Costumes, swanning around town after sundown, going on candy quests, and monstrous parties are all popular Halloween rituals in the United States. But despite the intense celebration across the country, the holiday only became popular during the early 1900s. Halloween is the confluence of thousands of years' worth of culture and beliefs, tracing back over 2000 years.
Halloween History— Quick Peek into the Past
Halloween is an ancient tradition that touches on a fundamental aspect of mankind— the connection between the living and the dead.
Why is Halloween celebrated?
Westerners have celebrated Samhain, the Celtic New Year's holiday, for thousands of years. Samhain translates as summer's end signaling the end of the harvest and the approach of winter. It is understood that the Celts believed that the dead may return and retrace their steps on 31st October because the gap between the living and the dead was the narrowest on this night. They also believed this day was when the dead who have yet to move on traffic with the living.
While the mystical unknowns of Halloween continue to intrigue the mind and the holiday remains a favorite for many, it is not the most environmentally friendly celebration. The idea of the enormous amount of litter and carbon pollution gives us a far spookier fright than the actual holiday. Trick-or-treating, Halloween costumes, pumpkin carvings, etc., all contribute heavily to waste generation.
Why Plan a Sustainable Halloween Celebration?
Decorating the house with orange gourds and carving them is a "must" Halloween aesthetic. But the more we understand consumption and waste, the more we realize that the likes of such festive activities might just be making the waste problem worse.
The United States grows around 2 billion pounds of Halloween pumpkins every year, the majority of which end up in landfills. Americans burn $400 million on Halloween candies every year. The average spending per person in the U.S. on decorations, costumes, candies, and cards is estimated at $102.74. The nation's Halloween shopping expenditures in 2021 was $10.14 billion, reaching an all-time high.
Halloween costumes are made largely of plastic which causes a significant increase in plastic pollution in just one weekend. Based on Fairyland Trust research, a UK conservation charity, 30 Halloween costumes sold through Amazon had an average weight of 361g out of which plastic was 297g. Further, another UK environmental organization research, Hubbub, revealed that 7 million Halloween costumes are discarded annually. Resulting in a generation of about 2,079 tons of Halloween-related plastic waste. We may not have similar insight into the US Halloween waste but it's not hard to figure out that the numbers would be close or even more.
Halloween is a profound cultural festival in the US, and we celebrate with every last drop of enthusiasm. But one can only imagine the amount of carbon emission released given the massive amount of trash from a single-day holiday. The greenhouse gas (GHG) impact from carving one wasted pumpkin is estimated to be greater than 1 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in the US. And this is just for pumpkins! If we were to calculate every other participating item like candies, costumes, decorations, food, etc. the cost of carbon emissions would be beyond fathomable.
Every day we make decisions that have an impact on the quantity of our waste and pollution. So, can we do something to prevent mindless waste generation this year? We can, indeed, do quite a bit to enjoy an eco-friendly 2022 Halloween.
5 Tips to Enjoy a Sustainable Halloween
- Eco-Friendly Halloween Costumes
Halloween costumes contribute the most to plastic pollution during the festivities, producing around 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste. It is imperative to act responsibly because most costumes wind up being worn just once before they hit the landfills. Instead of shopping for new items, look through your wardrobe to see if you can pull a scary DIY look from your existing clothes. Try renting costumes as it is inexpensive and easily returnable. Recycle old Halloween costumes by swapping them with family and friends. Look for the best options that can inspire your creativity to put together a zero-waste and no-cost costume.
- No Plastic Trick-Or-Treat Pail
You want to make sure candy bags, an inseparable part of the costume, are made of sustainable fabric. Use old pillowcases, sheets, t-shirts, or fair trade certified canvas totes like the one from Terra Thread. Best eco-friendly trick-or-treating bag choices for both children and adults.
- Candy Wrappers Off the Street
Please be mindful of the plastic candy wrappers as you enjoy the sweet treats on the go. Don't throw wrappers away because they litter the streets, then crawl into storm drains, and eventually pollute the nearest bodies of water. Keep candy wrappers inside the canvas tote bag with pockets until you can properly discard them in your garbage cans at home.
- Close The Pumpkin Waste Loop
Pumpkins don't exactly fit into sustainable Halloween decorations. Both used and wasted pumpkins, after the celebration, are sent off to landfills where they release methane. This dangerous GHG gas traps heat in our atmosphere 25 times more harmful than carbon dioxide.
To keep waste and dangerous emissions minimal, buy pumpkins from organic farms instead of supermarket variants grown with toxic fertilizer. Leave no leftovers by consuming every part of the pumpkin, even the seeds. If there are any leftovers, put them in the compost heap. These are simple and effective methods for closing the loop of Halloween pumpkin waste.
- Fill the Bowls with Fair Trade Treats
If you're an adult forking the aisles to participate in this candy quest holiday, choose organic and fair trade certified chocolate bars and candies. Check the labels for sustainable ingredients to ensure there is no palm oil. Handing out ethical treats offers more than just sugary thrills because they are both delectable and ethically sourced. Ethical chocolate brands to consider— Theo Chocolate, Loving Earth, Divine Chocolate, Fran's and Equal Exchange.
Have the most sustainable Halloween yet by making greener choices and using supplies you already have at home.