Have a real ghoul time this year with this ultimate guide to having an eco-friendly and sustainable Halloween. From environmentally friendly costumes to planet-friendly decorations and treats, you’ll be sure to pick up some eerie-sistable ideas!
Do you know what the scariest part of Halloween is? It’s not the talk of ghosts and ghouls in the air, but the sheer amount of waste we collectively produce.
Apparently, an estimated 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste – equivalent to 83m bottles – is generated from throwaway Halloween clothing sold by leading retailers in the UK each year. Meanwhile, when it comes to pumpkins, the picture is no better. 60% who buy pumpkins to carve say they dispose of the inner flesh. Meanwhile, 80% say they don’t consider pumpkins’ primary purpose as a food item.
However, I’m no ghoul. I don’t think Halloween should be cancelled. Far from it. I am all about celebrating and bringing cheer to the dark nights. What I do think is that we can turn these frightening statistics around with a bit of thought and consideration to the planet.
The Ultimate Guide to Having an Eco-Friendly and Sustainable Halloween
To treat lightly on the planet, but still have some hair-raising fun, here are some truly spooktacular ideas for greening Halloween. From costumes to food, to decor, it’s all here!
Sustainable Halloween Costumes
The most sustainable option when it comes to Halloween costumes is to use what you already have. Can you put together a fun costume from items of clothing you already own? If you’re struggling, can you borrow something from a friend? Or have a Halloween costume swap if you don’t want to wear the same costume as the previous year? If it’s for kids, can you swap costumes with other parents?
If you can’t find what you need in your own wardrobe, or that of a friends, then the next most sustainable option is to buy secondhand. Some of my favourite places for secondhand Halloween costumes are Oxfam Online*, eBay*, and Facebook Marketplace. If you have time, do also try your local charity shops, as many save up costumes they have been donated to sell in October.
If you can’t find what you want secondhand, then renting a costume is another sustainable option. Search online for Halloween costume rental options near you.
If you want to make your own costume, then the only limit is your imagination. Try my guide to homemade Halloween costumes for kids for some clever ideas.
Sustainable Halloween Treats
It’s Bone-Appetit (see what I did there?!) with these eco-friendly and sustainable Halloween treat ideas.
For Halloween Parties
If you are hosting a Halloween party then you are spoiled for choice when it comes to eco-friendly food. BBC Good Food has tons of vegan Halloween recipes. From vegan nachos, to pumpkin hummus, squash stews, and vegan toffee apples there’s a host of ghoulish treats to choose from. Tangerine pumpkins and banana ghosts also go down well with little kids.
For Trick or Treaters
For a sustainable Halloween, I would normally advocate making your own treats. However, for trick or treaters, I opt for packaged treats. Allergies, viruses, and general safety concerns mean I feel better handing over items that aren’t homemade.
Thankfully, there are many ethical alternatives to regular chocolate and sweets brands. Lookout for products that are Fairtrade (like these mini chocolates*), or are Certified Organic, or have other independent certifications.
If these options are above your budget, or too tricky to come by, then I say it’s totally fine to opt for sweet treats that you find in your local shops. Sweet wrappers can be recycled using soft plastic recycling schemes available at some supermarkets, including the Co-Op and Morrisons.
If you can’t eat any leftover unopened sweets that you don’t want to eat, then consider how you can reduce food waste. Can you pass them on to someone who could? Or a local foodbank?
Halloween really lends itself to eco-friendly and sustainable decorations. After all, it has its roots in the transition of summer into winter. The fact that it has always been traditionally held on 31st October is significant because this is the last day of the harvest. Decorating with fruit, vegetables and other natural materials is a great way to go to honour these traditions.
Pick A Pumpkin Or Two
I grew up in Scotland in the 1980s carving neeps (turnips) at Halloween. These carved jack o’lanterns are eminently spookier than pumpkins, but a total nightmare to carve. If you value your fingers, then pick a pumpkin instead. There are heaps of pumpkin growers across the UK. For the lowest carbon footprint, find a pumpkin patch local to you and pick up a pumpkin or two.
Carve pumpkins to your heart’s content – just don’t forget to use the innards to make soups, stews, or curries. For extra zero-waste points, you can even roast the pumpkin seeds to make a tasty snack. Afterward Halloween has been and gone, don’t forget to compost the pumpkin in your food waste bin or compost heap.
Alternatively, some people suggest leaving your pumpkin outside in your garden for animals to eat. If you do this, make sure to remove any candle wax, paint or other embellishments you may have used. I have read reports that pumpkin may be harmful to hedgehogs, but I can’t find any official information on this. If you wish to err on the side of caution, then popping your discarded pumpkin up in a tree in your garden for birds and squirrels to eat gets round this prickly issue.
Other Eco-Friendly Halloween Decoration Ideas
As well as pumpkins, there are plenty of low waste ways to decorate at Halloween.
The most sustainable action would be to keep using the Halloween decorations you already own. There’s no need to throw items away just because they are made of plastic. Reusing what we already own is the pinnacle of sustainability, so bring out the plastic pumpkins, skeletons, or bats with pride!
If you are looking to add some more Halloween decorations to your life, then another idea would be to source secondhand Halloween decor items that you can reuse year after year. Whether that’s an ornament, banners or decorations for the outside of your home. I would try eBay or Facebook marketplace for these types of items.
Make Your Own Decorations
The other green option is to make your own. The internet is awash with homemade Halloween decorations. If you’ve got an empty tin can and some white fabric then you’ve got a spooky tin can ghost. If you’ve got some black paper, you’ve got some plastic-free bats for your walls. Or if you’ve got some leftover wool, you’ve got some ghost tassels to hang up. Spent 5 minutes on Pinterest and I promise you can gather tons of plastic-free and zero-waste ideas that will leave your house looking spooktacular!
Any other sustainable Halloween tips? Do share!