Want to get on board with making Halloween healthier for kids and the planet but don’t know where to start? We’ve got 10 easy ideas that will help you celebrate an EEK-O fab holiday while keeping all the F-U-N.
Get a jump start. Unless you’re a Halloween junkie, like most moms, you likely hit the stores the week (or even hour) before the festivities begin. But greening your Halloween is a lot easier if you take just a little time to plan. Not too much, just a bit – we promise.
Planning allows you to save money (last minute purchases = impulse buys) and to assemble eco-friendlier items from treats or treasures to décor without the stress that comes from last-minute decision making.
So grab a notebook and make a list of what you need. Do you want to hand out organic candy? Have your kids make their own costumes from what you’ve got on hand? Whip up your own face paints to avoid chemicals in commercial brands? Honestly, none of this takes much time when you plan ahead.
Get the kids on board. The second secret to pulling off a green Halloween is to get kids to buy in – by your positive attitude. Children who are told out of the blue, “We’re not going to buy you a new costume this year,” or “No candy for you!” certainly won’t be interested in supporting green efforts.
You know your children best, but a great way to approach them is by selecting one or two ideas from the list below and asking, “What would you think if….” You may be surprised that when you approach from a positive framework, i.e.” This is going to be a lot of fun and we’re going to make it happen together”—most children will get excited.
Once you’re got your shopping list and your kids enlisted, it’s time to carve out your eco-friendly options.
Here’s 10 of our favorite tips:
1. Choose no-waste pumpkins. Instead of purchasing one big pumpkin, how about selecting several smaller ones, then, instead of carving, painting on faces with non-toxic paints or decorating with yarn, ribbon, bottle caps and other found items. Smaller pumpkins can be put in the fridge when not on display to keep them fresher and once Halloween is over, you should be able to cook ‘em up instead of tossing.
2. Use beeswax candles. If you do carve and put a candle in your pumpkin, choose 100% beeswax. Most candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum by-product. Beeswax burns cleanly, lasts longer and releases a wonderful, all natural aroma. You may have heard that soy candles are a good alternative to paraffin, but soy is often genetically modified and its planting and harvesting can bring up other environmental issues. Beeswax comes from—bees! It is not modified in any way although natural color may be added to candles.
3. Use LED lights. By now everyone knows that incandescent lights don’t last very long, cost pretty pennies to use and burn HOT. LEDs now come in every size from mini-flashlight to outdoor spotlight. They are the safer, more sustainable option.
4. Seek out alternatives to conventional candy. For many families, this seems challenging. But we know that kids will go for treats and treasures other than what you usually associate with Halloween.
Over the last four years, we’ve tested the theory with a display board with dozens of alternatives—everything from beautiful colored stones to organic lollipops, whole foods bars, seed packets, pencils made from recycled paper are just a few. Literally thousands and thousands of kids from four to teen have told us they would be excited if these choices were in their bag. In fact, for the most part, kids are much less stuck on conventional candy that parents think. So go to Green Halloween and with your kids, look over the long list of treats and treasures, then pick out a few you’d like to try this year. Still skeptical? Offer a choice.
5. Set up or participate in a costume swap. According to Robert Lilienfeld of the Use Less Stuff Report, roughly 25 million children in the United States celebrate Halloween. Swapping just half of their costumes would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equivalent to the weight of 2500 midsize cars! And this doesn’t even address adult costumes.
You can set up your own neighborhood swap of course, or join the fun on National Costume Swap Day, the second Saturday in October. Check out the National Costume Swap Day™ website for ideas on how to set up a swap as well as link to swap sites both local and online.
6. Make décor instead of buying. In 2009, spending on all aspects of Halloween totaled $4.75 billion. This figure of course, includes décor, candy, costumes and other items, since Halloween is the second biggest holiday after Christmas for décor, obviously a huge chunk of change goes toward glowing lawn art, orange and black table decorations and millions of sets of Halloween-themed light strings.
If you’re aiming for a Green Halloween, try cutting your décor budget by 25%. Then fill in the difference with handmade items. Just Google “Halloween crafts,” and you’ll find hundreds of suggestions. One of ours is to make a Halloween tree by taking a branch from outside, then having the kids draw and cut out ghosts, pumpkins etc. and hang them from the tree. More ideas can be found here.
A fun way to get started with “upcycled” décor is to set a timer for 15 minutes, then send family members on a hunt around the house for items that can be transformed into décor. An orange and black t-shirts for instance, can be secured around pillows.
7. Hand out less. Everyone acknowledges we have a childhood obesity problem in this country. Nonetheless, people say, “Why not give out bunches of candy? It’s only once a year.”
The fact is that kids are exposed to candy and other sweets daily. It’s in everything from cereal to the lollipop they get at the bank.
We’ve shown that Halloween can be just as much fun even when a child brings home significantly less than the average of 10 pounds.
Like everything else in America, Halloween has become supersized. Today’s parents can remember being given one or two candy bars. Today it’s handfuls.
Whether you opt to give out conventional candy or alternatives, you can help steer children away from excess by offering just one or two items. What a concept, eh?
One successful strategy is to put a variety of items in a large bowl. When the doorbell rings, instead of inviting kids to dig in, explain that you are offering everyone a choice of one special item. Look each child in the eye and ask, “What special treat would YOU like?” As their hands seek out their choice, encourage them and smile and congratulate them on their final choice.
We can hear you saying, “But I get 25 kids at a time storming the door.”
To which we reply, “So?”
What’s wrong with slowing things down? Paying attention to each child, supporting their health (and your pocketbook – think how much less you’ll need to purchase) and having fun is what Halloween should be about. If some kids don’t want to wait, that’s up to them, but more likely, word will quickly get around and line will go around the block!
8. Walk in your neighborhood, don’t drive. One year we lived in Colorado and on Halloween evening the temperature plunged into the teens. We had moved up from Arizona and our blood was still as they say, a bit thin. But we braved the elements and had the best time.
We’re all about driving in this country, along with getting through whatever as quickly as possible. This is what we teach our children when, instead of walking the neighborhood, we drive them house-to-house or even block-to-block on Halloween.
In addition of course, driving creates emissions and idling is even worse. So bundle up and walk.
Another option to going door-to-door? Wrangle a few neighbors and co-host a Halloween-themed “progressive party.”
9. Bag it, green style. Instead of buying a single-use, disposable candy-carrier, make your child’s goodie bag from a pillow case or anything else you already own that goes with the theme of the costume. A purse for a princess? A backpack for a mountain climber? A helmet for a football player? Or, purchase a keepsake, reusable Green Halloween® trick-or-treat ChicoBag™. (Designed each year by kids! Enter the design contest here. 10% of the sales support the Green Halloween initiative.)
10. “Recycle” candy & natural décor. Food rotting in landfills leads to the release of methane gas, which contributes to climate change. So don’t toss leftover candy and rotting pumpkins – recycle them! Composting turns food waste and natural décor (such as hay from your scarecrow) into nutrient-rich food for your plants, shrubs and trees. And even if you don’t have curbside composting or a home-composter, you can still compost at home. Watch this video and see how easy-breezy it is. Here are a few additional ideas for what to do with leftover candy.