Lifelong Treats: 12 Tips to a Greener Halloween

I love Halloween. Not only does Halloween take place during my favorite season, but it also involves presenting yourself to the world as creatively as possible; and, I have to admit a “mom perk” of Halloween is getting to enjoy candy I normally don’t have in my house. Unfortunately, the way we celebrate Halloween can be a nightmare for people and the planet.

Lifelong Treats: 12 tips to a greener Halloween

Think about it. Yearly, about 35 million kids go trick-or-treating; that means a lot of candy, individually encapsulated in non-recyclable petroleum-based plastic that’s been manufactured and shipped via fossil fuels to your grocery store. More than likely, that candy is made with high fructose corn syrup, which threatens your health as well as the planet’s and palm oil, which threatens rain forests and the creatures that live in them. And if it contains chocolate, it’s likely to be a product of child labor.

I know. Scares the Twix bar right out of my hand.

Halloween also means dressing up. A lot of store-bought costumes are made from non-recyclable petro-chemical based plastic and synthetic fibers. Those Halloween costumes can include the horrific plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a soft plastic and known carcinogen that releases harmful toxins in its creation and breakdown. And if that doesn’t happen to spook you, many face paints contain the neurotoxin lead and other ingredients that aren’t tested for general human safety, let alone specifically for how they’ll impact a developing body. I know. Makes me want to put a white sheet over my head and call it good.

And I haven’t even touched on trick-or-treat bags, decorations or pumpkins.

The good news is, you can celebrate Halloween without terrorizing the planet and its inhabitants. Here are 12 tips to help “green” your Halloween.

  1. Start by picking one category to “green” this year: costumes, decorations or treats. Next year, pick another. Or, select another category for another holiday.


  1. Start at the thrifty. You will be amazed at the plethora of costumes available, some even brand new in their original packaging. You know what’s even better? Taking your kids to the thrifty and having them rummage through the costumes, especially the odds and ends. They use their imaginations to create one-of-a-kind, unique ensembles and identities for Halloween. Thrift stores are a great resource for Halloween decorations, too.
  2. Host a costume swap. If that’s more than you want to take on, then consider using Facebook or other social media channels to share what you have and what you’re looking for.
  3. Go the old-fashioned route and make costumes. Better yet, host a costume-making party. Everything is less daunting with friends and wine!
  4. Consider making your own face paint.


  1. If you and your kids like crafts, then consider making decorations from recycled products. Just like with costumes, a lot of natural resources were used and fossil fuels burned in manufacturing and shipping all that cute stuff. Increasingly, I feel uneasy buying something without knowing the working conditions of those on the factory floor. Besides, each American generates about 5 pounds of trash a day. Surely we could divert some of that into decorations!
  2. Take a family hike and collect natural decorations – pinecones, pine needles, acorns, fallen branches, leaves. Let your kids take charge. It may not look like Better Homes and Gardens when they’re done, but it will look like a home with kids inside. The great thing about natural decorations is they can be composted or returned to nature rather than landfilled.
  3. If you’re going to decorate or carve pumpkins, please buy from a local farmer. You’ll be helping the local economy and again, reducing your carbon footprint. Then, make sure you roast the seeds and cook something yummy with the pumpkin; seeds and pumpkins are super healthy antidotes for all that Halloween candy. Again, you can also compost pumpkin rather than trash it.


  1. Pass out candy that comes in paper or paperboard packaging that can be recycled, rather than plastic wrappers that can’t.
  2. Reuse candy wrappers to make crafts.
  3. Consider buying these rainforest-friendly candy choices or these child labor-free choices.
  4. Instead of candy, consider giving other treats kids will enjoy like seashells, dragon tears, mini duct tape rolls or temporary tattoos. Again, enlist your littles in coming up with alternatives.

When I started making the connection between my choices and their environmental impact, it felt like I couldn’t do anything fun anymore. Nothing could be further from the truth! Involving my family in the changes, engaging everyone’s creativity, resourcefulness and intentionality is how we do life. Mindfulness is a practice that deepens fun. It’s the best treat I can give my children.

Mary Silwance headshotAbout the author: After having taught English for 10 years, Mary Silwance became a stay-at-home mom in 2002 when her oldest child was born. She says, “at that time, my sweet sister-in-law gave me a subscription to Mothering magazine which focuses on natural family living. The well-researched, in-depth articles shaped my parenting and spurred my interest in environmental and social justice issues.” Now that all three of her children are in school, she works as an environmental educator with Green Works and serves as the farm-to-school coordinator for DeLaSalle High School. Mary started her blog, tonic wild, to explore the intersection of spirituality and environmentalism. 

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