Forget vampires, zombies and monsters, the scariest thing about Halloween is the staggering amounts of plastic waste that accumulate each year.
In Ireland we throw away around 700,000 costumes every Halloween, 83 of which are made from plastic materials, according to the Kildare-based ecology specialist toy company Jiminy.ie.
Adding to the scraps of all those costume items, there’s more coming from the disposable Halloween decorations we buy for our homes and the plastic-wrapped candies and chocolates we give out to trick-or-treating. Here are changes you can make to ensure a more sustainable spooky season.
Buying the carnival outfit online or in a store is often the quickest and easiest way, but also the worst for the environment. The most sustainable option is to not buy anything new: rummage through your own closet, consider a costume swap with classmates, friends or the children’s family, or look for popular options in charity shops, Freecycle and Facebook groups.
Scouting for materials and constructing homemade costumes is a time-consuming task. To speed things up, try the online charity shop Thriftify.iewhich lets you browse a wide range of stores across the country online and see what’s available without having to dig and dig through the rails yourself.
At the time of writing, the site offers many black dresses that are ideal for dressing up as a witch, such as: For example, a Next dress with a Wednesday Addams-style Peter Pan collar for 10-year-olds (€7.50) and black and white striped tops (from €4 for 9-10 years) to keep you halfway way to bring pirate costume.
There are many vintage wedding or communion dresses to help transform a child into a corpse bride, including a white satin dress for ages 7-8 with a high neckline, puff sleeves and beaded detailing (€12).
Ditch the standard plastic face masks and buy a PlayMais mask kit (€19.99, jiminy.ie). It contains six blank stencils and 500 pieces of different colored, biodegradable PlayMais, made with three natural ingredients: corn, water and food coloring.
You can use these to transform your little one into a lion, clown or whatever they dream up while having family fun building too. Plus, when you’re done with the masks, you can compost them.
Jiminy.ie also sells sets of Namaki-certified organic face paints that cost €11.90 for three colors or €32.90 for eight colors.
The three color sets are packaged in cardboard pallets and include instructions for two designs – the black, red and white set includes a pirate and a ladybug, while the yellow, white and tan set includes a lion and a giraffe. The kits contain enough face paint for about 12 full faces, and the paint washes off with soap and water.
If you have an aspiring princess, mermaid or fairy in the house, you might be tempted to cover them in glittery fabrics. Avoid cheap commercial glitters that are microplastics and look for a biodegradable alternative like Superstar Face and Body Glitter ($4.50, DublinBodyPaint.com).
The product is indistinguishable from regular glitter but is based on plant-based material instead of plastic. It comes in fine or chunky sizes and in a variety of shades including gold, silver, red, pink, purple, and green.
Designing your haunted house can be a fun afternoon for the whole family, and there’s still time to design your own in over two weeks.
If you’re particularly clever, you can find instructions online to make your own black yarn cobwebs (€3.49, SpringWools.com), or those who are less creative may find it easier to paint gravestones on the back of old cardboard boxes and use them to decorate the front yard, balcony or shop window.
Pumpkins can be another major source of garbage, as more than half of the pumpkins bought for Halloween go uneaten and go to waste. If you know you won’t eat yours, try carving old tin cans with scary faces, ghosts, or “trick and treat” messages instead, then turn them into lanterns with a tea light inside.
To get the most out of your pumpkin, skip the carving and instead decorate with crayons like the Stabilo Woody All-Surface Paint pens (€23.48 for a set of 10 pens and sharpener, jiminy.ie).
A greener alternative to colored pencils, they have chunky handles for a better grip for little hands, and are washable with water so you can eat the pumpkin afterwards. These pens also wipe glass easily, so they can be used to draw on windows.
For a pumpkin you can bring out every year, check out the Galway-based knitwear brand’s handmade knit versions FluffBeag.ie. They are made from acrylic yarn and filled with recycled plastic. They are available in orange, mustard or green wool, measure 6 inches x 3 inches and cost €18.
Known for their lovingly knitted Christmas wreaths, Wicklow knitters Olannmor (Irish for ‘big wool’) also offer autumnal designs, including two Halloween wreaths.
We love the pumpkin wreath made from chunky orange and green merino wool (€39, olanmor.com), and they also feature an orange and black striped style coiled around a spooky black spider.
If you’re buying new, make sure your purchase is reusable and you’ll be happy to use it again and again. For the best longevity, stick to classic styles, like the Ginger Ray Wooden Pumpkin Bunting (€7 reduced from €10, PrettyLittleThing.ie).
The pumpkin shapes are rendered in a cut out design, orange on one side and smooth on the other. Arrange the colors however you like on the connecting cord and hang them on a mantel, staircase or above a door.
Dublin’s Studio Snow has a pair of cute white púcaí or ghosts (€9, SnowStore.BigCartel.com), cut in 3mm opaque acrylic that will bring a smile to your face every time you set them up.
If you have a lamp with an exposed bulb, Oliver Bona’s Crescent Moon LED Light (€30) will instantly create a spooky atmosphere.
Going without plastic when choosing treats to be served at the door is especially difficult. More sustainable choices include swapping out candy for fruit or non-gourmet items like bookmarks, but even the most virtuous kid probably won’t thank you for a tangerine or a handful of raisins in their trick-or-treating bag.
If you have time to make your own snacks, chocolate or toffee-covered apples and homemade popcorn are always popular, and can be packaged in paper bags (€3.49 for 50, Dunnes) rather than plastic.
When time is short, however, it can be expensive to find environmentally and wallet-friendly alternatives to supermarket sweets.
Meat-based confectionery company TreatYoSelf.ie makes eco-friendly vegan sweets packaged in compostable or biodegradable pouches and has a range of Halloween deals as well as special seasonal flavors like Fizzy Dracula Teeth or Cola Skulls (€4.99 for 200g).
https://www.independent.ie/life/family/how-to-have-a-sustainable-halloween-and-still-have-the-best-treats-costumes-and-decorations-42062504.html How to celebrate a sustainable Halloween and still have the best treats, costumes, and decorations