How to have a sustainable Halloween
Written by Emmanuelle Gammage
Scary costumes, trick and treating, face paint and fright nights – all of which make up one of the nation’s favourite holidays, Halloween! But do you want to know the spookiest thing about it? The waste. Every year in the UK alone, we spend £300 million on Halloween, including costumes, decorations, food and drink. And what happens to the majority of it? It ends up in the bin.
One day of fun leaves a huge mess for the planet to clean up, or not to clean up, as the case may be. You can still have a fun and frightful Halloween by reducing your waste and making a few small changes to your normal routine. Check out our tricks and treats for a sustainable Halloween.
Eco Halloween Decorations
Halloween decorations are typically made from plastic and other non-recyclable materials. Many of these are binned the day after instead of storing them away for next year. But the best solution for the planet is to avoid buying new plastic decorations altogether!
You can do this by:
Reusing decorations from last year
The simplest way to prevent waste is to reuse decorations that you’ve already got. The great thing about Halloween is that it’s the same every year. Nothing goes out of fashion.
Searching for second-hand items
Charity shops are brilliant for finding bargains. Turn it into a fun adventure and head to all of the charity shops in your local town to see what you can uncover. They often have funky window displays this time of year which makes it more exciting.
Turn cardboard boxes into tombstones
Transform your front garden into an eerie graveyard using old cardboard boxes. All you need is a permanent marker, a utility knife, some tape and paint. Follow these simple steps:
- Draw the shape you want on the top of the cardboard box and cut it out. Do the same on the bottom.
- Place the two pieces together and seal the seams with tape.
- Use the extra pieces of cardboard to trim and fill any gaps such as the curved top
- Spray or paint the cardboard how you want and use a permanent marker to personalise it.
Save any boxes up in the months before and your DIY decorations will be the talk of the town.
Build a tin can lantern
While your other decorations might look brilliant, you won’t be able to see them at night. These lanterns are made from recycled cans and paint. And hopefully, you already have everything you need in your cupboards.
What you’ll need:
- Tin cans
- A hammer
- Tea light
- Use warm soap and water to clean the cans and remove any stickers.
- Find some printable patterns online and cut out the spooky lantern shape. Tape the shape over the outside of the can.
- Hammer in the nails to punch out the holes into the shape of your pattern. We recommend wearing eye protection and gloves.
- Time to paint! Create your own funky pattern or paint them black for a traditional spooky look.
Add a tea light and place them on your windowsill, line the path up to your front door or along your front porch.
Craft ghosts from milk jugs
Repurposing items you have at home is great for your wallet and the planet. These miniature ghosts are made from milk bottles that would otherwise go in the bin. Alternatively, you could use empty fizzy bottles. First, remove any stickers and make sure your jugs or bottles are clean and dry inside. Next, follow these two simple steps:
- Draw the ghost face on the front using a black permanent marker. If you want a stencil, you can print off an image and trace it.
- Thread fairy lights through the top so they light up. Or, we love to use neon glow sticks to add some colour. If you’re placing them outside and it’s windy, weigh them down with rocks or sand before adding the lights.
These can be reused next year too!
Give charity shop figures a spooky makeover
Kids will absolutely love this little project as it involves a trip to the charity shops and some paint! Let them choose some figurines and start by painting them black. The rest is up to you. Paint their eyes red or add some glow in the dark paint. Place them on your windowsill so everyone can see your handiwork.
Make DIY bat decorations
We can’t get enough of this mighty swarm of bats. They’ll look great on your front door or inside of your lair. No need for fancy equipment. All you’ll need is black card, double-sided tape and a bat template.
Simply hold the template over the card and cut around it. If you’re worried that they’ll slip, you can tape the template down. But don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be perfect. Fold the bats slightly to give them some dimension and stick them to the wall with double-sided tape or Blu Tack.
Create a witches broom using dried twigs
Add some magic this Halloween in only a couple of minutes. Head on a walk to gather your materials such as branches, twigs and long grass. Make sure they’re all dried. Line them all up, cut them to your desired length and tie them together tightly with some string. Find the full tutorial here.
Eco-Friendly Costumes Ideas
According to a survey of 19 retailers by the Fairyland Trust charity supported by Hubbub, it’s estimated that UK Halloween celebrations generate over 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste from clothing and costumes alone.
The report also revealed that “over 90% of families consider buying costumes, some 7m Halloween costumes are thrown away in the UK each year, and globally less than 13% of material inputs to clothing manufacture are recycled and only 1% of clothing textiles are recycled into new clothes”.
How can you prevent plastic waste when dressing up for Halloween? We’re glad you asked.
Repurpose old clothes
Have you got plenty of clothes in your wardrobe that you never wear anymore? They could make great Halloween costumes instead. A plain white t-shirt? Add some blood and you’re a zombie. Black tights? Rip them up and you’re a witch. A white summer dress? Add some white faceprint and you’re a ghost bride.
Look online for second-hand costumes
If you don’t fancy prowling through charity shops, head online to Facebook marketplace, eBay, Vinted and Depop. There are thousands of secondhand items online for a fraction of the price, and many of them have only been worn once or twice.
However, if you prefer to go in store and try them on, charity shops are a great option. Make it a project this year and find clothes to get creative with. Check out some before and after outfits from the British Heart Foundation.
Go back to the basics
You can’t go wrong with the basics! Got any bedsheets lying around? Grab a black marker pen to draw the eyes on and bam, you’ve got yourself a ghost costume. You can get more creative with glow sticks or black gloves and accessories.
This cardboard box robot costume always goes down a treat. Using household items such as boxes, tin foil, paint and glitter – you name it. You’ll want a larger box for the body and a smaller box for the head (don’t forget to cut out the eyes), cover in tin foil or paint and start decorating spooky body parts. We love searching on Pinterest for inspiration.
What’s the problem with pumpkins
Every year, 10 million pumpkins are grown in the UK and 95% of those are used at Halloween and thrown away, creating 18,000 tonnes of food waste. Much of this waste ends up in landfill. And these pumpkins will decompose and turn into methane – a harmful greenhouse gas.
Carving pumpkins may be a beloved tradition but for the planet, it’s more of a trick than a treat. Let’s consider a few things to lessen the impact.
Buy pumpkins from local farms
Make a day of it and visit a pumpkin farm! They’re great fun for the whole family and many have other activities such as a play park, face painting, a farm shop and a cafe. Not only is getting outside good for your mental health, but your local farm is more likely to use sustainable practices.
Unlike the supermarket, this is a good opportunity to show children that vegetables come in all shapes and sizes – they don’t have to look perfect! Not sure how to initiate conversations about sustainability with children? Read our guide.
Don’t bin the pumpkin guts
When you’re carving your pumpkins, don’t throw away the insides. There are tons of delicious recipes to help you reduce your waste and try something new. Roast the pumpkin seeds for a health boost – they’re highly nutritious and packed with antioxidants.
As for the guts, you can whip them into a purée to add flavours to risottos or curries. You can turn it into a sweet chutney. You can mix it into creamy hummus. You can blend it up and add it to your morning juice. You can slather it on your skin in a glowing facemask. You can bake it into an American treat – pumpkin pie. The list is endless but you can find some inspiration to kick you off here.
Don’t forget to compost when it’s all over
Once your pumpkins are looking a bit worse for wear post-Halloween, don’t toss them in the bin. Instead, compost them in your garden by cutting them into small pieces to quicken the process. If you don’t have your own, many communities have drop-off sites after Halloween so do your research.
Alternatively, you can break it up and use it as bird feed, or you can donate it to your local farm or zoo so they can use them as compost or animal food.
One for next year – grow your own
Get ahead of the game and plant your own next year. It can be super fun and rewarding for children to watch them grow and relish in its end product. There are many benefits of growing your own food including more control (no fertiliser or pest control), it can save you money and getting outside is great for your mental and physical health.
Check out this how-to article by the RHS with everything you need to know about growing your own pumpkins.
Make the most of our eco tricks and enjoy treats all year round
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