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.