Through the magic of Twitter, I recently learned about Green Halloween, a non-profit, grassroots initiative striving to create healthier, eco-friendlier holidays-- starting with Halloween. Launched in Seattle in 2007 by a mother of two, the nationwide movement, now a program of EcoMom Alliance, is all about educating and inspiring communities by showing how easy, affordable, and fun it can be to factor the earth and our health into our daily choices.
The Green Halloween website is full of information and tips. Here's their list of ten simple steps to make Halloween more people-healthy, animal-friendly and earth-conscious.
1. Choose no-waste pumpkins. Instead of purchasing one big pumpkin, select several smaller ones, then, instead of carving, paint on faces with non-toxic paints or decorate with yarn, ribbon, bottle caps and other found items. Smaller pumpkins can be put in the fridge when not on display to keep them fresher and once Halloween is over, you should be able to cook 'em up instead of tossing.
2. Use beeswax candles. If you do carve and put a candle in your pumpkin, choose 100% beeswax. Most candles are made from paraffin, a petroleum by-product. Beeswax burns cleanly, lasts longer and releases a wonderful, all natural aroma.
3. Use LED lights. By now everyone knows that incandescent lights don't last very long, cost pretty pennies to use and burn HOT. LEDs now come in every size from mini-flashlight to outdoor spotlight. They are the safer, more sustainable option.
4. Seek out alternatives to conventional candy.
5. Set up or participate in a costume swap. According to Robert Lilienfeld of the Use Less Stuff Report, roughly 25 million children in the United States celebrate Halloween. Swapping just half of those costumes would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons.
6. Make decorations instead of buying. In 2009, Halloween spending totaled $4.75 billion. This figure includes décor, candy, costumes and other items. Since Halloween is the second biggest holiday after Christmas for décor, a huge chunk of change goes toward glowing lawn art, orange and black table decorations and millions of sets of Halloween-themed light strings. If you're aiming for a Green Halloween, try cutting your décor budget by 25%. Then fill in the difference with handmade items.
7. Hand out less. Everyone acknowledges we have a childhood obesity problem in this country. Nonetheless, people say, "Why not give out bunches of candy? It‘s only once a year." The fact is that kids are exposed to candy and other sweets daily. Sugar is in everything from cereal to the lollipop they get at the bank. Halloween can be just as much fun even if a child brings home significantly less than the average of 10 pounds of candy.
8. Walk in your neighborhood, don't drive.
9. Bag it, green style. Instead of buying a single-use, disposable candy-carrier, make your child's goodie bag. Use a pillow case or something you already own that goes with the theme of the costume. A purse for a princess? A backpack for a mountain climber? A helmet for a football player?
10. "Recycle" candy & natural décor. Food rotting in landfills leads to the release of methane gas, which contributes to climate change. So don‘t toss leftover candy and rotting pumpkins -- recycle them! Composting turns food waste and natural décor (such as hay from your scarecrow) into nutrient-rich food for your plants, shrubs and trees.