Halloween is my favorite holiday. Confession. It’s not just for the trick-or-treating, October 31st also happens to be my birthday. So my childhood was filled with costumes and candy AND cake and presents. Seriously, it was better than Christmas. Like most things, though, Halloween has a dark side (pun intended). With the majority of cocoa harvested by children and single-use costumes ending up in landfills, it’s time to Green your Halloween. We can all still experience the unbridled excitement of my childhood Halloween while making just a few changes towards a much more sustainable holiday.
1. Buy Fair Trade Candy
Avoid the child labor and sweatshop conditions and buy Fair Trade candy. Yes, it will cost more. Honestly, that’s the point. The candy we’re buying from companies like Nestle and Hershey is cheap specifically because the producers are not provided a living wage. A luxury like chocolate shouldn’t be the driving cause of poverty in remote African villages. By paying a little more for your chocolate, you can ensure that the cocoa growers earn a living wage and have the opportunity to send their children to school. Here are some great companies making fair trade chocolates and candies.
Sjaak’s Chocolates – Not only does Sjaak’s make fair trade, organic chocolate bars, but they also have Halloween tubs and chocolate bars inexpensive enough to give to trick-or-treaters. They also happen to be vegan and seriously delicious.
Equal Exchange – Try their minis for giving out to trick-or-treaters and be sure to stock some full-sized bars for yourself.
Lärabar – For a sweet treat that’s a little healthier, but still well-priced, try Lärabar’s bites or kids versions. All versions are fair-trade.
Alter-Eco – A bit pricier, but well worth it. They sell only full-sized bars rather than minis. You can buy these organic, fair trade bars by the 12-pack to save a few bucks, and they’re having an autumn special. Use code Autumn20 for 20% off with free shipping on orders over $65.
Ocho Candy – If you want more traditional “candy bars” rather than straight chocolate bars, Ocho makes fair trade, organic “fakes” of your favorite brands. They also have Halloween bulk minis for the trick-or-treaters.
Go Max Go – Another fair trade, non-GMO “candy bar” company. They don’t do minis, but bonus, all of their “fakes” are vegan (and delicious – I’ve tried them all!). You can purchase 12-bar boxes for 10% off.
Madécasse – If you really want to take the next step in sustainable chocolates, Madécasse is the way to go. They don’t just source their cocoa from Africa under fair trade conditions, they make the entire chocolate there. It creates jobs and provides better living for whole communities. At $4.50 per bar, you may not want to give them to the trick-or-treaters, but definitely treat yourself.
Lagusta’s Luscious – If money isn’t a worry, check out this luxury chocolate brand. Yes, their prices are high, but it’s oh so worth it for a little indulgence. They use locally sourced ingredients from small businesses and only fair trade certified chocolate. Unique truffle combinations really make this brand stand out.
Organic Fruit Snacks – Don’t want to give chocolate at all? Give the kiddies organic fruit snacks. There are numerous varieties that have no palm oil or high-fructose corn syrup out there. Many companies also offer multi-pack sizes like Annie’s or Yum Earth.
2. Find a Creative Re-Use For Your Costume
You’ve probably read time and again that it is more sustainable to buy a used costume from Goodwill or ebay. Both have huge Halloween sections, and that will also save you some money. While that’s a great tip, I would also suggest that you consider ways to re-wear your custom after Halloween. Turn your one-time outfit into something you can wear over and over again.
The Wedding Dress – The year after I got married, I couldn’t figure out what one is supposed to do with this expensive wedding dress, so I wore mine for Halloween! (I won the award for “most authentic”.) If you’re divorced or your wedding dress no longer fits properly and you’re not saving it for a child, cut out bits to make it fit, cut out some strips along the arms and bottom, dirty it up a bit and go as the Corpse Bride!
While this might be too extreme for most women (and maybe it’s better to donate it, anyway), how about trying one of these other tips?
Pirate Costume – Go as a pirate and make plans to visit your local pirate festival in spring or summer. Pirate festivals invade both coasts every year.
Renaissance Costume – There are a surprising number of times a Renaissance costume comes in handy. Get a good one and dazzle everyone at your local Renaissance Faire. They happen all over the country. (I was once invited to a Renaissance-themed wedding.) Go as a wench, and you can wear the costume earlier in the month for Octoberfest, or get a traditional Irish Renaissance dress and wear it to your local Irish Festival.
Faery Costume – You and your children can dress up as matching Faeries and save the costumes for your local Faery Festival. Faeries have also been spotted at Pirate and Renaissance Festivals as well as at the Oregon Country Fair.
Comic Characters – My nephew got an anime costume for Halloween, and then wore it to his local Comic Con. Yes, the San Diego one is the biggest, but they happen all over the country. This is a great idea for super hero costumes as well.
Cross-over Holiday Costumes – Dress up as Santa or the Easter Bunny and then play that character for the kids on the holiday. If you’re family likes a twist, dress up as the Christmas version of Jack Skellington.
Dressing up for Fairs and Festivals really enhances the enjoyment, and if you’re re-using an otherwise single-wear costume, all the better.
Of course, once you are done with a costume, be sure to donate it, sell it or trade it at a future Halloween Costume Swap.
3. Avoid the “Fast Fashion” Trap
Every year big box retailers break out the holiday-themed version of Fast Fashion. Rows of Halloween-themed apparel line store shelves. I admit that in my younger days, I had to have a new Halloween-themed shirt every year. Of course, now, I’m much more environmentally aware and I avoid those types of cheap and unsustainable garments. That’s why this year, I was so thrilled to find cute fashions that were wearable any time of year, but had just enough of a Halloween tie-in that I could get my holiday fashion fix on.
Faerie’s Dance has a new brand that makes 100% certified organic cotton womens printed tops and tunics along with matching accessories from recycled cotton scraps, all knit, cut and sewn in the USA. The screen printing uses only water-based inks, and the fabric dyes are low-impact. We’ve already placed multiple orders, but for right now, check out our Cat Moon series (below) along with the Witchy Night Top (left).
The handwarmers and scarves make equally fun gifts at Halloween, Christmas, Hanukkah or any Fall or Winter birthday, especially for cat lovers, full moon romantics, or astronomers. 😉 We have more designs and colors coming in November, too.
4. Donate Your Pumpkins and Compost Your Jack-o-Lanterns
Whole pumpkins and carved jack-o-lanterns shouldn’t wind up in landfill! Jack-o-Lanterns can easily be composted or cut up and added to your yard waste bin. Cut them up before they start “melting” on your porch.
If you like to decorate with whole pumpkins around the house and yard, consider donating them right after Halloween while they’re still in good condition. Who wants whole pumpkins? Why, big cats of course! Check out this big guy having some fun with his first pumpkin.
In Oregon, Wildcat Ridge Sanctuary takes pumpkin donations. Call them at (503) 625-0812 to set up a donation.
In California, contact the Wildlife Waystation at 818-899-5201.
In Florida, visit Big Cat Rescue or call them at 813.920.4130.
I’m sure there are many others around the country. Do a local search to find out if there is a wild cat sanctuary near you that would love a post-Halloween treat.
There are so many ways to green Halloween and all your holidays. Just take a moment to evaluate each purchase or decision. Buy decorations from charity shops and reuse as much as possible year over year. We can all still have fun while doing just a little better. Wishing you all a glorious, frightfully fun Halloween.