Leaves are gradually changing colour and yes, it is raining again; that must mean Halloween is right around the corner. From trick o’ treating when you were younger, to house parties and watching horror movies, Halloween and the spooky season is always enjoyable. But what about those individually wrapped sweets you give away to kids knocking on your door? Or that new costume you’ve bought just to be worn once and then thrown away? How about those pumpkins that get carved and tossed after a couple of days? On nights of celebration, you don’t want to think about these things being bad for the planet, you just want to have fun, but there are some easy ways to make your Halloween celebrations scary for you, but not scary for the planet.
Pumpkins are an essential part of Halloween – you’re not doing the holiday season right if you don’t carve at least one. The problem is, approximately 8 million pumpkins (more than 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin flesh) get tossed each year. Maybe you throw yours in a compost heap, which is better, but why not use this food source instead of just throwing it all away? A quick search on BBC GoodFoods and thousands of recipes using pumpkins will appear. Some of my personal favourite things to make are pumpkin soup (similar to butternut squash), roasted paprika pumpkin seeds and even pumpkin cookies!
Getting dressed up for Halloween is always exciting as you try and 1-up your outfit from the year before or organise group costumes with your friends with weeks or even months of planning behind it. However, if you look deeper into this fun tradition it becomes clouded with the thought of fast fashion. It is believed that a quarter of all Halloween costumes are only worn once, and is likely that it is made cheaply in a developing country where workers aren’t paid a liveable wage. Well, this year instead of buying a costume, why don’t you get creative and make your own!
If you start thinking about what clothes you already own, and what you can easily acquire in your local charity shop, as well as crafting your own things (like through papier-mâché), costumes can quickly come together. If you’re looking for something simple, a cowboy is always an easy one if you own a checked shirt and boots. Another option if you are not the most creative person is to swap old costumes with your friends. Everyone has old costumes stashed in boxes or stuffed in the back of the wardrobe, so why not swap, and get a whole new costume completely free?
Decorating your house for Halloween is great fun, but have you ever been shopping in search of decorations and been met with aisles and aisles of plastic pumpkins and polyester spider-webs? Why not try getting crafty and make your own? If you’re looking for cool outside decorations, a scarecrow is an easy but effective option; stuff an old pillowcase and dress it with your old clothes (or some charity shop clothes if you don’t want to use your own).
If you have empty cardboard boxes, why not try cutting out a silhouette and painting it black to put in the window? Empty jars and a tealight can make beautiful lantern decorations, creating the perfect atmospheric vibe for your house; you can even try decorating them with colourful tissue paper! Of course, if you bought plastic decorations in previous years, you could always keep on reusing them for as long as you can too! There are loads of ideas for decorations just a quick Google search away.
Halloween doesn’t have to be another plastic holiday. With small, simple changes you can soon start making this year’s party a sustainable one. Most importantly, remember to have fun! You might not be able to get everything perfectly sustainable this year (no one can), but even just one small change can make a difference.
About the Author: Isla Stubbs (she/her) is currently in her 3rd year studying Environmental Science at York. She is on a placement year working full-time as a Terrestrial Ecotoxicologist in Cambridge.