Halloween's Scary Reliance on Plastic

By Beth Terry

Halloween has become a big plastic party. And it wasn’t so different when I was a kid in the '70s. There was already plastic-wrapped candy in plastic bags and fake plastic costumes, which my own family scorned because we always made ours from scratch (“Do you think that kid’s costume is homemade or store-bought? Looks like store-bought. Lazy”).

And it wasn’t just that our mom had so much more time to make costumes than other mothers who worked outside the home, because when we got a bit older, we all made our own, cobbled together from whatever was around the house.

The rest of the holidays are no better. Fake plastic jack-ó-lanterns give way to plastic-lined cans of pumpkin pie filling (re: BPA) because—god forbid—anyone should clean out and bake an actual pumpkin. And of course, even before Thanksgiving is over, the Christmas plastic will be up: Fake plastic snowmen and tinsel and electric candles. Plastic crap toys and plastic appliances and all manner of plastic gadgets: iPads and iPhones and the latest video games or talking toys.

We spend a lot of time trying to find healthy alternatives to all the environmentally destructive merchandise that’s pushed on us during the holiday season. We look for toys made from wood instead of plastic, more wholesome sweets, handmade gifts instead of store-bought; fair trade, organic. Gifts of experiences instead of physical goods. We spend a lot of time on these things. And that’s important.

But is it enough? How about questioning the whole compulsive holiday gift-giving assumption? What’s driving us? What’s our motivation? Is it to have a quality experience with people we love? Or is it because everyone else is doing it and we don’t want to feel left out? Or we don’t want our kids to feel left out?

Are there ways to subvert the holidays and remake them in our own image, rather than simply “greening” what may be toxic for our souls to begin with?

If the holidays stress us out, make us feel inadequate, drive us to exhaustion while we're trying to meet everyone’s expectations, then it doesn’t matter how environmentally friendly the gifts are. The whole system has become fundamentally corrupt. How can we create rituals for ourselves and our families that are life-sustaining rather than draining? How can we approach the holidays from a place of actual holiness?

What I mean is: finding center and balance and respect for ourselves and those we love so that we’re not buffeted by the massive tide of—not just commercialism, but basic inauthenticity. Of motivations as insincere as plastic itself. How can we be true to ourselves and honor the holidays without being drowned by them?

Finding a pumpkin and spending a whole day making pumpkin soup—that is a joyful experience. I hope to fill this season with moments like that.

Beth Terry runs the blog My Plastic Free Life. This post is resurrected from an earlier version there.

Travel Well Magazine thinks you can do it. And fall is the perfect season to try.

We don't have to accept singe-use plastics. That's why we're teaming up with Life Without Plastic and Plastic Pollution Coalition for the #Repurposely 30-Day DIY Challenge! Designed for you to find second and third lives through intentional repurposing in creative, do-it-yourself projects. Turn a cardboard box into a train costume, plastic bottles into skull lights or witch's broom, milk jugs into ghosts, or countless other fun, family-friendly Halloween projects. For more grownup crafts, turn bottles into apothecary wares, get ahead on holiday gifts with homemade candles or recipes packaged in old jars, turn old paint chips into a dry erase calendar, or redecorate with handmade statement pieces just in time for Thanksgiving. The opportunities are endless when you refuse to accept refuse.

THE PRIZE

As an added bonus, getting repurposely crafty won't just make your house, wallet and planet happy, it will give you a chance at winning an awesome plastic-free, limited-edition travel set from Life Without Plastic!

HOW TO ENTER

Find things to repurpose that would otherwise be destined for a landfill, snap pics of it, and share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #Repurposely and tagging Travel Well Magazine @travelwellmag.

See Travel Well for details!