Monday, October 25, 2010

A Simple, Green Halloween

The Green Phone Booth welcomes Yancy for today's Meaningful Memories post.

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday, as well as my mother’s. I was raised in a household where Halloween was as big a production as Christmas with parties that were so elaborate, they took an entire month to plan. Even today, in my mid-thirties, I have found that I have carried on this tradition of making Halloween the biggest holiday of the year. Just look in my garage – I have three giant boxes of Halloween-themed decorations, and only one for Christmas decorations.

The past two Octobers, however, have found me reexamining the way I celebrate this season. I wanted to find a way to celebrate that felt more authentic – something that made me feel more connected to the earth and to my loved ones. Here are my suggestions for keeping your Halloween simple, cheap and green.

Decorate with natural objects.

Instead of buying Halloween decorations (too many of which are made from plastic), and then storing them for 11 months of the year, get your decorations from your garden, backyard, or the local park. Set out squash, pumpkins, apples, dried vines, twigs, branches, dried flowers, etc. This will cost you nothing, and can easily be tossed into the compost bin at the end of the season (or in some cases, eaten!).

You can also set out small bowls filled with spices like star anise, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods and cloves. These are not only beautiful, but they’ll add a lovely aroma to your home, as well.

Enjoy autumn’s bounty – locally.

Support your local pumpkin patches, which always have fun activities for the entire family. Visit small family farms where you can pick your own gourds, apples or other fall crops, then take them home and get cooking. Make apple butter, pies, dried fruit, soups and crisps. Let your kids help you and teach them the importance of being connected to your food.

Keep costumes simple.

You would be surprised by how many items in your current wardrobe would help you achieve the look you want for your costume. You don’t have to wear a black dress to be a witch – try a cute skirt and cardigan with striped knee socks and a witch’s hat. Always try to use what you already have, first. Ask friends and family members for items you don’t have (borrow, borrow, borrow).

If you have to buy costume items, consider buying pieces from local artisans or handmade retail sites like Etsy. By purchasing from handmade sellers, you will be supporting small (perhaps even local) businesses and can find items made from sustainable materials. Further, these items will last longer, allowing you and your family members to reuse them for many years.

Simplify your parties.

Skip creating those elaborate haunted houses and cooking all the Halloween-themed foods. Pot lucks are easier – or if you want to indulge a little, have a “dessert party” where you only serve cookies, cakes and candies. For entertainment, have your guests sit down by candlelight and read or tell ghost stories. Teach your guests how to read palms or tea leaves and use these methods for a little fortune-telling fun. Play guessing games or charades. Better yet, let your guests know that you will host a costume party with categories like “Most Eco-Friendly,” “Least Expensive,” “Most Creative,” etc. This will inspire them to create green, innovative costumes.

Make your trick-or-treating green.

While trick-or-treating is a beloved Halloween tradition, it isn’t very healthy or eco-friendly. Halloween candies are individually packaged creating an enormous amount of needless plastic waste. Further, they are filled with preservatives, dyes and corn syrup. Instead of buying these items for the trick-or-treaters in your neighborhood, try other options. If you live in a tight-knit community, organize a Halloween block party, where your children can visit each neighbor’s “station” and collect handmade treats – granola, caramel apples, dried fruit or fruit leather, apple cider, hot chocolate, etc. If you want to stick closer to tradition, try to find the greenest candies possible, like Endangered Species Chocolate Bites or items from the Natural Candy Store, though neither of these options address the issue of packaging waste.

Be creative. Try new things. You will be surprised by how easy it is to green your Halloween!

Yancy Wilkenfeldt is a blogger, environmental activist and the owner of Five Seed. You can find her at A Green Spell and Five Seed.


Anonymous said...

I loved this post! Something about this holiday brings out my crafty side and I'm a firm believer that homemade costumes are the best. In addition to cooking up a costume for my 4-year old, I also made him a Trick-or-Treat bag from an old white pillowcase. He can reuse it year after year - and it holds a lot of loot!

Thanks for mentioning our chocolate. All-natural, ethically traded candy is a good green step to take in the quest for an EEk-o-friendly Halloween!

-Monica Erskine
Endangered Species Chocolate

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

We went to a local pumpkin patch yesterday. The best part is that it was at the only certified organic farm in our county. No pumpkin carving for us, we bought some beautiful gray, sugar pumpkins, hubbards + another kind I cannot remember, for decoration + will bake them as we move through the season.

A Green Spell said...

@Monica: Oh yeah! I definitely love your chocolates! They are one of my favorite brands. Love your idea for trick-or-treat bags, too - pillow cases are so perfect for the task!

@Shona: Getting pumpkins and baking them is one of my favorite autumn activities. So green, simple and cheap! Enjoy!

Ashley said...

We just entered the start of our two-month holiday season at work (pumpkin patch field trip through Santa visit... six events. Seven if you include Red Ribbon Week).

Earlier this year I sold off my Halloween decor so no decorating this week. Instead, I thought I'd just skip the upkeep out front and let the spiders decorate my porch. Looks creepy already and the spiders are long gone now (except that daddy long legs above the door).

I stopped giving candy to the kids at work a few years ago. Instead, I give pencils. They need/use pencils anyway and the kids can leave them at school to use daily (our pencils are dissappearing for some reason) or take them home for when they have homework. I like practical gifts, and the kids are young enough that a pencil is still pretty neat.

A Green Spell said...

@Ashley: Sorry for the late reply - I got caught up in a little holiday madness! LOL. I love your ideas of letting the spiders decorate the front porch! Perfect! I also went bare minimum on Halloween decorations this year and am contemplating not even opening my decoration boxes next year. I get enough beautiful things from the garden to use, so why do I need it all?


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