10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween

The commercialism surrounding Halloween seems to be growing every year. Instead of putting out a jack-o-lantern on your front porch and calling it good, nowadays its not Halloween unless you have jack-o-lanterns, cobwebs, skeletons, ghosts, lights, scary music, zombies… (you get the picture). There are entire “Halloween stores” devoted to selling cheap costumes, accessories, and decorations galore – the majority of which are likely manufactured in China.

Halloween doesn’t need to be so over the top though. You can still dress up and decorate and have fun doing it without contributing to the landfills! Here are 10 simple ways to green your Halloween.

  1. Turn costume making into a creative and fun experience for your child. Hunt through the house, at neighborhood garage sales, thrift stores or consignment shops for costumes or costume-worthy items. Enjoy the process and the product! If you’re not feeling creative, host a costume exchange.
  2. Many store-bought costumes and accessories contain toxic chemicals that not only are a potential hazard to your child, but also to the environment and the people who helped to make them. Choose fabrics such as cotton, wool and silk or make costumes yourself from materials you know to be safe.
  3. Make your own non-toxic face paints (another tutorial @ Green Halloween) or your own fake blood, scars and special effects
  4. Give your child a shakable flashlight (which uses no batteries and is powered by the shaking motion) to light his way. For the adult trick-or-treating with the kids, use a crank flashlight to illuminate the way for the kids.
  5. Use a reusable trick-or-treat bag. When I was a kid, we just used a pillow case.
  6. Reverse trick-or-treat to promote fair-trade chocolate and protect the environment or collect pennies for UNICEF.
  7. If you are passing out treats, check out my Halloween Candy Alternative list for some fun ideas (and don’t forget to check out the Nestle boycott list before buying any candy).
  8. Decorate using homemade crafts such as egg carton bats, pumpkins and cats from laundry soap bottles, cereal box luminaries, jack-o-lantern candle craft, or use decorations that can be eaten (pie pumpkins, squash) or composted or used in the garden (hay bales).
  9. Visit a local pumpkin patch to pick out your pumpkin(s).
  10. Turn your pumpkin into a solar-powered jack-o-lantern and use all of the pumpkin. You can make roasted pumpkin seeds, pumpkin bread, pumpkin spice cookies or pumpkin black bean soup, and compost your pumpkin when you are done with it.

A few of the above tips came from Healthy Child, Healthy World – 25 Green Halloween Tips!

Related sites and posts:
Green Halloween Costumes
Green Halloween
Green Talk: Halloween leaves me Hollow
@LisaBorden‘s Guide to being eco-ish over ghoul-ish this Halloween
Chic Mommy: DIY Halloween Costumes

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110 thoughts on “10 Simple Ways to Green Your Halloween”

  1. Hey, I am so glad to have found another home birth green mama! I am loving your site!
    Thanks for the information on greening our Halloween and for linking to my DIY post.
    happy green halloween!

  2. Nice list. We’re using beeswax candles from the farmers market for our Jack O Lanterns and making our costumes from mostly recycled material (again). Still looking for ideas on the candy so I’m off to check out your other post.

  3. I was with you until you suggested the shakable flashlight for the kids. I have one and it’s awful. It takes a good ten minutes of shaking to power the light and even then it’s a weak beam, barely enough to guide myself around the house to find the candles, et al during a power outage. I think the crank flash lights have stronger beams of light and hold a charge a little longer between cranks and would be a safer for a child to use.

  4. Check out YummyEarth if you are looking for great tasting organic candy. My husband started YummyEarth to make treats for our kids without yucky chemical ingredients. We have lollipops and drops in 21 flavors and just launched YummyEarth Organic Gummy Bears and Worms. You can find us at amazon.com, yummyearth.com, Whole Foods and other chain and local stores.

  5. Thanks so much for the mention of my green Halloween post on your article. I can second Tamar’s suggestion about Yummy Earth. I gave out the lollipops last year. You know that you are doing something right when another mom comments when you are giving out the candy. (“Oh, those are the organic lollipops!”) Make you feel all green and tingly inside.

  6. Number 11. Have fun!

    Do the best you can with all suggestions, but remember people before stuff and these suggestions are all about the stuff.

    The kids’ joy should come before anything. They get so few years to be carefree before the weight of the world becomes their burden, let’s let them have fun. So, all suggestions are great, but don’t put them on your kids. This day is about fun, freedom and smiles.

    I’m curious to know what you will do if there are Nestle products in your kids treat bags. And whether taking this stuff away from your kids will hurt them more than the company. (I know you can remove when they’re in bed, but mine would totally remember and want to know where _____ is and wouldn’t accept a substitution. Would just feel hurt and deceived.)

    I would disagree with you about the commercialization of Halloween, yes the stores scream that, but I think the reality is that people are striving towards simpler celebrations. Hence, all the merchandise still in the stores AND trickling into thrift stores.

    My brother is a director of a nature center. He’s devoted his life to environmental causes. Their attendance to simple Halloween celebrations has gone up tremendously in the last 10 years. The biggest difficulty he has is overcoming the militant greenies. The attitude loses more people than the message. Bring them in for fun and you can slip the message in without being so in your face.

    Maybe your focus could be less on preaching and more on, here’s our family having fun making pumpkins out of egg cartons and old bleach bottles or whatever. The example will spark more interest in the cause. Although, I’m not sure many who need to read your blog do. Sadly, you preach to a choir of people, like me who already are doing the best we can.

    I appreciate your ideas, but temper them with reality and remember the ultimate goal of holidays and the like–love, joy, happiness, and smiles are worth way more than saving the world. Perhaps if we focus more on that, the world will save itself.

  7. Glad to see someone else believes in the greener holidays too. I’m good with the jack-o-lantern being enough on my front porch. We already have enough spiders and webs naturally lol.

    We have a local apple orchard and pumpkin patch the kids go to every year with their school to bring home stuff for us to cook up for them.

    We even have a wind up flashlight too! I don’t think many people know about those.

    I even found some cute crochet patterns for garland that can be used over and over.

    Thanks for sharing your ideas on how to keep it green and clean.

  8. Condo Blues – Thanks for letting me know about the shakeable flashlights. I haven’t tried one myself but thought they sounded like fun. I have tried the crank ones though and those are great! Good to know!

    Lisa – I included your post in the “related posts” section. ;)

    Lilbet – I appreciate your comment. I wrote this not trying to be preachy, but if people are looking for ideas on how to have a green Halloween, there would have a place to find them. I am pretty sure that most everything in this list = fun for kids. Finding a costume at a consignment store = fun. Going to a pumpkin patch to pick out a pumpkin = fun. Making decorations with mom or dad = fun. Toasting pumpkin seeds and eating pumpkin cookies = fun. :)
    Yes, the candy and boycott part could be construed as not fun, but it’s all how you present it. I remember you having a similar reaction to my Halloween posts last year. Thankfully we are all entitled to our own opinions, but honestly, sometimes I wonder if you read my posts before you comment.

  9. All fun ideas, and yes I did read your post.

    I wonder, though, if every one of them has to be accompanied with a lecture. Paint a complete picture. Do you do all these things with your kids, but then they have to pay the price of having to hear endlessly why?

    Kids learn best through example. My son does all you speak about and more just because I do. He doesn’t need to know why nor does he need to be fed the message endlessly.

    And sometimes, you just have to let go of all the heavy burden and just let joy overflow. Let the smiles and giggles of your children, albeit behind a mask made from toxic rubber made in a factory in China, that increased global warming just to be delivered to your house via Target. Just because your kid wants to be New Goblin from Spiderman more than anything in the world.

    People before things. I think you need to balance your posts with more warmth and less guilt induction.

    If you dug into every thing in your home, your life, your purchases you would find so many things that are guilt ridden. Why not just let go of it for a day and have some fun?

    It’s hard to take any of this seriously when your sidebar advertisement is touting purchase purchase purchase.


    I guess it’s ok to say one thing, but do another. You’re willing to accept advertising dollars from these companies while you talk from the other side of your mouth.

    You’ve mentioned that you suffer from anxiety. Maybe you should let go a little. Share some pictures of your kids making some holiday decorations from reused things, take pictures of their thrifted/borrowed/scrounged costumes. Let that stand as an example. Relax. Chill. Enjoy.

    Heck, life and motherhood are guilt inducing enough. Can’t we just embrace the joy of this holiday as it was intended?

    Your kids are still young. As they get older, all the teaching might serve as a platform from which they will rebel. Tempered and balanced, you’ll have much more success.

  10. We always made our own costumes, and that was more fun than trick or treating. I’d love to try making my own face paint, too.

    Thanks for the tips!

  11. @lilbet-

    I’m wondering why you continue to read this blog if you dislike the tone of the posts. When I come across a blog I feel is preachy or over the top, I simply stop reading. I have yet to read a lecture or a sermon on this blog. I have gotten many great ideas for recipes, ways to conserve, and links to other neat websites. I’ve never found this blog to be guilt inducing.

    I suppose one reason that I don’t allow others’ blogs to make me feel guilty is because I see them for what they are. They are others opinions, points of view, suggestions, etc. This is simply a list of ideas. I didn’t see anywhere that said everyone should do this on Halloween. I also didn’t see anywhere that passed judgment on people who choose to do things differently than what is discussed here. If you think she makes you feel guilty, that seems to be more about you than her.

    As far as her children rebelling, if they get older and choose to take 30 minute showers or use paper towels like they are everywhere, I bet that their mother will cringe and shake her head, but I can think of a lot of other areas where rebellion is much more serious and more important. If my kids chose to rebel in such a way, I would be glad it wasn’t something more serious.

    It seems like you may have some guilt in your life revolving around conservation and social justice. If that’s the case, identify it, do something about it, and get over it. Like I said, that seems to be about you and not about the content of this blog.

  12. I didn’t see anything preachy about this post. To me, it’s a list of fun, green ideas to try out at home. Where was the lecture?

    Wish I’d thought about doing UNICEF this year! That would have been a fun way to raise $ for a good cause and get some more use out of my baby’s costume; I trick-or-treated for UNICEF all through HS and part of college.

    Our family was already planning on using several of these ideas before we read this post. Thanks, Amy, for putting it together!

  13. Dude, lilbet. Nowhere in this post did I read anything about NOT having fun. Crunchy’s tips sound like fun to me.

    If you don’t like the style of Amy’s blog then don’t read it. I personally think that you like to read it in order to trash Amy and feel better about yourself. Sounds like you should explore those issues in the time you’ll free up by not reading blog posts that bother you.

  14. How DARE you actually implement your values if it might impair your kids fun – the innocent joy children get from Nestle candy and MIC products is SO MUCH MORE IMPORTANT than anything else. We should never do anything that limits our children’s joy. That’s why people whose religious beliefs proclude any celebration of Halloween still let their kids trick or treat, right? Because our values should get tossed aside when they conflict with fun.

    Oh, wait. No they shouldn’t.

    It’s a nice list of ideas. Some we’ll do (pumpkin patch) some we won’t (shakeable flashlights) but there certainly isn’t anything preachy about it.

  15. lilbet-

    I’m not a “militant greenie”, in fact, I could stand to be a little more conscious. I’ve never felt in the years that I’d been visiting Crunchy Domestic Goddess that she’s ever been preachy or militant. I think she just gives me great ideas on little things I could change if I wanted to. She’s never judged me, not even a little bit, even when we’ve disagreed on significant issues. I LOVE her ideas because they make me think.

    I don’t know exactly who you’re aiming at when you’re firing those lobs, but let me assure you, RE-AIM.

  16. When you point your finger at someone, three fingers are pointing back at you. — Anonymous
    That’s all I have to say. Thank you. I’m off to pick up my kids from school and going to a pumpkin party. :)

  17. Great ideas Amy! I have never thought your blog was preachy in any fashion – more take it or leave it, your choice. I’ve got some information on greening your Halloween makeup over at http://www.thesmartmama.com.

    Lilbet – Don’t read Amy’s blog if you think it is preach. Why bother leaving a comment if you don’t like it – just move on. I don’t see anywhere in the blog post where Amy says explain in detail to your kids why you are doing x this way – instead, she just gives ideas on how to do x greener. If you just do some of them with your kids, they can be green w/o knowing.

    But more importantly, yes, children should enjoy their childhood, but they also need to learn to grow up to be responsible, caring, happy adults with values and virtues – honesty, loyalty, patience, fidelity, empathy, graciousness, etc. They learn those values and virtues during childhood – why not teach them that valuing the earth is important? And that sometimes to achieve your values, you have to sacrifice? I personally want my kids to grow up knowing that their choices matter in this world, and that it isn’t all a matter of having fun.

    On Nestle, we’ve told our kids we boycott and why. But, we have the switch witch come every year – Halloween candy gets put out, switched by the witch for a toy. More candy = bigger toy. So there is no problem taking away Nestle candy . . . it gets left for the switch witch.

  18. I thought this was a great list! Amy, keep up the good work. So sorry the trolls are out–Halloween’s still a week away! ;)

  19. Jennifer – I love the switch witch idea. I think we might “borrow” that, if you don’t mind.

    Amy – Great ideas, as usual. Thank you.

    Lilbet – Amy is too nice to say it, but I’m not – you are a troll, go crawl back under your bridge.

  20. Amy,

    Thank you for the wonderful ideas. We love to use our creativity by making costumes from things we already have. And we also go the shakable flashlight route.

    Don’t let the scary commenter (she who shall not be named) get you down. Maybe she thinks halloween has come early.

    I think your blog is great. :D

    – Julia at Midwest Moms

  21. Thank you for the interesting Halloween suggestions Amy. I am on the “green” path (lol) and your blog inspires me to try new things. I enjoy your writing. It is fun, informative and delivered in a lovely light way. Happy Halloween to you and your readers! Laura

  22. Great ideas Amy! This is only our 2nd year of making our own homemade costumes. I think half the fun of that is changing their minds every week – rather than, NO! I spent $50 on that plastic jumpsuit and you’re going to wear it!

    I don’t think you are EVER preachy. Lots of blog I read are, but I still read them for the content. But yours is always informative and fun. I’m sorry someone disagrees. Don’t let one ruin the party!

  23. For every comment here about me, I got 10 emails in my blog email account agreeing with me. They just don’t want to post here because of the retaliation.

    My favorite quote is from someone who attempted to disagree with Amy in the past. She had the same experience and contacted me over a year ago. We’re still in touch. If you can’t defend your stance, then don’t put it out there.

    Calling me a troll, and the two gems that privately emailed me and threatened my child, well, that’s just shows your true colors.

    Amy, I enjoy parts of your blog, but if anyone disagrees with you, it turns into a big mess.

    I can agree to disagree with you, but I think you also need to be willing to accept said disagreement.

    Honestly, I spent months polling for environmental causes, and let me tell you, some of your delivery is EXACTLY what keeps people from implementing new things. Sure you may get people who already are part of the movement reading your blog, but you’re going to lose new people in the delivery.

    I come to this blog because I enjoy some of Amy’s posts and her ideas. If she puts something out there that I disagree with, I think it’s healthy to question it.

    It’s interesting how many readers were willing to contact me privately, but not so willing to contribute to a conversation here. Goes to show that it’s not a place for open discussion. Just for agreement and, like I said earlier, preaching to the choir.

  24. Great suggestions!

    My family loves to create our own decorations and fun for Halloween. This year, most of our decorations consist of art we created out of old newspapers, painted to look like ghosts, pumpkins, etc. We tied them to twine and hung them from the ceiling where the “float” around above our heads : ). That, and I’ve taken a break from dusting cobwebs!

    We usually go out trick or treating at our local mall, but my kids are used to me removing candy. My little one has severe food allergies, so collecting is the fun part for her. I replace most of their candy with goodies I’ve pre-purchased. Some may think it takes away from the spirit of Halloween, but honestly? They have a blast, regardless, and always love to splurge on treats, even if they *ARE* gluten-free, corn-free, egg-free, cruelty-free, toxin-free replacements of the cheap candy they picked up!

  25. If people are unwilling to own their words in a public space then I feel no need to give “lotsa people told me in private that they don’t like you!” any credence.

  26. WOW! I only read the comments because of the Twitter comments about it. Personally I found it horrible that someone on here called lilbet a troll. It is ok to disagree with someone, but it is not ok to call them names or send them threatening emails. I assume that we are all grown ups here and thus we should act like grown ups.

    I agreed and disagreed with some of lilbet’s comments. I also agreed and disagreed with some of the blog post. Both are a “take it or leave it” to me.

    Please also remember that it is harder to convey one’s intent and emotion through writing. Many people can read the same thing and each of them can take it a different way. For instance I am trying to come from a neutral place, but it could be seen / read as I am taking a side (pick one, any one) when I am not.

    The one thing that I am taking out of this thread is the switch witch idea. I love that! My oldest son is allergic to peanuts. I buy peanut free candy and we switch out any peanut candy for the peanut free ones. This way he gets the same amount of candy in the end. However we do have a problem with having that much candy available in the house. Usually after 1 month we will take 75% of it and my husband will take it to work and let others help themselves to it. He says that the whole bag is gone by lunch time. My son never misses it. However offering a toy or a subscription that he might want in exchange for most of the candy is a great idea. Thank you for sharing that (I can’t find the comment on it right now, so sorry for not posting your name).

  27. It is a good reminder that one cannot read ones emotion or intent via the internet. Thank you Kristy for such a balanced response.

    No one who emailed me said they didn’t like Amy, they said that disagreeing with her is not welcome and that they’ve learned the “hard way” in the past. Now I take this two ways, one, it’s difficult to have an open coversation here on her blog. Her world, her rules. But, I also take it as her being someone very passionate about her causes.

    Put these same sort of blinders on someone with a completely different agenda and you’d all be jumping on her.

    Amy is a very liberal person. I am too, but sometimes I disagree with the approach. And that’s my right. If differing opinions are not welcome, then don’t open the comments to the public or at least state your wishes that only agreements are accepted.

  28. This is our first visit to the blog, and probably the last. We read these back and forth comments for the first time , ready to post a reply, and were so turned off. It sounds like kids bickering and bullying in school. Our group of mothers is searching for blogs to use at our monthly meetings–this blog came up on a google search and we were excited at first, but then we realized this is not what we’re looking for, so we will move on. By the way, we haven’t yet a blog (we are looking for ideas and researching putting one together.) Is this what we are getting ourselves into?

    Our meeting ended tonight with a distaste to blogging. If we want soap opera antics, we’ll stay home and watch the soaps.
    Better yet, we’ll go to our kids’ school and join in the little games kids play.

  29. I agree with you on most of these things. Where I would disagree is the UNICEF drive which I think is really lame (I wrote an article on it myself) and the candy. My kids don’t eat a lot of candy, but hey, on halloween I let them at it. It’s all good. I do love your take on the comercialism of the holiday which has gotten way way out of hand. We do a little door hanger and our pumpkins and that about it. Also, using natural materials for decorations is excellent. My mom used to use egg cartons for just about everything arts and crafty. Where did that initiative go these days? We also always do homemade costumes as they have more character and they aren’t commercial (I wrote another article about that :-) Anyway, thanks for the tips!

  30. I think it’s a great idea to make your kids aware of being green at a young age. There are so many things that we can just tweak and still end up with a great result for ourselves and for planet earth. Kudos.

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