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Pumpkins on Front Steps

Elaborate parties, outrageous costumes, fantastic decorations -- to me that screams Halloween!  This historically pagan holiday is growing in popularity with children and adults alike, and the sums spent to celebrate are keeping a spookily high pace.

But Halloween's biggest horror story isn't its price tag. Unknown components in store-bought costumes and the eerie amount of waste generated by candy and decorations can be downright frightening for the environment.

Before you run screaming into the night, take heart. There are lots of ways you can make smart choices for your wallet -- and the planet -- without scaring away all the fun. Here are some suggestions:

  • Organize a costume swap.  According to Robert Lilienfeld of the Use Less Stuff Report, roughly 25 million children in the United States celebrate Halloween. Swapping half of their costumes with other children would reduce annual landfill waste by 6,250 tons, equivalent to the weight of 2,500 midsize cars!  And this doesn't even address adult costumes. Visit for tips on setting up your own swap.
Girl holding paper cat mask
  • Hand make costumes if you can. Many store-bought costumes and accessories contain components that pose a potential hazard to your child, to the environment, and to the people who helped to make them. Use materials and clothing you already have around your home to create a costume from reused materials.
  • Say no to plastic treat bags! Send the kids off with a pillowcase, a reusable tote or one of the eco-friendly bags you use when grocery shopping.
Seventh Generation Blog Green Halloween Reusable Bag
  • Make this the year you switch to energy-efficient LEDs to light the path to your door, power your kid's flashlights, and make your pumpkins glow.  LEDs now come in every size from mini-flashlight to outdoor spotlight.
  • For parties and decorations, forgo petroleum-based or disposable items and use natural substitutes, including pumpkins, gourds, and hay. When you're done, simply toss the decorations into the compost bin.
  • Pumpkins displayed on dinner table
  • Seek out alternatives to individually wrapped candy packs. Options include making a donation to a non-profit in your town based on the number of trick-or-treaters you get. You can print out news about your donation on recycled paper cut into strips for placing in treat bags.
  • Restrict trick-or-treating to areas you can walk to with your kids, and leave the car in the garage.

    But what's the real secret to an eco-friendly Halloween? Getting your kids to buy into the concept. Many of them are learning about environmental issues in school, so invite their suggestions and work with them to carve out some spine-tingling, planet-saving ideas.

    What are your green Halloween traditions?

    Peonies and Fern

    Greenwrite is a prolific writer with an eclectic range of specialties that reflects her curiosity for just about everything. A former advertising creative director, she makes her home in Vermont, but escapes to a sunny beach whenever the opportunity presents itself.