Keep your Halloween green by taking these simple earth-friendly steps

October is finally here and with it comes cooler weather, pumpkin everything and the favorite holiday of every sugar-crazed 6-year-old (or 6-year-old at at heart): Halloween. Honestly, who doesn’t love Halloween?

All that aside, Halloween is another one of those days when our choices can cause lots of long-lasting problems for the environment. Most candy is wrapped in a non-recyclable mix of materials that end up heading straight for the landfill or, if we’re not careful, littering our neighborhoods.

Specialty costumes typically don’t have another purpose and find themselves hanging in a closet, unused, year after year. Pumpkin carvings, and eventually the works of art themselves, often end up being thrown in the trash without a second thought as to how they could otherwise be used.

You can avoid these and other environmental pitfalls by keeping the following tips in mind this Hallow(gr)een.

Be creative (aka green) when choosing a costume. Before purchasing a new outfit to wear, check out your closet to see if you can make your own costume this year. Thrift stores are another great place to start the hunt for the perfect costume. If that doesn’t work out, try organizing a costume swap with friends and family; you never know what’s hiding in someone else’s closet that could be exactly what you need.

Keep your celebration local. Take the kids trick-or-treating in your own neighborhood, carpool to the pumpkin patch or bike to this year’s office Halloween party. There are plenty of ways to reduce your transportation footprint this Halloween season.

Hand out responsible treats. Most traditional candy wrappers aren’t recyclable, so you may have to be creative to green this part of the trick-or-treating experience. Look for candy in paper wrappers, and limit your output to one piece per child. Alternatives to candy – stickers, temporary tattoos and small toys – can be fun too, just make sure to pick products with limited packaging and plastic usage. You could even include printed instructions for ways to upcycle candy wrappers to get as much use out of them as possible and keep them out of the landfill. Lots of tutorials exist online for jewelry, pencil cases, even things such as belts and shoes. Encourage kids to be creative!

Use the whole pumpkin. Look up recipes that involve fresh pumpkin filling so that all those carving remnants don’t go to waste; try salting and roasting the seeds for an autumn snack. After Halloween, when those beautiful carved pumpkins start to shrivel up, don’t just toss them in the trash. Instead, add them to your compost pile for rich spring soil.

Help clean up. When taking your kids trick-or-treating, bring an extra bag to pick up trash you may see on the way. Organizing an early November litter cleanup in your neighborhood is another way to keep those candy wrappers off the streets; you could ask an area coffee shop to donate warm beverages to encourage people to come help out even if it’s cold.

1 macyMacy Gould is the AmeriCorps VISTA member who serves as Bluegrass Greensource’s green jobs coordinator, working with educators to ensure that students are aware of and prepared for the variety of green career paths that await them after high school. Macy is originally from Minneapolis but considers Lexington home and enjoys visiting her family in Colorado Springs. She recently graduated from Transylvania University. Outside of work, you could likely find Macy planning for her community radio show or taking a long walk downtown.

This article appeared in KY Forward on October 9, 2014.

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