By Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson
Halloween is meant to be enjoyed, but somewhere in between "planning" and "cleanup," many parents find themselves feeling overwhelmed. It might seem that attempting to consider the Earth while planning a great ghoulish party is just too much work, not to mention way too expensive. Some fear it might even zap the fun right out of the day. But creating an eco-savvy Halloween doesn‘t have to be scary, nor does it have to cost an arm and a leg when you follow these pointers:
1. Consider your costumes
The truth is many store-bought costumes and accessories contain toxic chemicals that not only are a potential hazard to your child, but also to the environment and the people who helped to make them. Choose fabrics such as cotton, wool, and silk or make costumes yourself from materials you know to be safe.
2. Go au natural
When decorating your home for Halloween, skip the plastic black cats and paper skeleton streamers made in China. Instead, use décor inspired by Mother Earth -- fallen leaves, gourds or pumpkins, and all-natural beeswax candles.
3. Trim your trick-or-treats
Hand out less ________ (fill in the blank). Preferably your goodies of choice are healthy and/or earth-friendly, but even if they're not, handing out just one (rather than the conventional handful) of something is better for kids, better for the planet, and better for your bank account.
4. Reduce, reuse, recycle
Apply the 3 R's to all of your holiday choices: costumes, décor, goodies, etc. Of the 3 R‘s, reducing is the best for the earth, our wallets, and, with regard to food, our waistlines. Rent, borrow, swap, make or acquire used, when possible, to avoid buying new -- especially disposables.
5. Choose eek-o-décor
Say "no" to disposables and instead reuse or repurpose items you already own. Look also for items from nature and don't forget to decorate with food (consumable décor). If you must use disposables, look for products that are compostable and then be sure to compost them. Or, choose recycled, reusable, and recyclable items like Preserve products. Too bad they don't come in Halloween colors… Yet.
6. Go kid-powered
Give your child a shakable or hand-crank flashlight to light his way.
7. Love LEDs
Use decorative Halloween LED and/or solar lights for trees, outside of your home, and for lighting the path for trick-or-treaters. They come in every shape, theme, and color imaginable!
8. Bag it, green-style
Instead of buying, make your child's goody bag from a pillow case or anything else you already own that goes with the theme of the costume. Or, purchase a keepsake, reusable Green Halloween trick-or-treat ChicoBag. (Designed each year by kids! Enter the design contest here. Ten percent of the sales support the Green Halloween initiative.)
9. Get creative!
Turn costume-making into a creative and fun experience for your child. Hunt through the house, at neighborhood garage sales, or a thrift store for costume-worthy items. Enjoy the process and the finished product!
Instead of allowing your child to eat all the candy he collects, ask him to select a limited, agreed-upon amount and then leave the rest out for the Halloween Fairy/Witch/Great Pumpkin, who will, while your child is sleeping that night, swap the candy for goodies such as books, games, or "pumpkin points" redeemable for outings.
11. Green the YUM
Make the party meal using foods that are mostly orange, black, and green. Create spooky names for the food, if you can. Shop locally (in support of local farmers) and choose organic, whenever possible.
12. Recycle the unexpected
Compost all leftovers, jack-o-lanterns, natural décor, and unconsumed candy -- remove wrappers unless they're compostable. In some places of the country, you can add compostables to your yard-waste bin.
13. Celebrate others
Host your Halloween party at a retirement home, children's hospital, organic farm, or similar venue.
14. Say "no" to toxic chemicals
15. Choose eco sweets
If buying candy, choose organic – you'll be surprised at how affordable some brands are! If buying chocolate, look for triple-certified: organic, shade grown, Fair Trade.
16. Think outside the (conventional) candy box
Instead of giving out conventional candy, give away healthy and/or earth-friendly treats and treasures.
17. Make décor to DIY for
Make your own Halloween décor by visiting craft sites and swapping conventional materials for eco-supplies. For example, if you are going to make some paper ghosts for your window, be sure the paper is reused, recycled, or tree-free.
18. Invite sustainably
Use e-invitations or make your own from reused, recycled, or tree-free sources. Kids will love Mr. Ellie Pooh's Elephant dung paper! It comes in gorgeous fall colors (don't worry, it's scent-free!). The orange cardstock is perfect for Halloween invites, place cards, and more. Supporting Mr. Ellie Pooh means supporting the Elephants in Sri Lanka that are losing their lives because, without profit associated with them, they are seen as liabilities to local farmers.
19. Reclaim wrappers
Collect candy and bar wrappers and turn them into picture frames, purses, jewelry, and more. Tweens and teens especially love this activity!
20. Trick-or-treat for good
When tweens and teens are too old to trick-or-treat, but still enjoy the traditions, encourage them to take a look at how they can turn trick-or-treating into an activity that benefits others, such as: reverse trick-or-treating, trick-or-treating for cell phones, or of course, UNICEF‘s program.
21. Start small and build your confidence
Start simply by having (and using) a recycle bin at your party or by foregoing the bottled water for guests. You can green up each of your next celebrations a little bit at a time until celebrating green-style becomes old hat.
22. Plan ahead to avoid costly impulse buying
You're less likely to invade the local super party store at the eleventh hour when you make food, gift, décor, and activity decisions in advance.
23. Get the family involved
Ask your kids to come up with three ways to give Halloween a green makeover. Write all of the viable ideas down on paper, toss them in a bowl, and select three to try this year.
24. Don't drive to trick or treat
Encourage your neighbors to go green and then go door-to-door near you. It's good for you and for the planet, and it builds community.
25. Learn more
Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson are mother and daughter founders of Green Halloween and co-authors of Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family, available at CelebrateGreen.net.