What’s scarier than a good haunted corn maze? Or a really realistic Freddy Krueger costume? Or the movie “Psycho”?!
For us at Home ReSource, it’s the piles of candy wrappers, plastic Halloween decorations, rotten jack-o-lanterns, and mass-produced costumes that are sent to landfill each year.
But our trashy nightmares are not causing us to hide paralyzed under our covers – we’re putting on our Waste Warrior costumes and are ready to knock out some waste! For those determined to get some good socially-distanced tricks and treats in this year, we’ve got you covered on ways to do so with minimal waste (and minimal $$$).
Learn the story behind Halloween
While Halloween in the U.S. appears to be just another modern consumer holiday, it actually has deep historical roots involving preparation for winter, honoring the dead, and cultural celebrations. Reading about the origins and evolution of Halloween might help establish a newfound appreciation for the holiday, and inspire more thoughtful ways to celebrate that don’t revolve around buying and wasting a bunch of stuff. Make it more about the story than the stuff!
Candy and Trick-or-Treating
Storytelling is great, but for most of us, Halloween is just not the same without the treats. Here are some ways to satisfy your sweet tooth without overwhelming the garbage can.
- Bulk candy – Some grocery stores offer wrapped candies in their bulk section. Bring your own *clean* reusable produce bag to package them in. If you are purchasing sweets for yourself (rather than trick-or-treaters), bulk unwrapped candy is an option as well. Check out Good Food Store’s bulk foods list to see the options!
- Plastic-free candies – Candies wrapped in foil or cardboard are good options if you need them to be individually packaged. Gather the discarded foil into a ball – once its diameter is 2” or larger, throw it in the recycling bin! Or, go for candy in compostable wrappers, like these.
- DIY treats – Skip store bought candy altogether and make your own for a fun family activity. Here are some kid-friendly recipe ideas to get you going. Try other homemade Halloween treats as well, like these monster mouth snacks and frozen “boo-nana” pops. Many of the ingredients can be bought in bulk or fresh and package-free! More recipes here and here.
- Candy alternatives – “Nature-packaged” snacks, like oranges, is a fun, healthy option (especially when decorated to look like mini jack-o-lanterns – like this!). Canned drinks, like soda or juice can be given to trick-or-treaters as well. Or, think outside the box – give out low-waste items like pencils, crayons, temporary tattoos, stamps, magnets, game or activity books, notepads, paper bookmarks, etc.
- No-contact trick-or-treating – CDC guidelines suggest individually wrapping treats and leaving them on your doorstep for trick-or-treaters to pick up, instead of the typical face-to-face interaction and communal candy bowl. If you decide to do this, avoid plastic baggies by packaging them in paper bags, napkins, or reusable jars/containers. You could even decorate the containers, like this!
- Post-Halloween extras – If you’re stuck with excess candy after Halloween, check out Treats for Troops. Through this program, donated candy is sent to deployed service members and veterans. Businesses and organizations can register here to host local collections.
- Candy pails – No need to buy a new, plastic candy pail for trick-or-treating — use something you already have, like a pillowcase, cloth grocery bag, backpack, reused paper bag, basket, or cardboard box. Or, get creative by making and decorating a t-shirt tote bag!
Skip the cheaply-made, synthetic, mass-produced costumes and make, borrow, or thrift your own!
- Shop your closet – Use what you already have! Here are some ideas for simple, easy to assemble costumes:
- Dancer (tights, flats, tutu, leotard)
- Elliot & E.T. (jeans, red sweatshirt, basket, stuffed animal wrapped in a towel or blanket)
- Farmer (jeans, boots, flannel shirt, bandanna, sun hat)
- Flower child (flare-cut jeans, large bright-colored shirt or dress, headband, sunglasses, necklaces)
- Graduate (with your old cap and gown from school! And here are some other costume ideas you can make with your old gown)
- Jazzercise (tights, long socks or leg warmers, short shorts or leotard, tanktop, oversized cropped t or sweatshirt, headband)
- Librarian (long skirt, cardigan, glasses, books)
- Roman (here’s a bed sheet toga tutorial)
- Rosie the Riveter
- Swimmer (swimsuit, towel, goggles, swim cap)
- Vampire (all black outfit and vampire makeup)
- And more! Here are some DIY costumes for kids, and more zero waste costumes here and here. There are MANY more ideas on Google, Pinterest, and Youtube as well.
- Homemade – For the crafty folks out there, try upcycling materials into costumes. Check out these costumes you can make out of a cardboard box and upcycled costumes for kids to get your creative juices flowing.
- Thrift – Don’t have what you need on hand for a fabulous costume? Shop around at local thrift stores! You can find things like secondhand pre-made costumes, wedding dresses, formal wear, 70s/80s/90s clothes, unique and quirky pieces, and more! Here are some ideas and tips for thrifted Halloween costumes.
- Costume rentals – In non-pandemic times, some local theaters and shops offer costume rental options. In Missoula, check out Missoula Children’s Theater and Carlo’s One Night Stand.
- Makeup – Sometimes makeup can make or break a good costume. Grab your makeup bag and try your hand at some of these looks.
Walk into almost any store in October and you may be truly frightened by the sheer volume of plastic, disposable Halloween decorations. Don’t fear! Here are some low-waste and low-cost ways to Halloween-ify your home.
- Use what you already have – Buying nothing is the cheapest, most zero waste way to celebrate the holiday. Check your closet for last year’s decorations and reuse, repair, and repurpose as much of it as possible!
- “Real” decorations – Sometimes simple is better! Decorate your place with real pumpkins and other gourds, leaves, pinecones, twigs, hay bales, and other fall-inspired items. Scavenge outside and check out local farms before heading to the store! (More local farm resources here.)
- Jack-o-lanterns – Buy your pumpkins from a local farm, and don’t throw them away when Halloween is over! Check out these ways to reuse your pumpkins, this recipe for roasted pumpkin seeds, and be sure to compost any remaining scraps.
- Tablescapes – Never doubt how far old jars and junkmail can go. Check out these beautiful, Halloween-ish zero waste tablescape ideas for some easy and cheap decorations!
- Crafts – Use old cardboard to make cutouts of bats, ghosts, cats, witch silhouettes, jack-o-lanterns, and other classic Halloween figures. Or, try some of these toilet paper tube crafts. Pair these with a Happy Halloween banner made out of repurposed materials like string or twine and aluminum cans, cardboard, cloth, magazines, wood, etc. Paint wine bottles, decorate aluminum cans, or try other DIY decorations (more ideas here and here), and you’re set! Make them durable so your decorations can be reused year after year.
- Home ReSource-Inspired DIYs – Swing by Home ReSource for paint, canvasses (*cough* cabinet doors), wood, and other goodies to build your own decorations. Make signs, decorate doors, or try out a pallet project or two.
- Store bought decorations – Always check the secondhand market first – try local thrift stores, freecycle.org, Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, etc. Make sure any decorations you buy are durable and will last many years. Decorate with things like broomsticks, straw hats, wooden “coffins”, goblets, a metal “cauldron”, or cloth scarecrows.
Need more ideas? Peruse these articles:
- Zero Waste Halloween
- Zero Waste Tips, Tricks, and Treats for Halloween
- Zero Waste Halloween Ideas
- How to Throw a Zero Waste Halloween Party
- Free Halloween Costumes
- Easy Halloween Costumes You Can Put Together Literally Right Now