We love celebrating Halloween in our house. It doesn’t have to be commercial and bad for the environment. In fact, Halloween gets its roots from the very organic, ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (meaning “Summer’s End). Samhain is a Pagan religious celebration to welcome the harvest at the end of summer and to honour loved ones that had passed on since they believe the veil between their realm and ours is at its thinnest during this time. Traditionally folk would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts.
When Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honour saints, All Saints Day began to incorporate some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before All Saints Day was known as All Hallows Eve, and later, Halloween. The tradition of wearing a store-bought costume, and plastic accessories and buying lots of individually wrapped sweets, you’ve guessed it, began with shops and supermarkets.
Read on for 5 ways you can have a greener Halloween (which fits in nicely with Blogtober Day 10, Eco-Halloween):
Five Ways to Have An Eco Halloween
1. Grow or Pick a Pumpkin
Traditionally, lit-up jack-o-lanterns, carved from turnips or swedes, were set on porches and in windows to welcome deceased loved ones. These were also meant to act as protection against malevolent spirits. Nowadays, we use a combination of turnips, gourds and pumpkins for decoration. It’s ecological to grow your own pumpkins. In the UK, plant pumpkin seeds in May/June. If you haven’t grown your own this year, go to a local pumpkin patch and pick your own pumpkins. If possible, buy them from a farm that specifies they are edible pumpkins, this means they are grown for cooking, so tastier than pumpkins that are grown quickly for decorating (these are still edible but are a lot stringier, so you’ll get less useable chunks from them).
After carving your pumpkin, you could enjoy pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie. Don’t forget to either harvest your pumpkin seeds for growing next year or to toast or roast the pumpkin seeds too (delicious and healthy). It’s good to reduce food waste by eating all parts of the vegetable from root to leaf. You can place a zero-waste tealight candle inside your carved pumpkin to light up your Jack-o-lantern, or you could make a pumpkin planter. Place soil and a selection of autumn nursery plants inside your pumpkin. Once Halloween is over, you can plant this “compostable plant pot” straight into the ground or a large plant pot.
2. Reuse Halloween Decorations
To be more eco-friendly, reuse Halloween decorations. If you don’t have any of your own, put a shout-out online as somebody may have a box of decorations they no longer require after a Halloween party. If you’re buying new, look for reusable Halloween decorations that you can use again year after year. If you have the time, make some too. You could make an autumn wreath, needlefelt a pumpkin, crochet a spider web, cross stitch a Halloween decoration, embroider a spooky pattern or knit a Halloween garland. Over the years, your collection of reusable decorations will build up. I adore this felt Pumpkin Garland made by Busy Bees Craft Studio.
3. Replace Plastic Wrapped Sweets with a Tin of Home Made Treats
For hygiene and safety reasons, individually wrapped sweets became more popular in the 1970s. Now, we need to reduce single-use plastic, one way is to stop buying sweets in plastic wrapping, especially those in non-recyclable plastic and individually wrapped sweets. Consider buying eco sweets or even better making a batch of Halloween biscuits, bark or fudge and putting them in a reusable tin. Encourage hand washing (a good practice anyway!) and put a pair of easy-use tongs in the tin to keep things hygienic.
4. Reuse a Halloween Costume
When it comes to costumes, to be more environmentally friendly, it’s best to go back to the old-school way and make your own Halloween costumes. I don’t mean make a perfect costume on the sewing machine (although amazing if you can!). By looking around the house and through the old clothes draw, you can often create an amazing costume- the more ripped and stained the better! If you’re not feeling creative, the old “cut holes in an old sheet and be a ghost” costume is still a classic! I used to wear my black tights and leotard as part of my Halloween Black Cat costume. We all remember using black bin bags for capes (sheets can be used too) and putting scrunched-up balls of newspaper into old tights to make tails and spider legs. Reuse “store-bought” Halloween costumes. If kids want to wear something new (to them) or they’ve grown out of them, then swap with a friend, or put a shout-out online. Many community groups and schools now have a swap shop for Halloween costumes. These initiatives save money and the planet.
5. Eco Halloween Activities
There are lots of eco-Halloween activities that you can do. Go on a Halloween or pumpkin trail from your home. Make it a Halloween Scavenger hunt, look out for signs of autumn and Halloween along the way. Older kids may enjoy a haunted walk, telling ghost stories about your town. In the home, Halloween games like “Wink Murder” and “Murder in the Dark” are naturally eco-friendly. They can be renamed to something more family-friendly if you wish! Games like these were normal in the not-so-PC 80s! Apple bobbing is still environmentally friendly, but not so popular nowadays for hygiene reasons. I have to be honest, I only used to like playing if I could be first!
The good news is there are hygienic ways to play bobbing apples. For example, you could put them in water and challenge contestants to try to scoop the apples out in a difficult way, such as with chopsticks or a small spoon. You can also hang the apples from the washing line and invite partygoers to try to eat the whole apple without using their hands. Children could make chocolate-covered or toffee apple treats. Decorating Halloween biscuits is a fun activity as is making spooky fruit creations. Outdoors, light a fire to keep warm and tell ghost stories. We did this once deep in the dark woods- I was terrified. Look up and watch the bats flying around above the fire. During Samhain, when the bonfires were lit, of course, it attracted insects which then attracted bats. That’s one of the reasons bugs, insects and bats are also symbolic during Halloween.
So Halloween does not need to be about plastic. Halloween should scare us (in a fun way!) and not scare the planet! When we remember the key principles we’ve been taught since we were kids- Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, we can all make a huge difference.
What are your tips for celebrating an eco Halloween? Tell me in the comments.