By Mythreyi Rajasingham
As the spooktacular season of Halloween approaches, front yards come to life with the warm glow of pumpkins, jack o’lanterns, and skeletons, while store aisles overflow with an abundance of confectionery delights.
Regrettably, these celebratory traditions come with a gloomy downside. From plastic candy wrappers to flimsy decorations and costumes, Halloween generates a substantial amount of waste that can be difficult to recycle.
While we should never dampen the Halloween spirit, we can still explore ways to continue celebrating this haunting holiday while safeguarding the future of our planet, avoiding any ominous twists in our story.
Ghoulishly green costume ideas
One of the most memorable aspects of Halloween is the rare opportunity to become anyone or anything your heart desires, with an infinite array of choices at your fingertips. You can transform into a beloved movie character, embody a well-known Halloween icon, or even take on the persona of everyday objects, like a pizza slice.
However, one downside of this tradition is that it has a huge carbon footprint, since most of the costumes people buy are sourced from the fast fashion industry and tend to be of poor quality (Robertson, 2021). These unsustainable materials have a short lifespan, preventing people from reusing them, and ultimately, can find their way into the trash, contributing to the pollution of our landfills.
To prevent this waste buildup, consider reaching out to friends and family to ask about borrowing their costumes or recycling your own from previous Halloweens. Should you find the time and desire to embrace your creative side, consider upcycling one of these costumes into a fresh and special creation of your own. For instance, you can use old clothing you no longer need or materials found around the house to transform your costume, which can significantly reduce unnecessary plastic waste from new costumes.
Enchanting eco-friendly decorations
Halloween decorations range from elaborate outdoor displays that consume a lot of electricity to the more straightforward and traditional pumpkins atop kitchen counters. But despite their differences, both options can contribute to excess waste.
Consider purchasing more traditional decorations, like Halloween pumpkins, from local growers or farmers’ markets to reduce the energy spent on transportation. After enjoying the aesthetic aspects of your pumpkins, you can maximize their use by saving the seeds and flesh for recipes like pumpkin soup. Additionally, you can reduce waste by composting your pumpkins or donating them to local community gardens and animal shelters (Robertson, 2021).
When it comes to outdoor decorations, such as plastic skeletons and tombstones, you can embrace a sustainable approach by crafting them yourself from recyclable materials like cardboard, which you can repurpose from old Amazon boxes or other sources within your home.
Alternatively, you can explore more do-it-yourself (DIY) ideas, such as crafting ghosts from old sheets or fashioning reusable spider webs from yarn. To take it a step further, make sure to store these DIY creations in a designated box, preserving them for use during the next Halloween season.
Lastly, if you prefer purchasing your decorations, consider choosing items that are not only reusable but also of high quality, that way they can be used in the years to come. For products like candles, it’s advisable to opt for soy-based or beeswax candles because paraffin-based ones can emit toxins and soot.
Spooky sustainable treats
While costumes and decorations are relatively easy to upcycle and reuse, candies and chocolates pose a different kind of challenge because they can expire.
In 2021, the National Retail Federation projected a Halloween candy spending of approximately $10.1 billion (Social, 2021). While the consumption of candy and chocolates surges during the Halloween season, these tasty treats are beloved throughout the year.
To kickstart a sustainable Halloween, it’s important to understand what candy is made of, where these ingredients come from, and what impact it has on the environment and its people.
Two of the most concerning ingredients found in candy and chocolate products are cocoa and palm oil, which are often sourced from low-income countries. West Africa accounts for 70% of the world’s cocoa production, while Indonesia and Malaysia together host 90% of the world’s palm oil trees (Chiu, 2022).
The production and extraction of cocoa and palm oil in these regions results in deforestation of local rainforests, leading to risks for both the climate and biodiversity of these nations.
These processes are also associated with severe human rights violations, such as forced and child labour. Although prominent chocolate manufacturers like Mars, Nestle, and Hershey have promised to stop using cocoa harvested by children, tracing cocoa back to its origins to verify these claims remains challenging.
As a result, the recommended approach is to steer clear of products containing palm oil by carefully inspecting labels before making your purchases. Some brands that already exclude palm oil include Reese’s original peanut butter cups, plain M&Ms (but avoid Peanut M&Ms), and Hershey’s Kisses (excluding Hershey’s Hugs).
Rather than boycotting chocolate altogether, you can opt for responsibly sourced chocolates by seeking out third-party certification labels from organizations like Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance.
While it’s important to note that these labels do not guarantee a flawless product, they serve as a useful starting point. One helpful website for finding responsibly sourced chocolates is The Chocolate Scorecard.
Beyond the sourcing of these candies and chocolates, another environmental concern revolves around their wrappers, which are usually made of plastic and aluminum.
One approach is to purchase candies in bulk and wrap them using recyclable materials like paper bags, making sure to wear gloves and maintain cleanliness to address any health worries. Alternatively, you can skip edible treats altogether and consider items like pencils, homemade multicoloured crayons, and even seeds for children to start planting early.
If you live in the Toronto area, you can also check out local low-waste stores, such as Bare Market and Unboxed Market, that offer eco-conscious Halloween treats and gift options.
Harvesting Halloween sustainability: In conclusion
This Halloween, as we indulge in our favorite traditions, let’s also take a moment to reflect on their socio-environmental impacts. From the sourcing of ingredients to the disposal of wrappers, our choices matter. By being mindful of what we consume, embracing sustainability in our decorations and costumes, and selecting responsibly sourced treats, we can celebrate Halloween while preserving the planet.
This article was edited by Lumida Editing & Proofreading
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