Green Living

Go Green this Halloween

By Darci Palmquist

Halloween is the perfect holiday for a greenie — it’s an opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle. So go for it — impress the neighborhood with your ghastly green ways. Check out our tips below and get started.

Make Your Own Costume

Is your alter-ego a warrior princess, a giant vegetable or a scandalized politician? Whatever your cover, Halloween is the time to get creative. Browse thrift stores and yard sales for funky hats or cool fabrics that can be cut and re-crafted. Dust off that old sewing machine, or just grab a needle and thread — you don’t have to be a master-crafter to put together something funny, bizarre, scary or sweet.  

And adults, don’t think that homemade costumes are just for kids… this is your opportunity to be a role model for the younger generation of greenies. Need some ideas? The Daily Green has 25 homemade costumes that are fun and do-it-yourself from recycled materials — like a bat made from old black umbrellas and a samurai made from cardboard boxes.  

The bottom line is, don’t buy pre-made plastic or vinyl costumes, which are likely to contain toxic chemicals that can harm you and nature. Instead, go the DIY route and make use of materials found at home, at yard sales or thrift stores.

Grow Your Pumpkin, and Eat It, Too!

Find local sources at Or better yet — grow your own! Organic is still important even if you don’t plan to eat your pumpkin (though you should — see below) because pesticides from conventional farming are huge polluters of streams, rivers and lakes, causing all kinds of nasty side-effects like dead zones and deformities in wildlife.

When Halloween is over, use your organic pumpkin in delicious dishes — scoop out the seeds and roast them, and cut up the pumpkin and bake it, then use the flesh for pumpkin muffins, breads and stews. At the very least, add your pumpkin to your garden compost bin instead of disposing of it in the trash (if you don’t already compost, here are some easy tips for getting started).

Collect Your Loot in Reusable Bags

Don’t buy plastic pumpkins — just use old pillowcases or reusable cloth shopping bags. To make them festive, decorate them to match your costume.

Be Picky About Your Candy

This is a tough one. It’s pretty difficult to reduce the waste involved with individually-wrapped candies.

Of course, you could give out crayons, pencils, coins or other small items instead of candy, but be prepared for some evil stares. And don’t even try to give out homemade goodies, which is a universal no-no (unless you put a sign on your door saying that’s all the kids will get at your place — it would be an interesting experiment to see if your doorbell still gets rung.) 

So what can you do? There are more organic candy choices out there than ever before, which again helps reduce pesticide run-off.

Also, keep an eye out for brands that use fair-trade ingredients or donate some of their profits to conservation, wild animal research and other eco-charities, such as Endangered Species Chocolate.

Check out this list of organic and Earth-friendlier candy options.

Decorate with Homemade Crafts

Whether your tastes lean towards Martha Stewart or the Addams Family, there are lots of ways to make your own Halloween decorations. Here are just a few ideas:

  • Grab some tin cans from the recycling bin and paint them with pumpkins, skulls or bats.
  • Use grandma’s old dress mannequin as a dead body.
  • Or, kill two birds with one stone by raking the leaves in your yard and stuffing them inside old clothing to make a dead body.  
  • Cut creepy silhouettes out of paper shopping bags or newspapers and hang in your window.
  • Recycle the decorations you bought last year or ten years ago — Halloween decorations are even scarier the older and more worn they are.

For more ideas of decorations you can make out of materials found at home, check out this DIY crafting site.

Light Up the Night

Take this opportunity to save electricity and turn off all the lights in your house — except the front porch light to let trick-or-treaters know you’re home!

If you want to light up with some candles, use petroleum-free ones made from soy or beeswax, which produce less soot than traditional paraffin lights. And light your walkway with solar-powered lanterns. Finally, when it comes to torches for the monster parade, stick to flashlights with reusable batteries or LED glow sticks.

Darci Palmquist is the former editorial manager of The Nature Conservancy’s Web site,, and its monthly e-newsletter, Great Places.


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