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Have a Happy, Green Halloween

Having a happy, green Halloween has been a hot topic on the Internet lately. Some people embrace the idea, and some people think it is ridiculous. My Halloween will be mostly green, with a few exceptions: the costumes and driving my kids for trick-or-treating. I try to balance my children’s eco-childhood by allowing them to sometimes choose aspects of commercial culture. Their grandmother buys their costumes from the Disney Store every year (ahh, I’m an eco-hypocrite), and this has become tradition. Cars are necessary for trick-or-treating in the mountains, as our closest neighbors live a mile away. At least we will be using biodiesel for our Halloween fun. Here are a few eco-Halloween ideas:

  1. Create your costume from your own wardrobe, borrow items from friends, and shop thrift stores! If you have children, you probably already have their costumes picked out. If you are an adult, you probably do not have a costume idea yet. Some of my favorite costumes from childhood used my parent’s clothes with make up and wigs or were made out of sheets.
  2. Give out organic treats! Hand out organic lollipops or organic chocolate ladybugs. I plan to give these items to my few neighbors to give to my children in advance, as we live in such an isolated place that my children will be the only trick-or-treaters they see all night.
  3. Walk! Taking a walking tour of the neighborhood, knocking on everyone’s doors while wearing costumes is great fun. Traveling by car not only adds carbon to the atmosphere, it also wrinkles costumes and takes the exercising out of trick-or-treating. If children are going to eat candy, they need to walk!

Here are a few suggestions from others:

Dr. Sears:
Remember that most treats handed out are Red Light Foods and can lead to stomachaches and bad behaviour. Most Kids won’t eat all their candy so a majority of it gets thrown away once forgotten about.

Here are some non red light treat ideas to get you started thinking:

  • Small boxes of cereal
  • Cheese and cracker packages
  • Sugar-free gum
  • 100% Juice box packages
  • Small packages of nuts or raisins
  • A package of instant cocoa mix
  • Non-food treats such as: Stickers, toys, crayons, pencils, colored chalk, erasers, baseball cards, rubber spiders, temporary tattoos, false teeth, little bottles of bubbles and small games, like tiny decks of cards (party-supply stores can be great sources for these)

Out of sight, out of mind – Keep your child’s candy on a top shelf of the kitchen cupboard. This way, your child must ask for it and you can keep better track of how much they eat. But even better is that they will probably forget about it. Kids tend to forget about their easter and halloween candy after a few weeks. We eventually eat some ourselves and throw the rest away after a few months.

Buy it back – Buy your child’s candy back from them, then take a family trip to the toy store and let them pick out a few toys. This is a nice treat, since it’s another long two months until Christmas.

Weed out the real junk – Allow your child to keep chocolate candies, but eliminate the artificially colored stuff. This will keep most of the chemicals to a minimum.

One junk a day rule – In our house we have a “one junk a day rule” that we have taught our kids from an early age. This doesn’t mean they actually eat one every day, it simply means that when they DO eat a candy, they can only have one.

Green Options:
Use reusable candy-collecting bags. Simple, easy, and ensures that your large stash of candy won’t end up all over the street from a less-than-durable plastic bag. Avoid those plastic pumpkins, too. They’re made of petroleum, and you can only use them once a year.
Use trick-or-treating as an opportunity for stewardship. After trick or treating, bring a separate bag for your kids to pick up the inevitable candy wrappers left by less-savvy munchkins.

The Sierra Club:

  • Set a spooky mood with soy or beeswax candles, not those made from petroleum-based paraffin. If you like scented candles, look for ones with fragrances derived from essential oils rather than synthetic chemicals.
  • Avoid masks made out of vinyl. Latex ones are safer, unless you’re allergic to the material.
  • Look up some recipes for pumpkin pie, soup, or curry so your decoration doesn’t go to waste after Halloween. (Not much of a chef? Compost that jack-o-lantern, at least

The Green Guide
Pesticides and fertilizers used in the production of sugar have led to the destruction of aquatic ecosystems. The loss of topsoil to cane fields has destroyed forest habitats. But sugar’s sins start with the slave trade, as Europeans brought captured Africans to work in the cane fields of the Caribbean throughout the 18th century, where slaves died in greater numbers than in the U.S. Sadly, this legacy hasn’t come to an end: The chocolate trade has encouraged forced labor in Africa as cocoa farmers sell their product at prices well below what they can afford…

This Halloween, little ghouls and goblins in the U.S. can do their part by spending the night “reverse trick-or-treating” in partnership with Global Exchange. As kids go door-to-door, they’ll switch roles and hand over fair-trade chocolate and literature to neighbors.

I like this idea of “reverse trick-or-treating” with fair-trade goodies. I may have to revise my ghoulish plans on Halloween night. Perhaps we will participate in “exchange” trick-or-treating with our neighbors, that way everyone gets yummy, organic candy.


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  2. Wonderful ideas! I’ve been thinking about how to lower our halloween eco-footprint too.
    There’s a great articlein the Seattle Times about labeling your house a “green halloween” house. By putting up a sign, parents know ahead of time if you are passing out crud or the good stuff. We plan to pass out nutritious granola bars. Since they are bigger than a piece of candy, the kids will be happy, and I’ll be happy because I’m not passing out high fructose corn syrup.
    There’s always the “trick or treat for unicef” campaign. I like the idea of kids giving to other kids at this time of year.
    And, last but not least, the candy fairy. We’ll probably just use your “buy the candy back” idea. Some folks have invented another character, like the tooth fairy, that comes to collect candy and leaves a toy instead.
    Thanks for sharing such great ideas. Have a green halloween!
    (my apologies if my attempts at HTML didn’t work and this comment looks mangled! 3 cheers for me if I did it right!)


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