It’s almost that time of year again, when we pull out our most inventive fancy dress ideas and head into the dark with a pocket full of sweets and a hair-raising amount of face paint. Here are our tricks (and treats) for celebrating Halloween sustainably:
In many ways, Halloween goes against all of our usual human principles – be they eco (plastic, plastic and more plastic); health (sugar, sugar and more sugar), or downright moral (deliberately scaring small children, knocking on strangers’ doors, walking the streets at night…).
But love it or hate it, Halloween is big business – Brits now spend over £300 million celebrating Halloween each year, while in the US spending was predicted to reach $9.1 billion in 2017. Most of this will be spent on costumes and candy.
If you think those figures are frightening, even scarier is the use of plastic at Halloween – hidden in our synthetic costumes, masks, wigs, sweet wrappers, decorations, glitter and so on.
So we think it’s time to put the fun back into this frightful holiday, without spooking the planet. Here’s how you can have a ghoulishly good, sustainable and plastic-free Halloween:
1. BRING COSTUMES BACK FROM THE DEAD
Whether dressing up ourselves, our children or our pets – Halloween and fancy dress go hand in hand. Carefully pulling together the perfect costume for trick or treating or a Halloween party is all part of the fun.
However, a Fairyland Trust survey of Halloween costumes on sale in the UK found that they were made up of 90% plastic, mainly polyester. Meanwhile, the North London Waste Authority and NGO Hubbub found that some seven million Halloween costumes are thrown away each year. This means that Halloween costumes are likely to be contributing to new plastic waste on a huge scale – scary stuff.
But it doesn’t have to be this way, and there are lots of more sustainable (and more enjoyable) ways to create a spook-tacular Halloween costume without buying a new one each year:
- Rather than buying a new plastic-based costume from the shop, get inventive and make one yourself. If sewing isn’t your forte, old sheets can be easily turned into witches capes or an Ancient Roman toga, or an old ripped shirt stained with dirt or beetroot juice can transform you into a fearsome zombie.
- Give your money to a good cause by heading to a charity shop to find an array of fancy dress treasures – old dresses can transport back in time to make a convincing ghost, dark suits and some green face paint and you have a convincing Frankenstein. Whether you want to dress up as a pirate, vampire or doll, head to your local charity or second-hand store and you’re bound to find something that you can work with.
- Another option is to have a scary swap shop with your friends – trade outfits with each other to bring old costumes back from the dead and have a fun night in.
- Wondering what to do with your costume after Halloween is over? Don’t throw it away! Create a fancy dress storage box and save it for next year, when it can be reused, repurposed or swapped.
- When storing it isn’t an option, you can donate your costume to a local theatre, youth group or school for them to use throughout the year.
- If you’ve run out of time to make your costume yourself, don’t panic buy. There are plenty of costume hire shops and companies that can loan you a great costume and once the holiday is over, you simply return it so it can be used again by somebody else.
2. PAINT ON A SCARY FACE
Some of the most impressive Halloween looks can be created by simply using face-paints or make-up and a DIY YouTube tutorial. It might take a little practice before the big day, but you can transform yourself into a skeleton, alien, devil or zombie completely waste free. Choose natural, non-toxic face-paint or make-up and wash off at the end of the night.
If you want to add a bit of glitz and glamour to your Halloween outfit, you can use biodegradable glitter from Bioglitz or EcoStardust to ensure that you’re not contributing to ocean plastic pollution.
3. MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR PUMPKIN
Nothing screams Halloween more than a carved pumpkin jack-o-lantern glowing eerily on the doorstep. But this iconic Halloween tradition is generating horrifying waste – 8 million pumpkins will be binned in the UKalone after Halloween, with only a third of those who buy pumpkins to carve using the edible leftovers. From cooking the flesh to composting the shell, see our tips for what to do with your pumpkin once Halloween is over.
Rather than buying your pumpkin from a supermarket, take a trip to a local pumpkin patch. Not only do they have a much bigger selection than a supermarket, it’s also a great day out for the whole family. Selecting your own pumpkin directly from the farm it was grown at both teaches children about where pumpkins actually come from and supports local farmers. And if that’s enough to tempt you, carting a wheelbarrow around the farm to select the perfect pumpkin also makes for some pretty Instagram-worthy pictures.
If you would prefer not to use a real pumpkin, you could always try knitting or crocheting a pumpkin decoration that you can bring out year after year.
4. TRICK OR (PLASTIC-FREE) TREAT
Travelling from house-to-house on All Hallow’s Eve asking ‘Trick or Treat’ is a Halloween ritual for many families. This frequently involves children carrying plastic pumpkin-shaped buckets that promptly get filled with plastic-wrapped sweets.
If the amount sugar and plastic that is being consumed gives you a fright, why not give out a treat that lasts and doesn’t come individually wrapped in plastic, such as stationery. It might not excite the child as much as a packet of gummy bears but the parents will thank you!
If you’re taking children trick-or-treating, use pillow case sacks or canvas tote bags to cut down on plastic. Decorating the bag ahead of Halloween is also a fun craft activity to get everyone in the spirit and you can re-use the bags year after year.
5. THROW A FANG-TASTIC PARTY
If you love transforming your home into a haunted manor and inviting over a house full of body-painted guests, here are some ideas for throwing a frightfully good party without harming the planet.
- Send e-vites instead of actual invites to reduce waste.
- Get crafty with DIY decorations that are recyclable or reusable, such as paper garlands, hanging egg-carton or paper origami bats, or painted leaf ghosts. Build an autumnal pumpkin display and create an eerie atmosphere with candles and jack-o’-lanterns. Play a spooky playlist as background music.
- Skip plastic cups, straws, plates and cutlery – some of the biggest contributors to ocean plastic pollution. Use reusable glassware, crockery and utensils or if your friends can’t be trusted with your best chinaware, opt for compostable cups, plates and utensils.
- Put out a recycling bin for any glass or paper waste and a food bin for food waste.
- There are lots of plastic-free party games that are fun for both adults and children alike. Try apple bobbing (as simple as it sounds) or dangling doughnuts (hang doughnuts from a beam, banister or table and try eating the doughnuts without using your hands).
6. HOME-BAKED TREATS
Rather than buying sweets and contributing to plastic waste (and sugar highs!), get friends and family involved and host your own Halloween bake off. Kids will love decorating cookies in the shapes of ghosts or baking Halloween-themed cupcakes.
See our ideas for what to do with your pumpkin waste after carving.
For more plastic-free party ideas, see our tips for planning a plastic free wedding.