Halloween Waste is a Huge Problem
It's that time of year. Spooky accessories decorate the city, beautifully carved out pumpkins guard the city’s doorsteps, and children are dressing up in their favorite costumes to get ready for trick-or-treating.
On the flipside: Did you know that the spookiest thing about Halloween is the amount of waste that is generated in the short season. Here are five sustainable choices how to reduce your contribution to Halloween waste.
1. Halloween Pumpkins
Halloween is not complete without carving out a creepy pumpkin face. That is indeed one of the fun family activities that cannot be missed during Halloween preparation. The problem is not the pumpkins per se, but how little of them is actually consumed. In 2020 the US produced 2 billion pounds of Halloween pumpkins. Even though most parts of your Halloween pumpkin are edible, around 1.3 billion pounds (or 65%) ended up on landfills as food waste.
The next time you carve your pumpkin, follow these steps to avoid food waste
- Roast the seeds: Separate them from the flesh, clean them, dry them, and roast them in the oven at 300 degrees until they are golden (30-50 minutes). Add some olive oil and sea salt and snack them while watching your favorite horror movie.
- Process the flesh: There are many, many delicious recipes for your pumpkin flesh. You can make puree and use it for pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup, you can grate it for pumpkin bread or muffins, or you can even slice it up thinly for tasty pumpkin chips to pair with your roasted seeds from above. Just do a quick google search and you’ll be overwhelmed with recipes.
- Compost the rest: Chop up whatever you can’t use and compost it. If you have garden, you can even compost the chopped-up pieces in place for some extra soil treatment. Just make sure you smash the pieces with a hammer to accelerate the decomposition and cover the pieces with some soil and leaves. Without a garden, tabletop composers are a great option.
2. Halloween Costumes
Again, costumes are something we do not want to miss during Halloween celebration. The joy that comes with kids dressing up and getting ready for trick-or treating is something that should not be missed. It is estimated that Americans purchase around 35 million costumes every year. Most of these costumes are packaged in non-recyclable plastic bags and an estimated 40% of those are only worn once. Adding into the equation that 83% of Halloween costumes use non-recyclable oil based plastic, you can imagine the terrible environmental impact.
Why don’t you try these tips to have a more sustainable celebration and even save money?
- Buy secondhand: The usual marketplaces and thrift stores offer a plethora of secondhand Halloween costumes in all sizes and preferences.
- DIY: if you want to make it even more fun, try building your own costume from old clothes. It does not always have to be the classic “bedsheet ghost” costume, but you can really get creative.
3. Halloween Treats
Every year, Americans load up on an estimated 600 million pounds of candy for Halloween. Most of this candy is packaged in plastic. While most plastic wrappers are recyclable, most of them end up in the regular household waste (or worse, accidentally ends up in nature). Some more sustainable options are:
- Candy wrapped in paper or aluminum: If you spend some time in the grocery store purposely looking for candy not wrapped in plastic, you will find that there are some great alternatives. To name some examples, cookies, chocolate bars or peanut butter cups often come wrapped in paper or aluminum foil (which is easier to separate from regular waste by recycling machines).
- Bulk candy: Many bulk stores offer delicious candies in bulk. Just bring your own storage container and hand the candy out in a sustainable reusable bag or cardboard boxes.
- DIY: As always, there is also the option to just make the sweet treats yourself. Mini cupcakes, brownies or cookies are great options, if you want to hand out treats with a good conscience.
4. Halloween Decoration
Americans create 25% more trash during the holiday season. A lot of this trash comes from single-use decorations. We understand that decoration majorly contributes to the fun and spooky mood of this holiday. Unfortunately, Halloween decorations are typically made of cheap, oil-based single plastics that are non-recyclable. Here are some great sustainable alternatives for your spooky vibe:
- Reusable decoration: If you start looking, you will find a lot of reusable decoration made from glass, ceramics, or wood. Just pay a little more and you will be able to reuse your decoration next year, rather than throwing it in the trash.
- DIY: Again, creating your own decoration can be a lot of fun. Get some branches to create a creepy scarecrow or create ghosts from balls and bedsheets. You can really get creative and stand out with some unique decoration that cannot be found at the next dollar store.
5. Reusable Halloween Treat Bags
All that candy needs to be stored somewhere, right? Americans use 100 billion plastic bags every year and Halloween is not an exception. Switching to reusable containers or bags for trick-or-treating takes no effort at all and can play a significant role in reducing plastic pollution.
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Sources: weforum.org, usatoday.com, fashionunited.uk, www.ctvnews.ca, budgetdumpster.com, lbre.stanford.edu