Tuesday Tip: How to have a green Halloween

Halloween is a great holiday for a lot of reasons. And a not-so-great holiday for one particular reason: its frightening environmental impact. Measured by consumer spending, Halloween is now the second-largest holiday in America (after Christmas) and all the paraphernalia that goes with it – decorations, costumes, and candy – do some serious annual damage to the planet.

But we’re not here to troll your party: We’re here to offer a few tips to have a green Halloween.

Hand out organic candy
Candy is sweet, but the environmental fallout is bitter indeed. Candy manufacturers and their constant requirements for sugar, palm oil and cocoa contribute to deforestation around the world and push species like orangutans, rhinos, and leopards closer to extinction every day.

And then there’s all the non-recyclable packaging that comes with mass-market candy. Chances are, the candy wrappers your parents tossed out when you were a kid are still in a landfill somewhere, leaching toxins into the ground.

Also, most large candy companies source cocoa from farms in West Africa where child labor is common. In the Ivory Coast, for example, children are trafficked to cocoa farms, beaten and forced to work long hours without pay. They’re slaves.

So this year, hand out fair-trade and/or organic candy. You can probably buy it at your local natural foods store. Or search “fair trade organic candy” online and you’ll find a lot of sellers there, like Endangered Species Chocolate or YumEarth.

Craft your own costume – or thrift it
Most of those costumes you see at the store are made from non-recyclable plastics and synthetics. You wear them once, then off they go to the landfill, where they sit for the next thousand years or so. Worse, many plastic costumes contain PVC, which is one of the most hazardous consumer products ever created. A lot of these costumes are also made by workers who toil under brutal conditions in factories overseas.

Instead, consider making your own costume. You can make one out of pieces you have around the house. Or head over to your local thrift store. Many now have sections dedicated to Halloween in October. Another option is a costume rental shop. Most have a wide selection of elaborate Halloween costumes at this time of year.

If you’re painting your face or your kid’s face, be aware of the chemicals in the paints. According to one analysis, almost half of the paints examined contained at least one heavy metal. Some had up to four heavy metals.

Decorate sustainably
Halloween comes second only to Christmas on the decoration scale, and most of the options in stores are made from plastic. If you must buy these decorations, try to choose durable ones that you can use year after year.

Or, better, make your own decorations. You can make a big black widow out of a (recyclable) black garbage bag stuffed with newspaper. A ghost from an old bedsheet. Gravestones from cardboard. Here’s a crafting site with a bunch of ideas for eco-friendly decorations.

Get your pumpkin from a local grower or a farmers market. When you carve it, keep the seeds for toasting. Drizzle them with butter or oil, add a sprinkle of salt, spread on a cookie sheet and bake in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes or until golden brown. Compost your jack-o-lantern when Halloween is over.

If you throw a Halloween party, avoid plastic. Choose reusable plates, cups, and utensils. If that’s not realistic, there are now more sustainable disposables like 100 percent recycled paper plates or organic bamboo tableware. Check out Bio & Chic, which has everything from sugarcane plates to cornstarch cutlery.

Halloween doesn’t have to be an environmental nightmare. Keep it green and have a sustainable good time. We’ll see you out there.

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