food-based ingredients. Simply check online for recipes.

Halloween is the second biggest holiday for the sale of décor after Christmas. Instead of spending money on plastic pumpkins and skeletons, look around for items you already own, check thrift stores, and scour online sites like Freecycle for items you can use to make your own Halloween decorations. You can use old clothes, newspaper, and leaves to craft a scarecrow or decorate with natural items that can be composted like leaves, apples, pumpkins, gourds, and hay bales.

Candles can provide the just-right spooky glow, but traditional paraffin candles can produce some pretty scary toxins when burned. The American Lung Association and the EPA have warned consumers that using paraffin candles can decrease indoor air quality. Opt for organic soy or beeswax candles scented with essential oil with non-lead wicks instead.

Start your Halloween party on the right, green note by sending invitations electronically, via email, Facebook, or a site like Evite. You'll save paper and money and make it easier for people to respond.

When it comes to any type of party, the worst environmental offender is usually all the disposable plates, cups, utensils, napkins, and tablecloths. Instead of buying paper or plastic tableware, offer reusable options. If you don't have enough at home, you can always check out thrift stores for an eclectic mix of tableware you can use for future parties. Reusable plastic cutlery and compostable paper plates are another option.

The principles of eating green apply to party food as well. Prepare as much as you can at home and opt for local and organic when possible. Reduce waste by filling pitchers with beverages rather than offering bottled or boxed drinks.

Some of the funnest party games and activities require little or no materials. Just a few options to consider: limbo, hula-hoop contest, musical chairs, dancing, dunking for apples or trying to bite apples hanging from strings, building scarecrows from recycled materials. Have guest bring candy wrappers for crafts such as candy wrapper wallets, belts, picture frames, bracelets and purses (just search “candy wrapper purse” online for ideas).

Finally, make recycling easy for guests by placing clearly labeled recycling bins in a convenient location everyone can reach.

Now, go out and enjoy your Green Halloween!

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