Updated On 10/03/2011 | Originally Published On 10/12/2009
In the good ol' days, Halloween smelled of fall leaves, juicy apples and melted chocolate candy-and I was the cute little trick-or-treater. My mom, who is by no means a Martha Stewart kind of mom, made my most memorable costume: a raccoon. My face was painted with a button nose and whiskers. I wore an old fur hat on my head and a brown towel as a poncho. My tail was made of pantyhose that was stuffed with newspaper and wrapped in black tape. It swung behind me as I walked.
Now, thanks to the booming costume industry, Halloween has lost some of its creativity, most of its eco-friendliness and... it smells like plastic.
What's an eco-conscious parent to do?
Make your own costume.
Raid the recycling bin. Yogurt containers could be robot buttons. Toilet paper tubes could be Frankenstein plugs or a spyglass for a pirate. If you have a big cardboard box, you're definitely in business. Cut head and armholes in the box and paint it like your favorite cereal box. Turn the box into a car so your child can dress as their favorite NASCAR driver-or paint it brown to turn it into a UPS truck.
Score a new-to-you costume.
Most kids don't want to wear the same costume they wore last year, but most parents don't want to buy a new costume every year. Make the kids and parents happy by hosting a family-friendly costume swap. Who knows, you may start a new neighborhood tradition.
If hosting a swap isn't your style — or if your friends have horrible taste — check out your local freecycle or craigslist. Scour your local thrift stores for costumes and non-costumes alike. A piece that makes a statement or reminds you of a certain era (i.e. disco) can inspire a fabulous idea.
Buy an eco-friendly costume.
Pre-made eco-friendly costumes do exist, but they're a lot harder to find than a costume-in-a-bag. Harrisons Halloween has costumes made of 100 percent cotton and even a few that are made with organic cotton. Costumes made by Sarah's Silks, are made of silk-a renewable and biodegradable material. If you're willing to spend a bit ($50 and up), check out these adorable Tom Arma animal costumes. The company purchases Green-e certified renewable energy certificates to offset all of the electricity used to make their furry friends. And, each costume comes with educational information from the National Wildlife Federation.
Remember, Halloween is supposed to be fun. If you're too busy to swap costumes and comb the thrift stores and if you're absolutely convinced that you're not creative enough to make a costume, rent one. Find a local costume rental shop-they tend to pop up all over the place as Halloween nears-or find an online costume rental service.
Raid your own closet.
Finally, the easiest, cheapest and perhaps eco-friendliest way to find a Halloween costume! With enough duds from the ‘70s, you could create a hippie costume. Classic ‘80s gear could produce a stylish punk rocker. How ‘bout a Jazzerciser? All you need is a bathing suit, tights, leg warmers and a skinny belt. A bandana, hoop earrings, cut-off shorts and a ruffled shirt would make a great pirate. Sports fans, if you're really coming down to the wire, be a professional athlete. Toss on a Tom Brady jersey, grab a football and voila, you're an NFL quarterback.
If you plan to sew your child's costume, use fabric scraps or choose eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, wool or bamboo. And if your child's costume calls for a little face paint, make your own using cornstarch, water, cold cream and food coloring-it's cheaper and non-toxic.