By Rachelle Carson-Begley
When my daughter came to me and asked me if she thought we could incorporate any green ideas into Halloween this year, I was reminded of how the holidays, starting with Halloween, are the perfect time to reuse, reinvent, and recycle. In case you haven't considered it, here are some ideas for going green for Halloween this year:
Reuse costumes and decorations.
This is a no-brainer. Likely you have an old box of stuff from Halloweens past. What can you dig out and integrate into a new theme? Do you have any spiders, tombstones, or ghost and ghouls packed away in your hall closet or attic? Then reuse them. This year, it's all about fun, so challenge yourself to see if you can create a low- or no-cost Halloween using or reusing the items in your home to decorate and dress up with.
Incorporate an autumn or harvest festival twist.
Last year, we actually went to a harvest festival instead of going trick-or-treating. We decided to decorate the house in fall fashion--we carved pumpkins, put up a fall wreath made of leaves, branches, and dried flowers from the yard. When you decorate with nature, your items have a shelf life into the fall season. And I always buy a few extra pumpkins and gourds that I don't carve; this way they last longer and can be used as a centerpiece for Thanksgiving.
Hand out healthy snacks--or forego snacks altogether.
Instead of candy, try baking your own healthy snacks or getting some organic, sugar-free packaged snacks at your local health-food store. Or you can forego food altogether and hand out trinkets that everyone can use--pencils, stickers, or (very affordable) miniature pumpkins. Fun!
Make it a point to conserve energy.
Save on electricity by trying something other than fairy lights and fog machines to light up the night. This year, my daughter and I are cutting patterns out of brown lunch bags, adding some sand for weight, and burning small votive candles to provide a flicker of light. We'll line our walkway with these paper lanterns to give our trick-or-treaters a light to guide the way. (Hint: Always choose 100% beeswax or soy candles-- paraffin candles are petroleum based and burn less cleanly.) The best part about this craft besides its homespun charm? All components are recyclable.
In case you haven't heard, plastic products are made from petrochemicals through an energy-intensive process that creates pollution and toxic discharge. Most of our plastic--including Halloween masks, accessories, and decorative pumpkins--is not recycled and more often than not ends up in landfills, where it degrades very slowly. By taking a break from plastic this Halloween, you do the planet a favor. And who can carve or make pie from a plastic pumpkin, anyway?
Disclaimer: No one understands more than I do how hard it is to minimize purchasing plastic items during Halloween. So how about barter one with a friend instead? A friend of a friend gave us this solar-paneled plastic pumpkin years ago. The solar panel fuels the LED light inside, creating a fuel-efficient and natural glow. I only made the exception of keeping it because it was a gift, and it keeps burning year after year (remember, I said I wasn't a purist). Which brings me to my next point. . . .
If you must use lights, use LED lights.
LED lights are a great option in addition to, or instead of, candles. They last more than 100 times longer than incandescent bulbs and, by most estimates, cost 80 percent less to use. Because they don't generate heat, they are safer than candles, especially if you have youngsters nearby. Last year, I found LED lights in festive Halloween themes, like mini jack-o-lanterns and black cats.
Experiment with a new candy bag.
If you or your children are going trick-or-treating, it goes without saying that you shouldn't buy a bag to collect candy in. Try one of your reusable cloth grocery bags or an old pillowcase. And don't forget to use shakable flashlights to light the way!
Use Halloween as a chance to give back.
Use Halloween as a way to help people (and the planet) through activities such as reverse trick-or-treating. Instead of visiting neighbors and asking for candy, try knocking on their doors and giving them a home-baked, healthy treat. You can also pull a wagon with you and ask each neighbor to donate one canned good for your local food bank. More organized, formal efforts include campaigns by the human rights group Global Exchange, which encourages children to hand out samples of Fair Trade-Certified chocolates to raise awareness about poverty, unsustainable farming, and child labor in cocoa-growing regions.
Actress, speaker, and author Rachelle Carson-Begley is one of the most recognized names and faces in the environmental world of Hollywood. To learn more about her and her tips for an eco-friendly world, visit www.rachellecarson-begley.com.