Halloween is a North American favorite and for many, nothing is more fun than dressing up in costume, eating a lot of candy, lighting fireworks and running around in the dark. However Halloween, like so many North American holidays, has a steep carbon footprint and packs a serious environmental punch. Increasingly concerned parents are trying to find ways to make holidays less commercial and better for the planet.
North Americans spend more than $6.5 billion dollars on Halloween. Americans spend an estimated $5 billion dollars on costumes, candy and decorations. Canadians spend about $1.5 billion dollars each year; the largest expenditure is for Halloween candies. If North Americans opted to take their $6.5 billion dollars and spend their money on more eco-friendly Halloween options, it would have an enormous impact on reconfiguring the environmental impact of the holiday.
Carefully constructed and lovingly made costumes have gone by the wayside and now parents opt to dress their children in plastic masks and disposable costumes.
It seems every aspect of Halloween has been totally hijacked by consumerism. Carefully constructed and lovingly made costumes have gone by the wayside and now parents opt to dress their children in plastic masks and disposable costumes. Unfortunately, like all plastics, it is difficult to find facilities to recycle the unwanted materials after what may well be a single use. If you are looking for a more environmentally friendly costume option then consider making one. Another option is to rent a costume for the night. This ensures costumes are used multiple times and don’t end up in the landfill after only one wearing.
Pumpkins take up valuable space in the landfill as well as release greenhouse gases as they decompose.
Pumpkins are a Halloween centerpiece for many North American families. Children carve the pumpkins with scary faces and place them at the entrance to a home. Although this might seem like a quaint, harmless tradition, the reality is that Halloween pumpkins are grown in a chemically intensive manner. Numerous fields are devoted to pumpkin growing prior to the Halloween season and the majority of North American pumpkins are grown with pesticide applications. To make a better choice for the planet consider purchasing a pesticide free or organic pumpkin.
Purchase just one pumpkin per household. Although pumpkins might seem like decoration only, pumpkins are a food crop for both humans and animals and to throw out millions of pumpkins each year is excessive and unnecessary. If you do opt to use a pumpkin, remember to compost your pumpkins as they take up valuable space in the landfill as well as release greenhouse gases as they decompose.
Long gone are the days when your neighbor gave out home-baked goods or candied apples. Unfortunately, a few candy companies are now completely monopolizing the Halloween candy market in North America. Aside from all that plastic packaging, most, if not all, of the main North American Halloween candy products have genetically modified ingredients included in the candy but not shown on the label. Genetically modified products can increase the risk of allergic reaction from unlabeled, genetically engineered ingredients.
Provide your kids with reusable loot bags made from hemp, cotton or canvas.
Plastic pumpkin-shaped bags and single use plastic carrier bags are both very bad for the environment. Provide your kids with reusable bags made from hemp, cotton or canvas. Single use plastics are never a good choice for the environment as soft plastic recycling facilities are not always available and the plastic too often ends up in the landfill. Annually more than 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed each year around the globe. Less than 1% are recycled.
Most mainstream North American Halloween decorations are made of either plastic or styrofoam. Both products are made from petroleum, a non-renewable resource. Soft plastics and styrofoams are often very difficult to recycle, the majority of Halloween waste often ends up in the landfill. This Halloween why not decorate with things from your garden like fallen tree boughs, pinecones, cornhusks, apples and a pumpkin. The fruit can be eaten at the end of the night and the other items can go into the composter. A scary ghost can be made from a simple white sheet with a face drawn using a non-permanent pen. The sheet can be washed at the end of the evening. Scary music and soy (not petroleum based) candles help create spooky, but environmentally friendly Halloween ambiance.
Although for some people a Halloween without fireworks is a dismal prospect, the reality is that these explosive devices hide a raft of environmental impacts. Fireworks are made from chemicals and most of their ingredients have a negative impact on the environment. Environment Protection UK reports fireworks emit light, heat and sound energy along with carbon dioxide and other gases and residues.
Studies have documented an increase in air and water pollution levels after firework displays in China, UK and the USA. Aside from the high cost of toxicity in the air when fireworks are used, many of the toxic remnants end up in landfills where the chemicals leach into the earth and waterways.
Wild and domestic animals also suffer from the loud noise of fireworks. Most animals’ hearing is far superior to humans and animals are often terrified from the loud fireworks noise. The impact on animals is so great that many local animal protection agencies, veterinarian offices and animal rights’ organizations, issue warnings for pet owners on firework-intensive nights. However wild animals have no way of knowing what is coming and nobody to ‘screen’ them from the noise.
Bonfires emit carbon dioxide and decreases in air quality are recordable in most places where intensive burning rituals take place.
Bonfires are increasingly becoming a thing of the past as local councils and municipalities are finding ways to reduce their carbon footprints. The Environment Protection UK found air pollution noticeably increases during firework and bonfire intensive events like Guy Fawkes’ Night on November 5th. Bonfires emit carbon dioxide and decreases in air quality are recordable in most places where intensive burning rituals take place.
What You Can Do
Have a plastic free Halloween.
Go bonfire and firework free. Instead organize or attend a neighborhood Halloween parade.
Purchase an organic pumpkin.
Give out treats that do not contain plastic wrapping or genetically modified ingredients.
Grow your own organic pumpkins: http://www.pumpkingrowingtips.com/organic.htm
Thousands of Africa’s children are forced to labor in the production of cocoa, chocolate’s primary ingredient. Low cocoa prices and lower labor costs drive farmers to employ children as a means to survive. Don’t buy child labor chocolate: http://www.laborrights.org/