Here’s how to make sure your Halloween celebrations don’t harm the planet

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Georgie Young
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Tips for having a greener Halloween.

This Halloween, combine creepy costumes and spooky snacks with being eco-conscious.

As autumn draws firmly in, our thoughts inevitably turn to the season’s spookiest day: Halloween. Shops are stocked with everything from pumpkin-flavoured cakes to strings of skull-shaped fairy lights, our diaries are chock full of the best Halloween events, and discussions begin to revolve around that all-important question: what or who are you going to go as this year for Halloween?

Research suggests that up to 33 million of us are intending to dress up for Halloween this year, and choosing a devilishly good costume can be an utter nightmare. However, ghost masks and witches’ hats aside, our spooky costumes might not be the only thing likely to terrify this year. A new report published by The Fairyland Trust in collaboration with Hubbub has laid out just how much plastic we get through during this period.

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The report says that as a nation we’re spending a whopping £300 million a year on Halloween-related paraphernalia, with an estimated 55% of us buying new clothing especially for the day. Us Brits aren’t shy of a blowing our budgets on special occasions (the Bank of England reckons we spend at least an extra £500 over the Christmas period), but we’ve got to think about the impact this level of Halloween spending will have on the environment.

Halloween costumes are particularly bad news for the planet; 83% of the materials used to make the 324 Halloween costumes The Fairyland Trust sampled were made of plastic or plastic-based materials, and it’s estimated that 40% of newly-purchased costumes will be worn just one before hitting the bin. That takes single-use plastics to scary level. The research estimates that around 7 million Halloween costumes are thrown away every year, which works out at around 2.079 million tonnes of brand-new plastics being left to not-really-rot in landfill sites – that’s the equivalent of 83 million Coca Cola bottles.

Make your own Halloween treats to cut down on plastic packaging.
Make your own Halloween treats to cut down on plastic packaging.

And that’s not even the total plastic footprint of Halloween. Hubbub’s chief executive Trewin Restorick said that “the total plastic waste footprint of Halloween will be even higher once you take into account other Halloween plastic such as party kits and decorations, much of which are also plastic, or food packaging”.

In a world in which we’re all trying to become more mindful about the planet, there’s no reason environmentally-conscious thinking can’t be extended to Halloween, too. With that in mind, we’ve come up with some tips to help you make sure that your Halloween is spook-tastic but without the plastic.

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Check out local charity shops to get a freakishly fabulous outfit for a fraction of the price

We’re all guilty of indulging in a little retail therapy from time to time, but when hunting for that perfect Halloween outfit, take your search to the racks of your local charity shop instead of resorting to some fast fashion. Some shops may have some second-hand, ready-made costumes, but you could focus your search on finding the building blocks for your outfit as you rummage through the rails. You never know, those battered old boots in the corner could work really well for your look. As well as minimising your plastic footprint, you can pretty much guarantee to score a completely unique Halloween outfit for a bargain price. 

Reuse and repurpose old bits and bobs you have lying around

There’s no need to go and buy brand new decorations or props for your Halloween celebration. If you’ve got left over decorations from last year, dig them out rather than buying new ones, or else repurpose fairy lights from Christmas to light up your house for Halloween – and if they’re battery powered, make sure to use reusable batteries or pop them in the recycling afterwards. This is also an excellent opportunity to get creative with the things you’ve got lying around. Got an old bucket from mopping the floor? A quick scrub and you’ve got a witches’ cauldron! Garden full of fallen sticks or branches? Ready-made Harry Potter-style wands – or broomsticks! Keep an open mind and before you know it, you’ve got a wealth of spooky decorations at your disposal.

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Get your creativity on when decorating your house

Decorating your house can be one of the most fun parts of Halloween, but many store-bought Halloween decorations include non-recyclable plastics. Do your bit for the planet by collecting your recycling and getting creative. Old milk and juice cartons can be transformed into ghosts and pumpkins in seconds with the help of a black marker pen, and your old egg cartons can be made into hanging bats with the addition of googly eyes and a lick of paint. Just make sure to pack away your creations once Halloween is over so you can use them again next year.

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Whip up your own terrifyingly tasty treats

A key part of Halloween is collecting sweets in a Jack-o-lantern while trick or treating, but most sweets available to buy in supermarkets come with a hefty helping of plastic packaging. Combat this by making your own Halloween-themed treats. We love this recipe for eyeball cake pops, and it wouldn’t be Halloween without toffee apples – just make sure to use wooden sticks and not plastic ones. If you don’t have time to bake and end up running to the shops last minute, try to choose ready-made sweets that are packaged in foil rather than plastic because most foils can be recycled.

Put your pumpkins to good use even after carving.
Put your pumpkins to good use even after carving.

Cut down on your carving footprint

The centrepiece of most Halloween parties is the humble pumpkin, and local supermarkets start piling up the gigantic orange gourds from mid-October. To keep your pumpkin green as well as orange, get it from a local farm instead. You could even turn your pumpkin-hunt into a seasonal day out by visiting a farm with a pumpkin patch where you can pick your own pumpkin – which both supports local farmers and gives you the opportunity to get that perfect autumnal photo. 

When it comes to carving your carefully-selected pumpkin, be mindful of wastage. According to the Guardian, more than half of pumpkin-buyers throw away the flesh after carving it out of the middle and around 8 million pumpkins ended up in the bin after Halloween last year. Repurpose your pumpkin flesh into a seasonal recipe like pumpkin pie or pumpkin soup (we love this recipe from Jamie Oliver), and you can dry out and roast the seeds to create a deliciously nutty topping to any soup or salad for the weeks to come. Finally, when Halloween is over, put your pumpkin into the compost and not the bin. 

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