The really scary side of Halloween

It's scary to think about all the waste created by our Halloween celebrations and its impact on the environment. Here are some fun craft ideas for a waste-free holiday.

I am a big fan of Halloween. I love carving pumpkins, dressing up with my friends, eating loads of candy and getting scared watching my favorite horror movies. 

But something that scares me even more than the twins in "The Shining" is all the waste created by our Halloween celebrations and its impact on the environment — waste that’s driven by a culture of consumerism. This year Americans plan to spend more than $90 per person on Halloween, and almost $2.6 billion total on decorations. Unfortunately, a lot of what we buy and use to celebrate Halloween gets used once and thrown away. 

It doesn't have to be this way. We can still celebrate and enjoy Halloween without buying more stuff. With a little bit of time and creativity, we can upcycle some items that are laying around the house into fun Halloween decorations and costumes.  Here are some ideas to get you started. 

1.  Plastic bags

Americans use enough plastic bags each year to circle the equator 1300 times, and many of those bags will end up in our natural environment. Plastic bags are especially harmful to marine mammals, who can easily mistake them for food. Plastic bags also eventually break down into microplastics, which can be harmful to wildlife, marine ecosystems, and human health. All good reasons to switch to reusable bags if you haven't yet.

That all being said, if you do still have some plastic bags lying around (looking at you, unenforced bag ban), why not give them a second life before they join the waste stream? Plastic bags are nearly impossible to recycle, so it’s best to get maximum usage out of them. Plus, they can add some unique properties to the crafts you’re using to replace Halloween decorations.

Here are some crafts we found that upcycle plastic bags:

2.  Plastic bottles/ jugs

Plastic bottles take 450 years to break down, and more than 75% aren’t recycled. Unfortunately, these single-use bottles are ubiquitous with so many food staples, making them hard for consumers to avoid. 

Here are some ideas to make full use of your plastic bottles and jugs:

3.  Cardboard and cartons

Let’s talk about cardboard. In the United States, cardboard is used to ship over 90% of products. Cardboard is recyclable (unless it’s dirtied by food) — and cardboard made from recycled pulp has a greatly reduced environmental impact, compared to that made from virgin pulp. It’s also a great material to get creative with, since it can form the sturdy foundation of many a craft.

Here are some fun ideas to reuse that cardboard you have laying around:

4.  Tin Cans

Did you know that tin cans aren’t actually made of tin? They’re usually aluminum or steel. Both of these materials are infinitely recyclable: one recycled can can be made into one new can with no loss in quality: 75% of all aluminum ever produced in the U.S. is still in use today! This process uses 95% less energy than making a brand new can.

You don’t have to recycle a can to give it a new purpose, however. These crafts are simple and sturdy; you’ll be able to bring them out year after year.

5.  Fruit peels

Not much to say here — these craft ideas are the opposite of using pumpkin guts. If you’re going to eat a fruit, you might as well use the peel! Here are a few fruit peel crafts:

Here are three other fun ways to celebrate a waste-free Halloween: 

  • Make a DIY costume instead of buying one. (Here are some easy ideas.). Many costumes come wrapped in plastic. Many are only worn one time. And many are made with PVC/vinyl that can include hazardous phthalates, according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition. Choosing to make your own costume will save money and the environment — not to mention, your costume will probably be more creative!
  • Make your own face paint. In 2016, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported on “the widespread presence of toxic chemicals in cosmetic products marketed to kids.” Truly frightening! 
  • Roast your pumpkin seeds instead of throwing them away. What a waste to carve a pumpkin just to put it out for a week and throw away the insides. You can use pumpkin guts for soup, dog treats and more

Thanks for reading. Have a safe and happy Halloween!

Image by Benjamin Balazs from Pixabay