5 Ways to Have a Happy, Healthy, Plastic-Free Halloween

Halloween is a holiday best known for being fun, spooky, and, frighteningly, filled with lots and lots of plastic. There’s nothing fun about plastic, though it is commonly used to make Halloween costumes, masks, candy wrappers, decorations, toys, and makeup. Plastic harms both the environment and human health. It contains hazardous chemicals, and causes injustice and pollution all over the world. Now that’s truly scary!

But Halloween doesn’t have to be a wasteful, unjust, and unhealthy nightmare. Solutions to plastic pollution exist. Thankfully, there are lots of Halloween traditions we can continue to partake in and enjoy…just without the plastic! 

Here are Plastic Pollution Coalition’s top five tips for eliminating plastic from your spooky festivities this Halloween season:

1. Make treats from scratch:

Caramel apple by Joshua Ganderson (Flickr)

It wouldn’t be Halloween without the treats. Unfortunately, most Halloween delicacies are wrapped in toxic, single-use plastic packaging that pollutes the environment and our bodies. Make your own Halloween candies, baked goods, and other sweets from scratch to cut out the plastic:

  • The key to plastic-free Halloween treats is to keep it simple. Recipes with few ingredients and steps can help spare you of plastic packaging. Not to mention, simplicity can make it quick, easy, and affordable to create your own Halloween sweets. Think: vegan caramel apples made with wooden sticks or twigs from your garden. Or beet-colored red velvet cupcakes baked without liners in nontoxic glass or ceramic baking pans (these can be made vegan as well). And spooky sugar cookies made with plastic-free icing sugar.
  • Shop for unprocessed, whole ingredients whenever possible: Find reuse and refill shops near you where you can bring your own bags and containers to stock up with loose, unpackaged foods. When that is not possible, seek out local shops where it’s possible to purchase foods in bulk and/or in packaging other than plastic. Good packaging alternatives include nontoxic paper, metal, glass, bamboo, algae, banana leaves, and other materials.
  • Be mindful of chemicals in the kitchen: Did you know that many cupcake liners, baking trays, pots, pans, spatulas, and other common tools commonly contain plastics and toxic chemicals known to harm human health and the environment, like PFAS? Opt for non-toxic, naturally anti-microbial materials like bamboo and some stainless steel, wood, glass, and ceramic.

2. Create a costume from reused materials

With a little creativity, you can turn used clothing, newspapers, cardboard, and other cheap or free plastic-free materials into awesome Halloween costumes. Most commercially sold costumes—and in fact much clothing made and sold today—is manufactured with plastic fibers like nylon, polyester, polyamide, and acrylic. These plastics rapidly shed toxic microfibers into the environment and our bodies. Play with non-toxic and plastic-free cosmetics when putting on your best Halloween face.

Not only is making your own plastic-free costume cheaper, more sustainable, and healthier than buying one, it’s also more fun:

3. Choose degradable decorations

Typically, Halloween decorations such as fake spiderwebs, glowing pumpkins, and inflatables, are made of polluting plastic. And most plastic Halloween decorations are either used just once, or once a year. 

Keep plastic and toxins away from your home this Halloween without sacrificing any of your fall vibe by adorning with biodegradable items! If farms exist in your area, pay a visit to find pumpkins and other gourds, as well as dried corn, hay bales, and other beautiful and natural seasonal decorations. Dried leaf wreaths, scarecrows, and other plastic-free decorations can turn a fall afternoon of yard cleanup into fun touches for your yard or home.

Carve a pumpkin, and save and toast the seeds in your oven with salt and oil for healthy snacking this Halloween, or save and plant them in your garden next spring. If carving is not your thing, you can also paint your pumpkins with non-toxic, plastic-free paints, such as tempera. Once those pumpkins are looking mushy, throw them in your compost pile or donate them to a wildlife rescue or refuge that accepts uncarved Halloween pumpkins to feed animals in need.

4. Trick-or-treat without waste

Instead of filling up your trick-or-treat bowl with the usual plastic-wrapped, bite-sized candies, consider supplying your neighborhood kids with plastic-free treats. Bulk candy or homemade candy distributed in decorated paper bags can be a good option if you’re familiar with the people coming to your door this Halloween. Other ideas include giving out small change instead of candy, offering fruit in peels or rinds (like oranges or apples). 

If you’re out on a trick-or-treating route, use cloth or canvas bags (such as ours!), or even a cotton pillowcase or sewn-up t-shirt works as a plastic-free treat receptacle. Remember to hydrate as you scour your neighborhood for the best tricks and treats: bring a reusable stainless steel water bottle with you on your rounds. 

5. Party plastic-free

Everyone loves a good Halloween costume party! As we’ve covered, asking your friends to wear their best homemade get-ups, decorating with degradable materials, and preparing plastic-free treats and other tasty foods to celebrate the season are great ways to cut the plastic out of Halloween without losing any of the fun. 

When setting up your plastic-free Halloween party, choose reusable plastic-free utensils, dishes, cups, straws, and other foodware over single-use options. In lieu of gifts or goodie bags, offer homemade treats or D.I.Y. crafts or plastic-free reusables (like straws made of stainless steel or other non-plastic, non-toxic materials) in paper bags, or on a tray or plate.

Have a healthy, happy, plastic-free Halloween!

Find more tips for a plastic-free Halloween in this conversation between Plastic Pollution Coalition Youth Ambassador Eva Geierstanger and Co-Founder and CEO Dianna Cohen.

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