Holiday Season is just around the corner starting with a bang each year that is Halloween, a favorite for many. It’s not just witches, ghosts, and vampires that are scary during Halloween. It’s much scarier to think about the massive amount of damage that disposable Halloween costumes, toxic makeup, and candy wrappers cause to the earth and humanity. In the words of Judith Enck, who heads Beyond Plastics and is a former senior Environmental Protection Agency official, Halloween should actually be called Plasticween. If we are honest, it’s a plastic and solid waste disaster.
Not to sound like a complete party pooper, let’s look at how we can create a more sustainable supply chain by shining a light on some of the Halloween manufacturing misdeeds. Let’s turn Halloween into Hallogreen!
The majority of Halloween waste comes from candy wrappers that contain plastic and aluminum, which cannot be recycled. Almost all wrappers and packages from these confections will end up in landfills after the holiday, where they will sit for decades, or clog up the waterways.
To reduce individual wrapper waste, buy candy in bulk. You then can put it in paper bags, which can be recycled.
If packaged candies are your only option, Dots, Milk Duds, and Junior Mints are packaged in cardboard boxes, Tootsie Rolls, other fruit chews, and Dubble Bubble are packaged in paper, and there are many small chocolates that come wrapped in foil that could be collected and recycled, at least in theory.
For the eco-conscious person, however, we also want to be mindful of where our chocolates are coming from, how it’s made and what the environmental and social implications are.
The production of cacao and palm oil has led to the deforestation of critical rainforests. West West Africa’s Ivory Coast has lost 80 percent of its forests since 1970, for example. That’s problematic for climate change and biodiversity. Cocoa and palm oil also raise concerns for human rights issues such as forced labor and child labor. It’s a tragic and an often overlooked fact that people in poorer parts of the world are suffering to supply for our lifestyles.
The best thing to do is buy candy that doesn’t use palm oil. Third-party certification labels such as Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance can also be your guide to help you find more ethically sourced chocolates.
Halloween costumes are mass-produced with poor materials and even worse labor standards. Hubbub, a UK environmental group, found that 83 percent of Halloween costumes are made from oil-based plastics likely to end up in landfills. In costumes alone, that’s 2,000 tons of plastic – equivalent to roughly 83 million soda bottles.
By buying second hand, reusing costumes, or making your own costume from non-plastic materials, consumers can avoid buying new plastic and still dress up for Halloween. You can also rent a costume instead of buying one. You can do a costume swap party with your friends for next Halloween.
Instead of throwing your costume out, donate it to a thrift store. Nonprofits like Halloween Helpers repurpose gently used costumes for children around the world.
Pumpkins are the less conspicuous environmental culprit of Halloween. It’s estimated that one billion pounds of pumpkin are sent to landfills after Halloween, where they decompose and produce harmful methane gases, which is a powerful greenhouse gas. Since pre-industrial times, methane has accounted for roughly 30 percent of global warming. It’s 80 times more potent at warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.
The best thing to do with your pumpkin is to compost it. If you don’t have a compost bin, find a sunny spot in the garden or any other green area, dice it up, and then cover the pumpkin pieces with some leaves to start the composting process. It will feed the soil.
To avoid contributing to more single-use waste, keep your Halloween decorations year after year. Buy eco-friendly decorations at a fall craft fair or make your own decorations out of eco-friendly products. If you have kids, this can turn into a fun and memorable DIY project. To get some ideas click here.
Buy LEDs. LED string lights are a great way to illuminate your house beyond jack-o-lanterns at night as they use less energy, produce fewer carbon emissions, and last longer than incandescent bulbs.