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How to Avoid Halloween Horror - A Sustainability Guide

Eleanor Meehan provides a sustainability guide for the spooky season, highlighting the environmental impact of Halloween-related waste in the UK, such as plastic decorations, discarded pumpkins, and costumes. She offers practical tips for a more sustainable celebration, making it easy for you to opt for a less environmentally-damaging Halloween.


Spooky season is upon us, and this means that many are getting ready to celebrate one of the UK's favourite holidays. In fact, Halloween spending in the UK is estimated to total £777 million in 2023. This includes costumes, decorations, food, and drink. However, what is often not talked about are the sustainable and ethical implications of this time of the year. Potentially, the scariest thing about Halloween is the level of waste it produces: in the UK alone we waste around 2,000 tonnes of plastic every October, this equates to 83-million plastic bottles. So we've put together a few tips on how to create a more sustainable and conscious Halloween while keeping all the fun.


Happy Halloween! Image Credit: Kenny Eliason on Unsplash.


Decorations


Halloween decorations create an incredible amount of waste each year, and are typically made from single use plastic and other non-recyclable materials. Luckily, there are many easy solutions:


Reusing decorations from last year


One of the easiest ways to prevent waste and the use of disposable decorations is to invest in good-quality ones that will last and reuse them each year. Especially because Halloween doesn't follow particular trends, the decorations never go out of fashion. And if you really don’t fancy using the same decorations next year, make sure to donate them for someone else to reuse!


Buying or finding second-hand items


Charity shops and online second-hand websites such as eBay and Facebook Marketplace are never low on Halloween decorations this time of year. A bit of shopping around, and you’ll find everything you need.


Get crafty


Making your own decorations can offer a sustainable and fun alternative. Some great ideas include reusable garlands and bunting, painting old jars and bottles, turning tights with ladders into spider webbing, and you can never go wrong with the classic 'sheet over a balloon’ ghost. If you need even more inspiration, dried flowers and leaves, dark fabrics and candles can create the perfect atmosphere without ever being explicitly Halloween-themed.


Pumpkins


We can’t mention Halloween decorations without talking about the most iconic: the pumpkin. What may seem like a natural way to decorate your home is one of the most wasteful traditions of all worldwide holidays. This is because most are grown and bought for carving and then discarded, with 18,000 metric tonnes of pumpkin being thrown away. This process releases methane, a greenhouse gas that, over a 20-year period, has a global warming impact 80 times greater than carbon dioxide.


This isn’t to say that we shouldn't be buying pumpkins, but the best thing you can do with a pumpkin is to use all of it. There are many fantastic recipes you can use to make the most of these incredibly versatile vegetables. For example, keep the scooped-out flesh and make soup, and pumpkin pie is a particular favourite of mine! And remember, if you can buy organic and local, that is always a plus!


Spooky carved pumpkin emitting green smoke. Image credit: Colton Sturgeon on Unsplash.


Costumes



Reuse


If you’re only going to wear it once a year, it only makes sense to reuse your costumes. Re-wearing previous costumes, or getting creative with certain items you already own to create a new look is a great way of ensuring that you're not buying unnecessary items that will end up in landfill in a few weeks time.


Buy second-hand


This time of year, there is plenty of Halloween-themed clothing in charity shops and online shops such as Vinted and Depop. Opting for second-hand costumes is a sustainable choice that not only reduces waste but also saves you money, so altogether, a win-win!


Swap


Ask around your friends, family, or colleagues to see if there are any particular items you can borrow or swap with each other. This way, you can enjoy a fresh costume, without contributing to any waste or the fast fashion industry (whilst not spending a penny!). By engaging in the “sharing economy”, you are also encouraging a sense of community and reducing the overall environmental footprint of Halloween celebrations.


Make your own


There are many costumes that are very easy to make yourself. You don’t have to be an expert with a sewing machine; tomb stones made from cardboard or a sheet over the head will work just as well. This approach fosters a sense of creativity and reduces the environmental impact of mass-produced costumes that infiltrate our landfills every year.


Easy ghost costume. Image credit: Febe Vanermen on Unsplash.


Food and Drink


Sweets and treats


Some sustainable alternatives include choosing plastic-free or recyclable packaging, or as minimal plastic packaging as possible, such as sweets in jars or paper bags. Where possible, choose sweets that are vegetarian or vegan, or chocolate that is responsibly sourced. You could also forgo sweets altogether and give away something else, such as making your own biscuits and chocolates, packaged in plastic-free bags or containers, of course.


Other food and drink


If you're planning a Halloween party or themed dinner, making your own food and drink is the best way to reduce waste and enables you to get your ingredients from as local a source as possible. As mentioned before, use all of your pumpkin to make soups, curries, pies, breads, cakes, and even lattes. Some other healthy and waste-free recipes, including Jack-O'-Lantern stuffed peppers, home-made pizza with creatively used toppings, and green, orange, or red smoothies made from seasonal fruit and vegetables, take no time at all.


So with all of that, be sure to take on this spooky season as sustainably as possible!


About the author: Eleanor Meehan is a Criminology graduate from Lancaster University. She has a keen interest in the relationship between climate justice and social justice.

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