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Tips for Celebrating a Green Halloween
According to Environment Canada, Canadians spend over $1.5 billion on candy, costumes and decorations each year for Halloween. Now that's scary! Think about the handfuls of sweets given out at each door, filling pillow sacks and tummies of kids and adults alike, and the mountains of leftovers that end up in landfills. Adding to the environmental problem, tons of disposable paper and plastic deccor and costumes are thoughtlessly tossed as well. But over the last three years, with the growing awareness of the obesity epidemic, issues with imported candy and a concern for the environment, some parents have begun moving in a new direction, toward a more child and eco-friendly, green Halloween.
It’s an approach that any family can take to keep all the fun in the holiday, but make it healthier for children as well as the Earth. With a few simple changes, Halloween can go from spooky to spooktacular!
Most Important Tip Ever: Plan ahead
Most people wait until the day before Halloween, rush to the store and grab whatever bags of candy are available (and on sale). But creating a Green Halloween means sitting down with your family with enough time to discuss what you want this holiday to look like and how you’ll make it happen. Not only can planning ahead mean fewer un-earth-friendly choices, but it can save you money as well. Maybe you’ll have enough time to have a Halloween costume swap with friends, or make braided bracelets you can give away in lieu of candy. When you are purposeful in your planning, you’ll find you add to the fun, too.
Eek-o-Friendly Treats and Treasures
Almost 80% of Canadians buy candy for Halloween. Until a few years ago, you didn’t have much choice if you wanted a healthier, more earth-friendly option. But today, you should be able to find a wide selection of organic sweets (a healthier and greener choice) in local natural food stores as well as online. Whether you’re looking for lollipops, honey sticks (not to be given to children under the age of three) or “gummy bears,” you’ll find them in organic varieties.
Are organics always more expensive than conventional candy? Usually they are, but not always. Either way, here’s a great healthy, earth-friendly tip: Stop loading up trick-or-treaters’ bags with handfuls of treats. Try this idea instead. Fill a bowl with an assortment of individually wrapped or mini bags of goodies and let trick-or-treaters know that they may choose just one special one. You’ll be amazed to discover that children will enthusiastically hunt for their favorite and will walk away more satisfied than they would have had a handful of stuff been dumped in their bag. Engaging children in the choice making process, while cutting down on the amount of “stuff” we give them is a win-win situation. Handing out less saves money, to boot.
“Treasures” are non-edible alternatives to treats; small gifts that children love and will cherish long after the night is through. Through our work with the Green Halloween® initiative, we’ve found that most children would opt for unique treasures, if given the option. But the favorites might just not be what you think. In looking at the list below, can you guess what the number one choice of children ages 3 to teen is? Feathers! That’s right. No matter how sophisticated the child, she can’t seem to help herself from tossing a feather into the air and blowing it or simply watching it drift into her hand. Give a child a feather and watch was she does. You’ll be charmed.
Here are a few additional treasure ideas. (When possible, choose items that are handmade, from nature, locally made or fair trade. Of course, they should also be lead and chemical free and, as with conventional candy, parents of young children should not allow them to have items they may choke on.)
- Acorns (kids love natural objects—you can tell because their pockets are loaded down with them!)
- Bean bags (host a bean bag making party)
- Coins (Canadian or foreign)
- Fake jewels
- Joke cards (one per child)
- Glass rings
- Large metallic star confetti or “fairy dust”
- Homemade soft dough
- Mosaic glass, tumbled and recycled (safe for older children)
- Paper balls
- Pencils made from recycled money
- Polished rocks
- Mini pumpkins
- Seed packets
- Halloween themed soaps (pre-teen girls love these)
- Soy or beeswax crayons
- Tops (recycled plastic)
- Stamps from foreign countries
- Temporary tattoos (eco themes)
- Unfinished wood items
- Whistles (recycled plastic)
Costumes that Aren’t Scary
What could be more fun and earth-friendly than having your children come up with their own costumes from things they already own or are lying around the house? Instead of heading to the local chain store with your child, and picking up the latest cartoon character plastic costume, sit down with him and come up with an idea for a unique creative costume that he can assemble himself (with a bit of help from you of course). We bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised by his creativity and he’ll be proud of his accomplishment.
Other ideas—reuse, rent, or exchange with other families. And if you’re going to buy, look for well-made costumes from cotton, silk or wool that can be used year around for safe and sustainable imaginary play.
Speaking of exchanging, you’ve heard of a Christmas cookie swap, right? How about a Halloween décor exchange? If you’ve got decorations you used to love, but which bore you now, see if a neighbor or friend might like to trade them for something new to you.
See what you can make from what you’ve got around the house. Ghosts from sheets anyone? Spiders can be created from yarn or string, paper or strips of old bicycle tubing. Check the internet for lots of creative ideas that can save money and create enjoyably green craft time with your kids.
If you plan to buy, seek out locally made or fair trade items. Avoid mass produced, cheaply made items that will be useless after this year.
Poof! Make waste disappear
You know all that leftover candy that neither you nor your kids finished off? Instead of tossing it, host a post-Halloween compost party (or ask your school to do it). Yes, candy can be composted. The hardest part is unwrapping the goodies, and then, what do you do with the wrappers? Use your imagination! Or better yet, check the internet for ideas. Kids will love learning to make bracelets and bags from the wrappers. Save some for card and collage making or next year’s décor. Ask your kids to come up with ideas. We promise, they will. The key is your attitude. When we, as adults, lead the way with curiosity and enthusiasm, children will be thrilled to take part (and might even teach us a thing or two).
Whether celebrating green with tree-free invites, reusable goodie bags or organic pumpkins, each green step you take will help make this, and all holidays, a treat. What will you choose?
For loads of ideas for eco-fabulous décor, food, activities and where to find healthy, green treats or treasures, visit www.GreenHalloween.org.
Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell are coauthors of Celebrate Green! – Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations & Traditions for the Whole Family, from which this article was adapted.