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Written by Joanna Hoang   
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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Green Halloween

Halloween is one of the most popular, and at the same time, most wasteful holidays in the world. All the waste generated on this spooktacular day is quite scary for Mother Nature indeed. Looking for a great time while being conscious of our environmental health? Well, read on!

Costumes

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The Halloween dress-up tradition is a popular activity for all members of the family. Finding the perfect costume is an exciting process. However every year many costumes used only for a single night are tossed into the trash only to fill up our landfills. Instead of purchasing a brand new costume every year there are several alternatives you can try.

Benefits for the Environment: Less waste going to landfills ☺

Costs: Variable…generally low or none!

Time and Effort: Minimal
  • Trade costumes with other people. You can organize a costume swap! This keeps them out of landfills and brings in new costumes for you to wear.
  • Reusing costumes: You can reuse in years to come rather than wearing the same costume the next year. Create your own unique collection! For your kids’ costumes, use them as hand me downs for the younger children.
  • Use the clothes already in your closet when making your own personalized costumes, as well as your existing accessories and any arts and crafts pieces you may have.
  • Create a costume out of recycled materials. You can use old sheets to create the classical ghost costume, old boxes to create an awesome robot. The possibilities are endless.2
  • If you need to buy a costume or specific pieces for your costume, check out your local thrift stores. They’re cheaper and are already exist (i.e. no additional resources required), staying true to the Reuse mantra!
Jack-O-Lanterns

One of the more popular Halloween traditions—people of all ages buy a pumpkin, or many pumpkins, to take home and carve up into scary faces and Halloween motifs. After Halloween, Jack may be able to survive a few more days before being tossed into the trash. What a waste!


To make our pumpkins “greener” the first step would be to buy the pumpkin from a local farmer or pumpkin patch. This reduces Jack’s carbon footprint from delivery to your local big supermarket and will likely be pesticide free.3 If you can plant your own pumpkin, that would be even better!

After the Halloween season is over you can also try cooking your Jack-o-Lantern to create a pumpkin puree. Try using smaller pumpkins instead of one large one if possible because they are more suitable for cooking.4

Benefits for the Environment: Less waste going into landfills ☺

Costs: Low

Time and Effort: Low

Pumpkin Puree Recipe

Ingredients: Pumpkin and 2 cups of water, butter and/or oil and spices optional.

Preparation:

1. Wash the pumpkin with a mild detergent before carving to get rid of any pesticides (which wouldn’t be a problem if you buy from a local farmer!) or bacteria.

2. Scrape out the seeds and stringy stuff. Keep the seeds to roast/toast later! Refrigerate any of the pieces that you cut out. Compost the extra goopy stuff.

3. Carve the pumpkin and display.

4. After Halloween, cut the pumpkin into 3 inch by 3 inch pieces. Put them into a big pot with about 2 cups of water. Cover the pot. Turn on high heat, bringing the water to a boil, and then turn it down until the water is just boiling. It will take about 30 min to steam the pumpkin until it is easy to poke a fork through the flesh.

5. Drain the pumpkin and let it cool. Cut off the skin with a paring knife. Put pumpkin in a food processor or a blender and mix until smooth.

6. Use in recipes for breads or soups. Then refrigerate and freeze any extra.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Recipe: While carving your pumpkin, save the seeds! You can roast them into a healthy snack:5

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Ingredients: Pumpkin Seeds, salt, any seasoning, olive oil.

Preparation:

1. Preheat your oven to 350° F.

2. Clean off the pulp from the pumpkin seeds (you may want to try putting them in a shallow bowl of water, then drain) and dab them dry with a towel.

3. To add flavor, toss the seeds with a bit of olive oil to just barely coat the seeds, too much oil and they will be greasy. Add salt and any kind of seasoning you want such as garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, paprika, anything you like!

4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and spread seeds across sheet without overlap.

5. Bake for 3-5 minutes, until the seeds start to brown and become fragrant.

You can also roast the seeds at 250° F so you don’t have to watch them as carefully. At this temperature it could take 30-60 minutes.

Eat them warm out of the oven or store for a protein-packed tasty snack!

If you don’t want to eat your Jack-o-Lantern, consider composting instead of throwing it into your trash bin ☺

Trick-or-Treating

Once you’re all dressed up in your costume and got your pumpkin carved, the next step is to eagerly wait for night time to go out and frighten others with your get up and of course to gather loot and candy! This is what kids, young adults, and their parents look forward to the most every year. It is also possibly the most wasteful aspect of this wonderful holiday. All the wrappers from the individually packaged candies and disposable loot bags eventually end up in the landfill polluting our environment. Here is what you can do…

Benefits for the Environment: Less waste going into landfills ☺

Costs: Low

Time and Effort: Low

7

Loot Bags

  • Use a reusable bag for collecting that night’s loot! You could use pillowcases, old baskets, reusable shopping bags, plain bags that you can personalize, etc.8 The list is endless. Save the bag and use it in future years or for other uses such as grocery shopping!
Traveling
  • Instead of driving around to go trick-or-treating, consider walking and getting to mingle with your neighbors.9
  • If you decide to eat your candy, do not toss the wrapper on the ground, keep them until you can dispose of them and teach your kids to do so as well. Make sure to compost any paper-based wrappers and any partly-eaten candy.10
Candy
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  • Instead of buying the usual big name brand candies, consider purchasing organic candy and fair trade candies.13 It may be a bit more expensive, but it’s better for the environment and your children’s health and future, so in the long run it is worth the extra money.
  • If you are growing any fruits in your backyard, offer these healthy alternatives instead. Dipping them in chocolate or syrup makes a healthy and tasty snack!
  • Or try giving away little toys and knick knacks. Pencils, erasers, some school supplies are good too and useful.14
  • Plan a neighborhood potluck with tons of yummy homemade goods that your kids will love even more than processed, packaged candy, and need no wrapping—thus creating significantly less waste than store-bought individually wrapped candy.
Party Time!

Not everyone is going to be dressing up just to go trick-or-treating! For those of you planning on hosting a party, there are ways for you to cut back on your Halloween footprint too!
  • Use reusable dishware and utensils instead of the disposable ones.
  • As for decorations, save them and reuse them again next year.15 Think of them as being Christmas lights and decorations… you reuse those, don’t you?
  • Serve food made from food and produce purchased locally. They will be much tastier, fresher, and healthier. Buy in bulk to reduce your packaging waste, and try to keep the processed foods to a minimum… perhaps even make it a potluck!
  • If you’re looking for another fun activity, try going to a local corn maze if there is one nearby. Some mazes even set up a haunted-house-type experience. Wandering around in the dark on this spooky night is a great experience. Some of these farms have tractor tours where you get to go around and tour the farm. Remember to bring a flashlight!
Halloween can still be a fun and spooky day without giving Mother Earth a heart attack! Have fun prepping for Halloween this year!

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1 http://www.thedigeratilife.com/blog/index.php/2008/10/29/fun-cheap-halloween-costumes-to-diy-photo/
2 http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Halloween-Ideas.html
3 Id.
4 http://www.cookforgood.com/cooking_halloween_pumpkin.html
5 http://www.oureverydayearth.com/2009/10/27/jack-olantern-pumpkin-seeds-recycled/
6 http://roastedpumpkinseeds.org/bulk-pumpkin-seeds/
7 http://greenhalloween.org/blog/?tag=halloween-ideas&paged=3
8 http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Halloween-Ideas.html
9 Id.
10 Id.
11 http://makeawhisk.com/tag/candy/
12 http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/latest/chocolates-organic-490307
13 http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Halloween-Ideas.html
14 http://www.greenhalloween.org/content.php?page=treats
15 http://www.greeniacs.com/GreeniacsArticles/Halloween-Ideas.html




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Green Facts

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  • Recycling aluminum saves 95% of the energy used to make the material from scratch.

  • Bamboo absorbs 35% more carbon dioxide than equivalent stands of trees.

  • States with bottle deposit laws have 35-40% less litter by volume.

  • Washing your clothes in cold or warm instead of hot water saves 500 pounds of carbon dioxide a year, and drying your clothes on a clothesline six months out of the year would save another 700 pounds.

  • A laptop consumes five times less electricity than a desktop computer.

  • Recycling for one year at Stanford University saved the equivalent of 33,913 trees and the need for 636 tons of iron ore, coal, and limestone.

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  • An aluminum can that is thrown away instead of recycled will still be a can 500 years from now!

  • In the United States, automobiles produce over 20 percent of total carbon emissions. Walk or bike and you'll save one pound of carbon for every mile you travel.

  • Americans throw away more than 120 million cell phones each year, which contribute 60,000 tons of waste to landfills annually.

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