Year for the Planet Week 41: 31 Ways to a Zero Waste Halloween

Year for a Planet is a personal challenge to be a better human for the planet for a whole year. This year, 2017, is where I deal with my food choices.

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I’m not big on Halloween, but it’s inescapable in most cities I’ve lived in. This week, I examine the ways we can observe this pagan celebration that grew a capitalistic tumor fun holiday and get our scares on without having too much of an environmental impact, from costumes to pumpkins to trick-or-treating to post-Halloween activities.

1. Skip it. Make it a stay-at-home Halloween and stream a couple of horror movies. Seriously, having to dress up to ask for sugary processed food in strangers’ houses in the dead of night is not my idea of fun. But if you must, move on to the next steps.
2. Decorate your house using biodegradable materials.
3. Make your costume instead of buying one.
4. While you’re at it, make a costume whose parts you can recycle next year.
5. If you must have a costume, make a minimalist one out of paper.
6. If you’re actually big on costumes, wear one that highlights environmental issues. Go as a sloth, a jaguar, a rainforest! Or get snarky and dress as the latest COP agreement.
7. When designing your costume, find alternatives to glitter, plastic confetti, and other small items that can end up as micro plastics in the ocean.
8. To save on material, see how far you can do with makeup, face paint, or glow-in-the-dark body paint instead. Make sure these are safe for the skin and for the planet.
9. Find a locally-sourced pumpkin to carve. This might seem intuitive but be prepared to be outraged in some big supermarkets.
10. If carving pumpkins, collect what you don’t need and use in your dishes for the next couple of weeks. Pumpkin smoothies! Pumpkin lattes! Pumpkin pie! Remember to eat the carved pumpkin after Halloween, too. If there’s a healthy part of Halloween, this is it—pumpkin is full of fiber, potassium, beta-carotene and other nutrients that can boost your immune system, eyes, heart health, post-workout recovery, mood, and skin.
11. If your climate and space permit, plant the seeds from your pumpkin. You might just harvest your own next year.
12. If you’re giving candy for trick-or-treating, give out homemade delicious treats that are free from refined sugar and are not wrapped in plastic. You don’t have to give the kids vegetables or anything they might find disappointing, but healthy-fied zero-waste versions of favorite snacks.
13. If your kid has a huge haul of treats, help him practice sharing by giving some of them to kids who don’t have any.
14. If you have a bit more time and if your community is a bit too stressed this week to think about these things, help them by sharing environmentally healthy Halloween to-dos.
15. Put a spin on trick-or-treating by turning it into a trick-or-giving activity (and please find a better name for this than I have!). Have kids go around the neighborhood giving healthy treats to kids in need or those in the hospital.
16. If you’ve run out of healthy treat ideas or if you need to prepare for a particularly large crowd that makes cooking too stressful, make non-food items instead, such as painted stones, compostable sachets of fresh herbs, jewelry made from natural fibers, etc.
17. Make reusable or compostable trick-or-treat bags.
18. Make the night an exercise in creativity by doing activities such as writing scary stories or taking Halloween-themed photos instead of trick-or-treating.
19. Save electricity and give your eyes a break from screen time by spending Halloween night telling scary stories under candlelight.
20. Tired of the usual Halloween activities? Have some environmentally-themed ones such as gardening, recycling, and other activities you can do with your costume.
21. When making your Halloween feast, teach our kids (or anyone, really) how to cook them. It’s never too early or too late to get people to make their own meals. This could well be people’s introductions to turning on an oven.
22. Make a Halloween-themed picnic of homemade food instead of eating in a restaurant.
23. DIY leaf crafts and while your at it, learn more about the plants that grow around you.
24. Release your inner witch by learning about and cooking with herbs and spices with medicinal qualities.
25. Learn about Halloween traditions around the world. Not everything is about buying and eating candy.
26. Make Halloween about nature and less about consumption. Take a Halloween hike and make a new tradition.
27. Take a few minutes practicing gratitude instead of counting who had the most candy.
28. End the Halloween night by giving yourself and your family or friends a DIY facial using natural ingredients. It’s also a great way to let your skin take a break after all that thick Halloween makeup.
29. Spend the next morning helping your neighborhood pick up Halloween trash—it will help burn those extra calories you had last night.
30. Store leftover Halloween candy in reusable containers and make it your stash of treats for the rest of the year instead of buying anything new. Eat them sporadically and as a minimal ingredient to healthy meals, such as using chocolate as a topping to oatmeal, etc.
31. Make a family or community Halloween compost. Get into the spirit by turning it into a Halloween ritual complete with chants and dancing.

What are your zero waste Halloween tips?

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