How to have a sustainable Halloween

Everyday ways to make October festivities more eco-friendly

Get creative to reduce Halloween waste by thrifting your costume or making your own treats.
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From costumes to candy to carving pumpkins, Halloween festivities can be full of single-use products that aren't so sustainable. 

Halloween waste is a drop in the bucket when it comes to ranking the biggest threats to our global climate, but for eco-conscious students at Queen’s hoping to reduce their individual carbon footprints, these tips can help make this October holiday more green.   

Costume complications

An investigation in the United Kingdom showed that 83 per cent of Halloween costume material was made from oil-based plastics like polyester, and that 40 per cent of these costumes were reportedly never worn again. For a world that’s so caught up in avoiding single-use plastic from water bottles, we can be blissfully unaware of the waste we make on holidays in the name of tradition.

You don’t have to buy a cheap, off-brand bundle of plastic to win a costume contest or wow your friends this October. Instead, get creative with the clothing you already have, DIY something out of worn clothes and spare fabric, or buy clothes from thrift stores to complete an ensemble.

The extra bit of effort to find a more sustainable Halloween costume will not only reduce your contribution to waste, but will be more impressive than any low-effort costume you could find in a store.

If you decide to purchase a secondhand Halloween costume from a store like Phase 2, make sure to donate or sell it to someone else once you’re done with it.   

Pumpkin problems

Carving a pumpkin to proudly display on your front porch or windowsill for your neighbours to admire is arguably one of the best parts of Halloween. However, if personal sustainability is important to you, carving a pumpkin could be more trouble than it’s worth.

When November rolls around and the Halloween spirit is traded for holiday anticipation, discarded pumpkins are often left to rot on porches or are thrown in the trash. In landfills, decaying pumpkins contribute to greenhouse gas emissions—the US Department of Energy reported in 2016 that over 254 million tons of pumpkins ended up in municipal dumps, emitting methane.

I’m not saying you have to avoid pumpkin carving altogether. There are a few modifications you can make, like carving a smaller pumpkin instead of searching for the biggest one at the grocery store, or making good use of the pumpkin innards for roasted seeds, tasty soups, or a wide variety of other products. Get creative!

Candy conundrums

You don’t have to stop handing out individually-wrapped candy to neighbourhood kids or DIY your own kid-friendly treats. When it comes to trick-or-treating, store-bought, packaged candies are the only things parents trust for their children. 

However, fun-size candy wrappers are usually hard to recycle, and not all municipalities accept them.

If you want to greet trick-or-treaters this year, boxed candy instead of plastic-wrapped is the way to go. Candies like Dots, Nerds, and Junior Mints are all encased in cardboard. Whether parents will actually recycle their kids’ candy containers is another story, but you can try to do your part.

I know plenty of Queen’s students who buy their own bulk Halloween candy to enjoy themselves or give to guests at house parties. Instead of buying even more plastic, delight your stomach and your guests with handmade Halloween treats instead.

Considering how badly we’ve damaged the planet, single-use Halloween traditions are even spookier than haunted houses.

With the way our climate crisis is going, even the smallest individual choices can make a difference. 

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