Reducing Waste this Halloween

Halloween is spooky business when it comes to waste management. All the candy bars, wrappers, costumes, decorations, etc. are sitting on shelves just waiting to be either purchased or tossed in the trash. Lots of pumpkins also go to waste during Halloween, either rotting in the grocery store or on our decks. Our U.S. farmers work diligently to provide us with festive gourds to be carved, dimly lit, and trashed. That’s right! Unfortunately, we produce a lot of waste by celebrating Halloween.

October starts the quarter of the year when everyone scrambles to the supermarkets, saves their credit card information to their favorite websites, and succumbs to the endless bouts of holiday consumerism. It isn’t just during Christmas that people buy needlessly. Halloween rushes for candy and costumes breaks the bank and causes massive amounts of waste. The National Retail Federation estimates consumer spending will reach $8.8billion for Halloween alone. Most of that will be spent on candy, with decorations and costumes having the next highest impact.

So, how can we help to reduce waste (and save money) this Halloween? There are several ways to start.

Get creative with your costumes.

Are you trying to reduce waste and save money? Get creative with your Halloween costumes. Try making them with what you already have or re-wearing costumes from Halloweens past. You could also borrow costumes, accept hand-me-downs for your children, or rent your costumes from a local costume rental shop. 

Roast your jack-o-lantern.

Carving pumpkins is one of my personal favorite Halloween activities. I love sitting around with friends, listening to music, with a pumpkin in my lap, and innards between my fingers. In recent years, we’ve fed the guts to my mother-in-law’s pig, Elliott. He loves pumpkin and being able to feed it to him is great for reducing waste.

You probably don’t have a pig to feed pumpkin snacks to. If you do – great! But, if you don’t, scoop those guts into a bowl to save for later. There are lots of ways to enjoy pumpkin scraps, although the most versatile is pumpkin puree. 

The innards aren’t the only edible part of your pumpkin. Try roasting your jack-o-lantern a few days after carving it. You can save or can the puree for Thanksgiving recipes or use it all throughout November. Eating your pumpkin is a great way to reduce waste and eat what’s in season. 

Limit or restrict candy purchases.

I’m sure you’ve taken a stroll through your neighborhood or to the end of your driveway after a night of trick-or-treating. Ever noticed the stray candy wrappers on the curb or blowing in the wind across your neighbor’s yard? Maybe you’ve purchased three bags of candy anticipating lots of trick-or-treaters, but nobody came to your door? 

Monitoring your candy purchases can help reduce waste in the home and on the street. Click here for some eco-friendly ideas about what to give your trick-or-treaters.

Don’t be a litterbug. (Offer to take trick-or-treaters’ trash)

Maybe you still want to buy lots of candy for those adorable children. If so, offer to take some trash off of their hands and encourage them to only take one or two pieces of candy.

Terracycle offers a recycling program which allows you to recycle most candy wrappers. This is a great way to combat candy waste during Halloween.

Reuse decorations from previous years.

I love Halloween decorations, almost as much as costumes. I could never ask anyone to stop decorating! There are ways to decorate however, which can help reduce waste. Reusing decorations from previous years is an easy way to prevent them from going to a landfill.

Use sustainable items for decorations.

Lots of Halloween decorations are made from paper or plastic. Instead of buying cheap, unsustainable decorations, create a beautiful display made from pumpkins, squashes, sticks, and leaves.

Use pillow cases, totes, or bags instead of plastic buckets or bags.

Have you been to Target or Walmart this time of year? (I try to avoid it with all my might.) There are aisles of cheap, plastic pumpkin buckets. Yes, they are festive and perfect for small, children’s hands. However, they are not made sustainably and break easily, thus finding eventually their way to disposal.

Instead of buying something new, use a pillow case or grocery tote for trick-or-treating. They are way more durable, fit more candy, and are less likely to end up in the landfill.

Don’t rake your leaves.

Hmmmm. What does raking your leaves have to do with anything? We shouldn’t rake our leaves for two reasons: 1) raked leaves are usually placed in plastic garbage bags and thrown away, and 2) raking leaves disrupts your yard’s natural habitat. We want to keep our yard critters happy, soil fertile, and protect our grass from the winter weather.

For the sake of reducing waste and saving time, leave your leaves be.

Start your compost!

Composting is a great way to reduce waste and benefit from it! Fall is the perfect time of year to start your compost. Organic materials, such as leaves, grass clippings, and pumpkins, are naturally readily available. Starting in the fall is also helpful because there are fewer bugs.

I’m still a beginner when it comes to composting. If you’d like more information about how to start click here.

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