Photo by Hvnly.
The initial thought of a ‘Green Halloween’ sounds a tad anticlimactic or even smug. After all, Halloween was meant to be a holiday to relish in commercially-driven activities, to waste money on tacky plastic costumes, booze and assorted packages of mediocre American chocolate–and most importantly, to not think a thing of it. It’s a holiday prided on gluttony– going around, knocking on doors and demanding sweets or else threatening menace and evil. Why ruin it with social consciousness?
“There is definitely a misconception with going green for the holidays, and it almost always comes from men who feel we’re trying to ruin Halloween,” comments Lynn Colwell, co-founder and creator of EcoMom Alliance and its Green Halloween program. She contends, however, that Halloween can be just as entertaining, if not more, by addressing environmental prerogatives. “Our intent is to keep all the fun – make it more fun really – without doing the damage.”
For those of us unsure of what this ‘damage’ is that Colwell speaks of, it is apparently extensive. Corrosion to teeth, obesity, excessive waste, endorsement of child slave labor – our frivolity has enduring consequences. While it may seem far-fetched, Green Halloween has done the research, and can back up their theories. For one, the average trick-or-treater brings home ten pounds of candy after one night of door-hopping, thus such voracious consumption stretches long past October 31st. Conversely, we who provide such poison often buy extra bags at the grocery store ‘in case’ we are swamped with kids, and coincidentally end up with ten pounds left over (maybe that’s just me?).
According to Colwell, however, this can be destructive. iIn addition to unnecessarily throwing away money on artificially enhanced commodities, we are purchasing products marketed by retailers who use child slaves to pick their cocoa. Furthermore, Green Halloween believes there are better ways to go about it.“Some negativity over eco-friendly holidays can stem from the thought that it’s only one day a year, what’s the harm,” notes Colwell. “But it’s every holiday, birthday party, wedding, and baby shower. We celebrate a lot in this country, and sweets are a huge part of it, so we are using Halloween as the poster child…this is the first generation not expected to outlive its parents. Of course, Halloween is not the specific cause, but we are thinking of it as an idea that can we keep holidays great, yet make them healthier and better for the planet.”
Green Halloween has devised a variety of creative ways for all of us – young and old – to be eco-friendly on Halloween. Additionally, they’ve established “National Costume Swap Day,” on which people around the country host costume swapping parties. The site does not facilitate these swaps, rather it hosts a forum for people to advertise and search for an event in their city or town.
Explains Colwell, “Some swaps are private in homes or schools, and a lot are public. Last year and this year, they really exploded. We found many people had interest, but couldn’t find a place, so that’s what we’ve enabled. This year, there are 180 swaps – not all on one day – with a big one in New York as part of a green event on Halloween…The best part is the national media people can bring to their spot. We’ve had articles run in Real Simple, Family Circle, MSNBC, and we’ve also received a lot of calls from television media that we can refer. It’s a real advantage to our hosts, and it comes at no cost. They only need to list their swap on our site.”
Additionally, Colwell provides these tips for other ways we can all be a little greener on Halloween and future holidays:
- Reduce the quantity. “Probably the best overall tip is to only hand out one item of what you’re going to hand out. It sounds kind of funny, but it has the most impact in different ways. In this country, we supersize everything. It used to be, when my children went out you got one piece, yet now the homeowner or the kid reaches out and grabs handfuls. So we feel, whether it be conventional candy or organic, hand out one.”
- Improve the quality. “There are many healthier options to traditional candies. Lara bars, organic chocolates, organic gummy bears and lollipops. These types are all natural, so they don’t use food coloring or artificial flavoring.
- Try and meet at least one of the six elements to being “green.” “We define something as green in six ways: reduce, reuse, recycle; and good for people, planet, and community. There’s almost nothing you can buy or do where all six things come into play, but it’s about considering these and the bigger picture when you make your choices.
- Don’t buy anything except food. “For decorating, you don’t have to buy a single thing. Talk to friends, go to décor swaps, look around the house – it’s amazing how much stuff you can find. We also suggest you avoid buying paper plates and cups; if you need more, go to the thrift store or talk to friends. Have a ‘no waste’ party, where nothing is left over except food, which can be composted.
- Buy organic beer and wine. “There’s another misconception that organic foods are always more expensive, but what I’ve noticed, for the most part, it’s usually only minimal – a few cents even in some cases.”
For more tips on how to stay eco-friendly on Halloween, check out www.greenhalloween.org.