The hint of autumn and everything it brings with it is in the air.
Leaves are turning golden brown, the evenings are drawing in earlier.
Much to the excitement of many, the inevitable hoards of pumpkin, ghost and witch-themed goodies have made their annual entrance to shop displays.
Just like our neighbours across the pond, Halloween is a favourite holiday for many people in the UK.
And with lockdown restrictions now lifted, many are especially excited to get together and hit the town or (for those with little ones) our neighbours’ front doors.
How wasteful is Halloween?
Sadly, the nature of Halloween makes it an especially wasteful and unsustainable time of year.
This is partially to do with how short-lived it is; after the 31st October, most homes throw out their decorations, sweet wrappers and costumes.
A recent report by the charities Hubbub and Fairyland Trust found 31st October to be responsible for a huge rise in waste; with 2,000 tonnes of Halloween plastic (from costumes, decorations, and sweet wrappers) bought and thrown away due to celebrations.
With that in mind, we’ve put together some advice on how to celebrate Halloween in a more eco-conscious way this year, with tips on how to do everything in a greener way, from partying to pumpkins and trick-or-treating.
5 Easy Ways To Have An Eco-Friendly Halloween
1. Start with pumpkins
Pumpkins are a Halloween staple. After all, what’s Halloween without a Jack-O-Lantern? However, they contribute to a huge amount of food waste every year.
A 2020 survey conducted by the sustainability charity, Hubbub found that 24 million pumpkins are bought by the British public every year.
The scary part is 12.8 million are thrown away because a lot of people don’t realise that the inside of a pumpkin is edible. That’s over half of them carved and discarded with the flesh going uneaten!
This adds to the 6.6 million tonnes of food and drink thrown away by UK homes every year.
Buy local pumpkins
Start by opting to buy (or pick!) locally sourced pumpkins, to reduce your emissions.
You can find these at farmers markets, local grocery stores and in large supermarkets (by checking the label).
Once Halloween is done and dusted, avoid throwing your ‘Jack-o-Lantern’ into the general bin. Instead, either put it in a food waste or compost bin.
Alternatively, you can also place them in gardens to feed birds.
Next, eat all of the pumpkin including the seeds and insides too. Here are some delicious recipes to help you cut down food waste:
Roasted pumpkin seeds
When you come to carve your pumpkin this year, use the seeds and insides to create nutritious meals and snacks instead of throwing them straight in the bin.
Separate out the seeds before washing them in warm water, drying them with a clean tea towel and roasting them in the oven with sea salt and olive oil.
The seeds take around 15 minutes if roasted at 180C (or 350F) and make a delicious and healthy treat for the whole family.
Toss the seeds every five minutes to avoid browning and allow to cool for 10 minutes on a plate before serving.
As well as using the seeds from your pumpkin, there are plenty of things you can do with the flesh of the pumpkin itself.
Chop it into small even chunks, season with salt, pepper and dried sage and roast with olive oil for 20-25 minutes on 190C (375F).
Once the pieces are out of the oven, you can either serve these as a side dish (they go great with other seasonal vegetables, like sweet potatoes, carrots, squash and yams).
Alternatively, why not try combining and blending them with roasted potato pieces, sauteed white onion and some vegetable stock and creating a pumpkin soup.
This works well with spices like cumin, ginger and chilli, especially with some crusty bread for dipping!
Try Tom Hunt’s Pumpkin Doughnut Muffins Recipe or take a look at how to Reduce Your Food Waste: How to ‘Compleat’ 9 Kitchen Staples
2. Get crafty with Halloween decorations
Halloween decorations are a big contributor to the amount of waste associated with the holiday, especially the one-use, plastic-made kinds.
3. Plan eco-friendly Halloween parties
If you’re having a party or get-together, separate your rubbish containers so that guests can recycle glass and plastic more easily.
If you’re celebrating with children, decorate plastic containers or bins with clearly visible pictures and/or colours, so they can see where to put empty containers and packets.
You can even make a game out of it. Use a felt-tip marker to colour cups/rubbish with different colours, corresponding to rubbish containers.
4. Go plastic free trick-or-treating
While spending a few pounds/dollars on a plastic bucket for trick-or-treating might be tempting, the plastic used to make these is usually non-recyclable, and the flimsiness of the design usually means they don’t have much upcycling potential once Halloween is over.
A much more eco-friendly solution is to use reusable bags, like tote bags, or pillowcases for trick-or-treating.
You can even decorate plain bags with your children using paints, eco sequins and fabric pens to make them Halloween themed, which can be a great activity in the lead-up to Halloween.
These materials are much more sustainable, and, if you don’t re-use them next year you can easily recycle them.
5. Make your own sustainable Halloween costumes
Costumes are a huge source of waste after Halloween, as much of the time children won’t dress up as the same thing more than once.
Their tastes change as they get older, and they grow out of old costumes.
Many brand new expensive costumes go unworn after their debut outing, then gather dust in attics and are subsequently thrown out during the next big clearout.
This year, why not try making your own Halloween costumes.
This haunted house costume is incredibly easy, not to mention budget-friendly: all you need are some old boxes, a black marker pen and a pair of scissors.
For a slightly more challenging project, you can also try crafting something like this DIY witch-princess costume.
It uses eco-friendly materials rather than plastics which are then sewn together to make a matching dress, cape and hat set.
The, upcycle an old broomstick and you’re ready to go.
Upcycle your Halloween outfits
If you’re less crafty (or have less time on your hands) you can still be more eco-conscious by opting to modify or update a previous years’ outfit instead of buying new.
Try ‘zombifying’ old outfits using face paint and adding dirt and rip marks into well-known character-type outfits.
For instance, if you/your child dressed as a pirate in a previous year, and you still have the costume to hand, adapt the look by painting your face white, adding dark circles underneath your eyes and painting your lips pale.
Then, add rips and dark marks to your old costume, to create a whole new ‘zombie-pirate’ look.
This is applicable to almost any other type of costume – whether it’s a princess, doctor, or ballerina… the list is endless.
Go for a zero-waste Halloween costume
Alternatively, some great, zero-waste Halloween costume options involve putting aside materials altogether and using makeup to create the look you want.
For example, this skeleton look can be created with an eye shadow palette and eyeliner alone – perfect for last-minute costumes. Pair it with a simple all-black outfit for maximum effect.
Equally, vampire outfits are very fashionable with children and adults every year.
For a simple yet effective vampire look, pair a simple black dress with dark eye shadow/shaded eyes, deep red lipstick and fake blood on either corner of the mouth.
Have a Halloween costume swap
If all else fails, try hosting a costume swap. Gather your friends and have them bring all their costumes/child’s costumes.
Dump them in the middle of the room and start sifting through – it’s a great way to get a whole, refreshed outfit without spending money or buying anything new!