Halloween is all about the buildup. As the leaves turn, and the last remnants of summer are gently replaced by crisp fall weather, the first decorations go up. Adults start to plan Halloween parties, kids start to map out their trick-or-treat routes, and everyone starts to plan their costume! Candy companies release new variations on the classics and TV shows release new spins on the traditional Halloween episode.
Then, Halloween itself is less a standalone event and more the culmination of weeks of fun and excitement.
But for all that buildup, what might be most remarkable about Halloween is how quickly it’s gone: come November 1, holiday music is in full swing and stores everywhere seem to have magically updated their decorations overnight. No other beloved holiday passes us by so quickly.
While the world moves on from Halloween, one thing remains: waste. A lot of it. Pre-packaged costumes get used once and end up in the trash. Silly String clogs storm drains and sewage systems. Research shows that more than 600 million pounds of candy are purchased every year—which is why we launched the Trick or Trash™ waste reduction program to make recycling those wrappers easier and more effective while keeping packaging out of our landfills and oceans.
Of course, sustainability and having a good time can go hand-in-hand. Here are some easy ways to make your Halloween more environmentally friendly:
Stick to Candy Wrapped in Paper or Aluminum Foil
There are times when single-use plastic can’t be avoided. Fortunately, Halloween is not one of those times. Are candy wrappers recyclable? Not every name-brand candy comes with recyclable or biodegradable packaging, but plenty of them do! Many major candy manufacturers have recently pledged to move towards 100 percent sustainable packaging.
Borrow, Make, or Thrift-Store-Buy Your Costume
There’s nothing sustainable about wearing an outfit once and then throwing it in the trash, no matter what material it’s made from. Remember, when it comes to the three R’s of recycling, “reduce” and “reuse” come first. Before heading to one of those seasonal Halloween specialty stores , take advantage of old clothing (like old t-shirts or pants) that might be repurposed for part or all of your costume. If you have to get something new, avoid cheap, “disposable” plastic costumes. If you’re going to buy something, it might as well be something you might also be able to wear in “real life”—or at least use more than once!
Don’t Use Plastic Buckets or Bags on the Trick-or-Treat Trail
Or, at the very least, don’t buy new plastic items just to carry candy! You almost certainly have something already in the house, like a canvas tote bag or pillowcase, that can transport tasty treats just fine. This year, we partnered with Mars on special Trick or Trash™ bags with prepaid postage: after enjoying their candy post-Halloween, kids can put all their wrappers back in the bag, then seal it up and put it right in the mail to be properly recycled. Though the bags are now sold out online, they’ll be handed out at selected locations around the United States. And, of course, you can order a Trick or Trash™ box for use at your school, business, or community organization.
Keep Your Decorations Efficient and Environmentally Friendly
The most classic Halloween decoration is also perhaps the most sustainable: pumpkins. Pumpkins are, naturally, fully biodegradable (or compostable)—and unlike plastic knick-knacks, they can double as the foundation for delicious soups and pies or the source of tasty, nutritious baked seeds. Gourds, hay, and corn stalks are equally eco-friendly ways to round out your decor. If you do buy non-biodegradable decorations, stick to stuff that can be used year after year—or, even better, buy items that have already been used.
Use Organic or Otherwise Nontoxic Makeup
There’s nothing wrong with going the extra mile on your costume. Sometimes, it’s all about commitment. If the elements of your costume extend beyond your outfit and accessories alone, avoid cosmetics that contain microplastics—common in eyeliners, eyebrow pencils, lipstick, hair dyes, and even face powders.
So there you have it: five simple ways to make your Halloween more sustainable. It might be tough for every family to follow every tip, every year, but even adopting just a few of these habits will go a long way in making this fall favorite more environmentally friendly for all.
Editor’s Note: References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey affiliation with or endorsement of Rubicon by those companies in any way.