On Oct. 31, I hope you'll be out roaming parties, pumpkin patches, and haunted houses, while enjoying plenty o'candy. It can all leave a frightful mess -- but it doesn't have to. Here are some tips to help you ensure that Nov. 1 isn't a scarier day for the Earth than the one that preceded it.
1. Bag the Waste. Instead of handing children a plastic bucket or bag that can only be used one day each year, equip them with a candy-amassing device that can be reused for multiple purposes. Pillowcases are a good option, as are reusable shopping bags. If you have a bit of time and imagination, make one out of stuff that may have otherwise been trashed, such as cereal boxes or old T-shirts.
2. Swap Costumes. We know, we know: You can't be the same thing you were last year. But that doesn't mean you have to spring for a brand-new, plastic-wrapped polyester getup. You can, however, get a new-to-you disguise simply by swapping with a similarly-sized friend. And though the official Costume Swap Day has already passed, you can still prevent landfill waste by bartering for a bandolier or trading away your tutu.
4. Give and Get. Trick-or-treating is the best part of Halloween! But it can get even better. When choosing what to hand out this year, opt for minimally packaged goodies, and sweets that are organic or vegan -- we promise, the kiddies will enjoy 'em just as much. You can also give out quarters or small toys bought from Goodwill or a similar used-goods store. If you're taking little ones out, consider encouraging them to trick-or-treat for a cause, such as UNICEF's well-known campaign, or bring up the possibility of collecting dry goods for a local food bank or spare change for a favorite charity.
5. Be the (After)Life of the Party. If you're attending a party or headed to a theme park or a haunted house to celebrate the spookiest of holidays, gather your ghoulish friends to carpool there. If you're the host, use paperless invites.
6. Decorate Thoughtfully. To get dark but stay green, reuse last year's cobwebs, spiders, and lanterns, and choose organic, locally grown pumpkins. If you have to shop for additional decor, buy only what you can reuse over many years to come. Unplug lights as soon as you're done with them, and opt for LEDs. Otherwise, you'll end up haunted by some truly energy-sucking vampires.