Greening Halloween with Costume Swaps, Healthy Snacks

Dear EarthTalk: Any tips for how to green up my Halloween this year?

—Jason Falcone, Bern,NC

Halloween may be fun, but…this most ghoulish of holidays is also cause for lots of waste, given the preponderance of one-time use costumes that end up in a box or in the trash come November 1. And sustainability proponents also decry Halloween for promoting unhealthy eating habits, as obesity and diabetes rates among American kids continue to skyrocket. So what’s a green Halloween reveler to do?

pumpkin sml 400x267 Greening Halloween with Costume Swaps, Healthy Snacks

Green Halloween encourages parents to organize costume swaps & give out healthy snacks or treasures instead of candy this year at Halloween. Credit: Cascadian Farms, FlickrCC

Back in 2006, a Bellevue, Washington mom named Corey Colwell-Lipson wondered the same thing. Fearing the worst, she took her two-year-old trick-or-treating anyway and was delighted to find a few of the houses in her neighborhood handing out non-candy treats like bubbles and stickers. “I was so thrilled that someone thought outside the candy-box that, while shouting, ‘Thank You!’ at the top of my lungs, I made a note to myself to remember to trick-or-treat at these homes the following year,” she recalls. “But after winding through several streets in the dark, I had already forgotten which homes were candy-free.”

“Wouldn’t it be great if there were a sign you could place on your door or window that notified trick-or-treaters that their upcoming treat would be healthy?’” Colwell-Lipson wondered. “This way, parents could seek out those homes and turn trick-or-treating into a scavenger hunt—a hunt for treasures rather than treats.” Thus the idea for Green Halloween was born.

These days, some 10 years later, Halloween is greener across the country thanks to Colwell-Lipson’s pioneering efforts. In 2012, Green America, the non-profit membership organization with the mission of harnessing economic power to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society, put its muscle behind Green Halloween and expanded the program nationwide.

With Halloween right around the corner, there’s no time like the present to get started. Host a costume swap in your neighborhood or at your kid’s school, or both. This way everyone can the save money and reduce the waste associated with buying new costumes off-the-shelf at the store. Spread the word far and wide so others can join the costume swap and spread the good green Halloween cheer.

Another easy way to green Halloween is by swapping out the KitKats and Tootsie Rolls with healthier alternatives. LaraBars, Stretch Island Fruit Strips, Glee Gum, Bitsy’s Brainfood, Cascadian Farm Bars and Surf Sweets are a few of the many healthier alternatives to look for at your local Whole Foods that still will keep you in the good graces of neighborhood trick-or-treaters.

Green America has also teamed up with dozens of zoos and aquariums as well as different community partners across the country to host sustainability-oriented community-wide Green Halloween celebrations. Activities will vary at these events, but participants can look forward to responsible trick-or-treating, face painting and other ways to make it a memorable yet sustainable All Hallow’s Eve.

But you don’t have to rely on anyone else to make your Halloween green. Green America’s free online “Volunteer Coordinator’s Guide” lays the groundwork for doing it yourself. Happy Halloween!