Written by: Kristina Priotto
The spookiest thing this season may very well be the way most people are celebrating Halloween. Every year, Halloween costumes, decorations, and candy go straight to the landfill. Let’s encourage our community to take steps to make Halloween Green!
The Spooky Secret about Halloween
Unfortunately, when we think about Halloween, sustainability practices don’t necessarily come to mind. In 2021, US consumers are expected to spend an all-time high of $10.14 billion, higher than the $8.05 billion spent in 2020, according to the National Retail Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Halloween this year isn’t only breaking the bank; high consumption of single-use costumes, plastic candy wrappers, and endless decorations have a massive impact on our environment.
Most costumes weren’t made to be used more than one year in a row, which means they are produced from cheap materials derived from oil-based plastic. In 2019, an investigation conducted by the environmental group Hubbub found that 84% of Halloween costume materials, amounting to about 2,000 tons of plastic — equivalent to approximately 83 million soda bottles — ended up in the landfill.
Additionally, decorations – polyester spider webs, plastic graves and skeletons — are usually not recyclable. These seasonal clings end up in the landfill as well. And what’s a true Halloween without a Jack-O-Lantern? An estimated 1 billion pounds of pumpkin are sent to landfills after Halloween each year, where they decompose and produce harmful methane gases. These gases contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, significantly impacting climate change, not to mention the contribution the Great Pumpkin has to the 30.3 million tons of annual food waste already existent in the U.S.
Oh, and the candy- Lisa Morton, writer and Halloween expert, states: “A single trick-or-treater generates one pound of trash at Halloween. When you consider that we have over 40 million trick-or-treaters, boy, that is a lot of trash.” Most of the wrapping that is used for packaging those fun-sized pieces of candy we love is a combination of plastic and aluminum, which means it’s impossible to recycle. Metal and plastic recycling processes usually require a single type, such as just PET plastic. That means the mixed-material packaging that is used for candy is not worth separating in terms of cost and energy; all wrappers will find their way to the landfill, in the end.
How to have a Green Halloween (and Keep the Planet Inhabitable)
So, we know Halloween’s scary secret. How can we unmask solutions to have a more sustainable Halloween? First things first: don’t fall for the single-use Halloween costume trap. The truth is that the most sustainable Halloween costume is one you already have. It won’t only save the environment- it’ll also save you money. Ask your friends and family if they have pieces you can borrow to put together the whole fit. If not, local thrift stores offer a vast selection of costumes that will almost always be better than those fast fashion options targeted towards Halloween consumption. Check out your local second hand shop and find fabrics you can repurpose or see if you can find pieces you’ll continue to wear after October 31st.
Why continue the wasteful tradition of buying and throwing away Halloween pumpkins? Try out buying pumpkins from local growers or farmer’s markets. If you decide to carve a pumpkin, save the seeds and flesh for later. Look up recipes to roast the seeds and make pumpkin muffins with the flesh! You can even compost your pumpkin and plant the seeds to grow pumpkins for the next year.
As for decorations, try making your own. Check out this post that shows you how to make a DIY skeleton out of cardboard or paper that you can keep for the next year or recycle. Repurpose your toilet paper rolls and make a bat! It’s fun, simple, and environmentally friendly.
Bleed Orange. It’s Halloween! But also keep in mind the other half of the UT Office of Sustainability’s slogan: Live Green.