Halloween generates a lot of waste, with plastic and food waste encouraged by companies more than ever during this holiday.
Most Halloween products are single-use, and to keep them cheap they’re usually made from synthetic materials.
Even small changes can make a big difference over time. Taking a look at how you celebrate Halloween and what you could swap out or change is an important first step to making Halloween more sustainable.
There are many ways to have a more sustainable Halloween, from swapping out pre-made decorations for your own or piecing together a costume by yourself.
However you celebrate the spookiest day of the year, try some of these suggestions and make your own, eco-friendly traditions too!
Tips for a more sustainable Halloween
Before we start, let’s consider what the most environmentally unfriendly parts of Halloween are. This includes:
- Plastic candy wrappers
- Plastic disposable decorations
- Synthetic single-use costumes
- Toxic Halloween makeup kits
- Disposable batteries
Candy contributes plenty of waste, especially when packaged in so much plastic, so swapping them out for more eco-friendly treats can make a big difference.
Not every house dresses up for Halloween, but the spookiest fans and Halloween parties often use a lot of disposable, plastic decorations. Fabric banners, plain pumpkins, compostable cutlery, and making your own decorations can go a long way to cutting down on this waste.
You can do other activities to get into the spooky mood, too, like going to a local Halloween event or watching a horror movie!
Cheap synthetic costumes are usually made in a rush and contribute to waste with fabric scraps and unsold costumes being sent to landfills.
When picking out a Halloween costume, ask yourself whether you’ll ever wear it again, or if you could try making it yourself. If it’s just for the one night, you could rent a fancy dress costume instead, or piece together bits from your wardrobe and add some accessories.
Cosmetics are one of the least regulated industries, and though the companies have a legal responsibility to ensure their products are safe, many cosmetics do not have to undergo specific tests to ensure their safety.
Not only can Halloween makeup irritate your skin, Halloween cosmetics can also contain harmful chemicals like lead, which is particularly harmful to children and wildlife.
Disposable batteries often get ignored when it comes to waste. It’s easy to toss them away. Halloween decorations are often battery-powered, whether it’s a screaming ghost or a skeleton with a sinister laugh.
If you do buy or use these decorations, swap disposable batteries for rechargeable batteries to cut down on waste and potential chemical leakage.
And instead of throwing out your old batteries, look for companies who will recycle or properly dispose of batteries.
Sustainable Halloween treats
In 2011, it was found that $2 billion was spent in the US alone just on Halloween candy, making it one of the biggest holidays for the candy and chocolate industry. Estimates in 2020 put this up to $2.6 billion.
Not all of it is eaten either, though we have no idea just how much of that candy goes uneaten and tossed in the garbage once it’s past its sell-by date.
Buying Fair Trade chocolate is one of the best ways to supply eco-friendly treats.
Whenever you buy anything Fair Trade you know that the farmers and producers are getting paid a fair wage. Many also use recyclable packaging.
Foil-wrapped chocolates are better than those packaged in plastic because the foil can be rolled up and recycled when put in aluminum cans. You can also usually buy them from bulk bins.
If you purchase any sweets packaged in netting, try to reuse the netting in your Halloween costume or decorations too!
If you have time on your hands, making your own Halloween treats for you and your family helps cut down on plastic and food waste too.
While handing out baked goods to trick-or-treaters probably isn’t going to be as popular post-pandemic, you can make delicious Halloween-themed treats. BBC Good Food’s Halloween recipe collection is a good place to start!
You can even forgo the edible treats entirely and give your family and friends spooky gifts instead.
Sustainable Halloween costumes
Most Halloween costumes are single-use and mostly made of cheap synthetic materials.
Instead of buying new, try checking your wardrobe for what you already have to turn into a costume. If you need anything extra you can buy plain clothes for the occasion that can be worn any day of the year.
There are other reasons to avoid commercial Halloween costumes, too. Many are made with PVC/vinyl and can be contaminated by lead and phthalates.
If you absolutely need a costume, look for secondhand costumes or swap with friends. You might even want to consider hosting a Halloween swap online or locally.
When choosing cosmetics for your costume, avoid the cheap, Halloween-themed palettes and face paints, as these often contain hazardous chemicals like lead, phthalates, and parabens.
Instead, find vegan non-toxic face paints as these will be plant-based. Natural Earth Paint sells paints derived from natural pigments and oils, including face paints.
You can even make your own face paint. Mommypotamus’ cornstarch-based face paint uses natural food coloring, honey, flour, and water. Or you can try Eco Child’s Play’s non-toxic face paint that uses cornstarch, diaper rash cream, and either colorful food or organic pigments.
Make sure you only pick up eco-friendly, compostable glitter if you want to sparkle too!
If you need accessories, consider checking websites like Etsy to support small businesses and look for exactly what you need – and so you can check what it’s made from too.
After you’re done with them, you can see if someone else would like them for next year or donate them.
Sustainable Halloween decoration ideas
The majority of Halloween decorations are wasteful, disposable, and made of plastic.
Unless you’re reusing the same decorations every year, decorating your house is bound to create some waste. Whether it’s polyester fake spiderwebs or little plastic pumpkins or skeletons with a voice box.
The most environmentally friendly decorations you can get are carved pumpkins, but even pumpkins generate waste if you don’t properly dispose of them.
Here are some of the best sustainable Halloween decoration ideas I’ve found:
- Solar-powered lights
- Make your own paper decorations
- Stick figures
- Scarecrows using old clothes or pillowcases
- Fabric banners
- Pumpkin planters
- Spiderwebs made from yarn
- Bottlecap spiders (swap out acrylic paint and googly eyes for water-based paint, and use that leftover yarn instead of pipe cleaners then dangle them around with some string to make these more eco-friendly!)
- Use empty paper towel or toilet paper rolls for floating candles with a little string and paper
- Cardboard box tombstones and wooden “stakes” with any spare wood offcuts
- Egg carton ghosts (you can leave out the white paint or make bats if you have some black water-based paints or markers)
- Corn stalks (or maize)
- Autumnal wreaths with leaves, paper, branches, nuts, pine cones, and much more!
You can buy an assortment of cheaper pumpkins and gourds that nobody else wants and dot them around for that autumnal aesthetic without even carving them too.