A couple of years ago, my daughters were baffled to discover that one of our neighbors dropped an ear of popping corn in their trick or treat baskets. But I wasn’t: This particular neighbor’s front porch is the pickup spot for a CSA and she’s a big supporter of local river cleanup efforts. Given that I was finding little scraps of candy wrappers around my house for days, it was refreshing to be able to pop the cob right in the microwave and throw the spent cob in my compost pail.
That little cob of corn has stuck in my mind in recent Halloweens as I watch the candy wrappers go in the trash (most aren’t recyclable), along with the cheap, flimsy decorations that my kids seem to convince me to buy, and the costumes they’ll outgrow by next year (what kid wants to be the same thing two years in a row?).
Can Halloween be enjoyed without ending up with a landfill-bound bag of trash the next day? I think so — here’s how!
1. Give earth-friendly treats. When you’re deciding what to hand out to trick-or-treaters, consider the environment. Foil candy wrappers, such as from Hershey’s Kisses, are recyclable (plus, Hershey has six zero-waste manufacturing facilities). There are some great organic and fair-trade options on the market, like Equal Exchange’s Fair Trade Your Halloween Kit, which comes in a recyclable cardboard display box. Another great option is allergy-friendly, organic candies from YumEarth. While it’s tricky to find candies with eco-friendly packaging right now, it might not be in the future: Mars is experimenting with bioplastic packaging, which is made from corn and would break down without harming the environment.
2. Pass out treats that aren’t to eat. If you want to go the inedible route, steer clear of the cheap plastic junk that will only end up cluttering kids’ rooms before getting thrown out. Instead, consider useful items like pencils made from newspaper, coins (a great time to clean out that big box of change you’ve been amassing), or Lego pieces.
3. Be green with your own candy wrappers. There’s no escaping the candy that’ll be just about everywhere in the days before and after Halloween (even if you don’t have kids, chances are your workplace will be full of it!). The Internet is full of fun projects you can do with candy wrappers. Plain foil wrappers or clear plastic can be recycled with the rest of your foil and plastic film. TerraCycle offers a collection box for wrappers — why not see if your local school or library will serve as a collection point?
4. Feed the chickens. While composting your old jack-o-lanterns is a great waste-saving idea, several Recyclebank members who read my Halloween tips last year noted that they have found a different way to dispose of their pumpkins: Feeding chickens! Check with neighbors who raise backyard chickens, or local farmers, to see if they might want your old pumpkins as chicken feed. Wildlife might also enjoy noshing on our pumpkin trash, so you can also break up pumpkins and leave them in the woods for deer or raccoons to enjoy.
5. Decorate wisely. I don’t generally decorate for Halloween, which astounds my mom, whose shed is filled with bins of decorations for just about every holiday. If she happens to visit in the fall, she’ll often run to the dollar store to trick out my house, but usually I end up throwing away the flimsy decorations at the end of the season. Investing in, or making, a few well-made holiday decorations would be far wiser from an environmental standpoint, since they’d be saved from year to year, rather than trashed.
6. Dress for (eco) success. As with decorations, Halloween costumes are often not well made and get too trashed to save from year to year. This year, plan your costume with its post-holiday life in mind. Can you use components that can be saved to use again next year, such as wings or a wig? Can you borrow or swap costumes for your kids, rather than buy something new? Or can your costume be assembled from stuff around the house? Any of these options are better than buying something that you’ll just throw in the trash.