How to have a Zero-Waste Halloween

How to have a Zero-Waste Halloween

Is it just me or do Halloween decorations show up in stores earlier and earlier every year ? I could swear I saw some in early-August. Here in Texas, that’s like the middle of summer with 100+ degree weather. Doesn’t count as Fall, right ? Through all the hoopla and festivities, it is easy to forget what happens to all those decorations, costumes and candies after Halloween ends. Most of it is plastic trash that will end up in landfills.

Of course, the absolute zero-waste way to do it is to shut off all your lights and stay at home, but that is no fun. Living with less impact doesn't mean depriving ourselves of the things we enjoy. We can find ways to participate in traditions and holidays and with a little creativity, here’s how you can enjoy this sweet, fun and spooky holiday with lesser impact to the environment and your wallet. 


Happy Halloween

We had no clue what was Halloween back in India, don’t have kids of our own and have mostly lived in apartments here in the US. Halloween for us was mostly limited to attending costume parties - we've seen very few kids Trick-or-Treating.

Last year was our first Halloween in a family residential neighborhood and we simply handed over store-bought, plastic-wrapped candy. But seeing our sidewalk littered with candy-wrappers the next morning was not a pretty sight.

This will be our first Halloween since we decided to reduce our plastic-usage and waste and I’m researching what to distribute to the kids that isn’t wrapped in plastic. It is TOUGH.

The best way would be to make your own treats or candy or baked goods at home to hand out - but I’ve heard that most Trick or Treaters will throw away any non-packaged snacks due to safety concerns. So this will only lead to food wastage, which is not what I want.

Here are some other options to consider:

  • Alter Eco Truffles: These come individually wrapped in compostable wrappers. But they’re $45 for a 60-piece box, so at $0.75 per candy, it is more than what I’m willing to spend.
  • Individual foil-wrapped candies: Aluminum foil wrappers are recyclable. Of course, I don’t have any control over how the wrappers are disposed once I hand out the candy. Remember the ‘scrunch test’ when it comes to determining if the wrapper is foil or plastic - if it pops back to its original shape after being crumpled, it is plastic-foil composite which is not recyclable (like a chip bag).
  • Cardboard-wrapped candies: Some candies like Junior Mints come wrapped in cardstock/paper than can be composted or recycled.
  • Consider handing out recycled-content pencils or soy-based crayon instead of candy - most kids can use them. Plus you don't have to worry about allergies to candy.

If you’re going Trick or Treating with your kids, here’s some suggestions:

  • Use a pillow case or reusable bag to collect your trick-or-treat goodies.
  • Check thrift stores if they have any unique bags for the goodies - let your kids pick out what they like.
  • Go to just 1 or 2 streets instead of every house in the neighborhood, if you feel like limiting how much candy the kids get. 
  • If you end up with a lot of extra candy than you need, consider donating it to a Halloween Candy Buyback program like this, that sells your excess candy to generate funds for Veterans.
  • Dispose off all wrappers responsibly 


Halloween decorations

Most Halloween costumes I’ve bought in the past have been wrapped in plastic bags, been really flimsy and poor quality and I’ve only worn it once. This year I’ve dug through my closet and found a couple of my older costumes. So I plan to reuse one of them for any costume party this year. It is better to reuse than buy new stuff that requires more resources and energy to manufacture, pack and transport.

Here’s some other ideas for adults and kids to reduce waste due to costumes:

  • If you have kids, you can ask if any neighbors or friends have their kids’ old costumes that they don’t plan to use and you can borrow it for a day. Kids grow out of costumes so quickly and I’m sure they’ll be happy to lend you theirs. (and maybe you can bake them a nice pumpkin pie in return :-) )
  • Look around in thrift stores - you may be able to find some clothing items that can be pieced together to make a costume.
  • Search the Facebook MarketPlace or your local ‘Sell Buy’ groups to see if anyone is giving away old costumes.
  • Ask your friends if they’re willing to exchange costumes - you’ll be surprised at what they have.
  • Shop your own closet - maybe you have a sparkly dress and some pearls that can pass off as a 20’s look. Or some torn baggy jeans and loose shirts for that grunge look.
  • If you’re creative, make your own or your kids’ costumes. Pinterest has loads of ideas for DIY Halloween costumes.


Halloween decoration pumpkin dark

For Halloween decor, we still have some scary signs and hanging skeletons from last year that we will re-use. Only additional thing we may get is real pumpkins and maybe some natural hay this year. I made pumpkin pies and cookies last year - I can use these real pumpkins instead of store-bought pumpkin pie filling this time. The seeds can be roasted. Both of these can be composted if not used.

If you must buy outdoor decor, scary lights, inflatables etc, see if you can find some secondhand on Craigslist or in garage sales first. If you already have a bunch of decor, keep using it till it is viable - there is no point in adding perfectly good decor to landfill just because it is plastic.  

My biggest tip, as with most things, is to plan ahead. If you wait till the day before Halloween, you may find yourself at the nearest store buying candy, cheap costumes and plastic-decorations.

So whether you use one or multiple of these ideas, it is possible to keep the environment in mind and help keep plastic waste to a minimum during Halloween. Try to be a conscious consumer and try to do the best you can with what you have.

Do you have any other Zero-Waste Halloween tips to share ? Any more ideas for low-waste treats or goodies to hand out ? Let me know in the comments below.


 Originally written for Healthy Indian BlogHealthy Indian was founded by Malathy & Venu to empower people to live a nourishing, healthy lifestyle.  Healthy Indian provides healing foods for the body and soul with an Indian twist, yoga movements, Ayurveda, gardening, holistic research from Western medicine and a lot more. So, take a look around, soak in the goodness, and join us as we revolutionize what it means to live healthy.  Connect with them via FacebookInstagram or Pinterest

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