Ghosts and goblins are ready to celebrate Halloween in a big way this month. The National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend a record $9.1 billion on the holiday this year, an increase of 8.3 percent compared to last year. Even dogs and cats are getting in the spooky spirit of the season. Sixteen percent of pet owners reported that they plan to purchase costumes for their pets too,with pumpkin and hot dog costumes being the most popular choices.
As entertaining as it can be, Halloween is one of the most expensive, unhealthy and wasteful holidays we celebrate. Children’s costumes, which are usually discarded after one use because of their poor quality, contribute to the estimated 12 million tons of textile waste. You can make this holiday less frightful by adding a little green to transform it into a more “eek-o-friendly” celebration. Here are several ways to can reduce your waste and probably reduce your spending all at once making this Halloween even greener.
Many Halloween decorations are made with plastic materials that are not recyclable in our community. Avoid artificial materials and decorate your home with biodegradable items like pumpkins, gourds and cornhusks. You don’t have to limit your color scheme to green and orange, however, if you use natural products like the Lumina pumpkin distinguished by its creamy white outer shell.
After the holiday you can place the natural decor items in your compost pile. To prepare your jack-o-lantern for composting remove candles, foil, glow sticks, lightbulbs and other non-organic materials. Also, remove any remaining pumpkin seeds to avoid growing pumpkins in your compost bin. Break the pumpkin down into smaller pieces so it can decompose faster. Cover the moist pumpkin pieces with dry leaves or shredded newspaper which are the brown or dry layer of compost ingredients.
If you can only make one change this year, look no further than the candy bowl. Halloween candies come individually wrapped meaning lots and lots of wrappers to dispose of. To reduce waste, limit the amount of candy a child can take when they visit your door. If you’re crafty you can save candy wrappers to make a bracelet or other do-it-yourself projects. Choose candy that is packaged in paperboard boxes which are recyclable with other mixed paper products.
Focus on making healthy and green choices by thinking outside the candy box. Switch from sugary candy to small treasures children can enjoy long after the holiday. Treasures could be items like stickers, fun erasers, small toys, pencils made from recycled materials, crayons or even flower seeds to plant at home. Let children pick one treasure from the candy bowl, or offer the same item to all visitors.
Host a green Halloween party by providing clearly labeled recycling bins and trash bins for guests. Avoid disposables like single-use napkins, plates and cups to reduce the amount of waste you make. Instead, use items like cloth napkins and ceramic plates that can be washed and reused. If you can’t say no to disposable items, use those that are made from recycled materials, are compostable or biodegradable.
Craft spooky decorations from the items piled in your recycling bin or storage areas. An entertaining craft is the milk jug monster that can be used as a decorative center piece or treat bowl. You’ll need a clean milk jug, small knife or kitchen scissors, a marker, paint, and if desired, craft tape or other craft supplies. Draw a mouth for your monster on the side of the jug opposite the handle with a marker. Carefully cut out the opening using a small knife or strong scissors.
Once you’ve decided what kind of monster you’ll make, paint the jug and let it dry. A green monster would make a good Frankenstein, while a jug painted orange could be a jack-o-lantern. Decorate your monster by cutting out and gluing on eyes, fangs, horns, feet, and claws. At the end of the season you can either save the monster dish for next year, or recycle the jug after removing all of the attachments.
Liz Swafford is the recycling and education program coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority. Have a recycling question? Contact her at (706) 278-5001 or email@example.com.