For the first eight years of my life, we celebrated Halloween in my house. From Wonder Woman costumes to Lambchop get-ups, come All Hallows Eve, we got down. Things changed when Mom became a born-again Christian. During the remainder of my time at home, I have recollections of church soirees, with my brother and I dressed as Mary and Joseph, or something similar. It was…different, to say the least. You can only imagine, then, the fervor with which I embraced the holiday back into my life once college rolled around and I’d moved away from home. I was shameless, hitting up houses dressed as a nun. I looked forward to the dark evening with a fever possessed by children on Christmas Eve. Or their birthday. Or a trip to the toy store. [image sourcing, clockwise from top left: blue jake, the farmer's wife, strite's orchard, mariquita, the daily green]
While I still feel this way, as I’ve aged, I’ve begun to look at Halloween through a new lens-through “green-colored glasses,” if you will. The holiday is ripe for critique, from an ecological vantage point. From the synthetic, packaged costumes to the additive/preservative/synthetic-everything content of most Halloween candy, this holiday could use a green make-over. I’m certainly not advocating an abolition of the night and all its attendant guilty pleasures (I don’t yet have children, but when I do, this might be the one time of the year that this high fructose corn syrup-free, all-natural, mom-to-be lets her hair down and gives the kiddos carte blanche). I’m merely suggesting that it might be worth giving the annual night of debauchery a once-over. Here are a number of simple, easy, small measures that will help in greening up the ghostly hour.
CLICK HERE for Ashley’s Hallow-Green (Putting the Eco in Ectoplasm) ideas after the jump!
Candles- Consider soy, palm, or bees wax candles instead of paraffin. The former are renewable resources, while the latter is petroleum-sourced. Soy and beeswax candles also burn cleaner. Soul Shine Beeswax is a local favorite (with an online shop!). Aloha Bay has some fantastic scented votives (Satsuma and Mountain Mist are heaven-meets-palm!), as well as a host of tea lights in plain and colored options.
Pumpkins- When it comes to pumpkins, why not pick your own from a nearby patch? You’ll save fossil fuels used in long-haul transit, plus you’ll get to find the pumpkin that speaks to you personally (that does happen to others also, right?), all while enjoying the crisp Autumn air. When the season has passed, put the Great Pumpkin to work-scrape out, rinse off, and roast the seeds; peel your orange orb and cook its flesh (could there be anything more Hallow-Green-y?); and compost anything that’s left.
Candy- What’s Halloween without candy? That’s what it’s all about anyway, right? Keep that tradition, just consider losing the chemical baggage that comes with most commercially prepared sweets. Equal Exchange and Endangered Species offer fair-trade certified, organic dark chocolate mini bars. Fair-trade certification ensures that producers have been fairly paid, work in safe labor conditions, are directly involved in the trade transactions, participate in democratic and transparent organizations, are involved in community development, and promote environmental sustainability and stewardship. For more information about fair trade, check out Transfair USA .
If lollies are more your thing, Yummy Earth and College Farm Organic make pops with no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, or high fructose corn syrup. College Farm also carrys a line of hard candies that could weaken the resolve of the most die-hard HFCS addict (vanilla caramel, anyone?). Lastly, never underestimate the power of good ‘ole fruit leather. Stretch Island Fruit Co. offers organic fruit flatness in apricot, grape, raspberry, and tropical flavors.
Even if you go the Snickers and Milk Dud route, consider giving the tricksters one or two pieces, as opposed to the usual greedy grabbing free-for-all. They’ll be getting a good bit throughout the night, anyways, so a quality allotment from you is all that’s really needed.
Costumes- After the aforementioned nun guise, my costume repertoire expanded heartily. I have been, in no particular order: A geisha (many, many times, on account of a lovely kimono I used to own); Maude, of Harold and Maude (which changed my life when first viewed at age 20); Jackie Kennedy, holding a fake bit of brain, that in hindsight might have been just a wee bit in poor taste (oddly enough, someone inquired during that evening whether I was dressed as Parker Posey, who played ‘Jackie-O’ Pascal, in The House of Yes ; a trophy wife, complete with 50′s-era dress and a karate trophy; and a genetically modified tomato for my “Mad Scientist” party two Halloweens ago (red yoga pants, red sweatshirt, red fleece hat, green cut-out felt leaves on hat, red slippers, and fishing lures on hooks attached to the sweatshirt to indicate a tomato that had been hybridized with fish genes to endure colder temperatures-reality is MUCH stranger than fiction, folks. My male partners-in-Hallowed-crime have been: Harold, to my Maude; Andy Kaufmann; John Kennedy, to my Jackie; Marlon Brando as The Godfather ; and the Mad Scientist who spliced my fish’s genes.
The point in my historical costume retelling lies more in the costume materials themselves and less in the personas involved. Each get-up was crafted largely with either supplies on hand, or those readily available in a nearby thrift store. Some items were bought new and become regular players in my wardrobe (I still bust out the red yoga pants every Thursday at 5:45 for a nearby yoga/pilates session). I wore my geisha’s kimono for years. The umbrella to which I affixed Maude’s “Make Love, Not War” sign was the one I used for rainy days during my time in D.C.. When crafting your or your child’s Halloween costume, consider exploring your (and their) closet, local thrift stores, costume rental shops, or fabric stores for ideas and inspiration.
Decor- For this holiday, it’s easy to take decor cues from the season itself. Winter squashes, gourds, corn stalks & cobs, and leaves are everywhere and look magical festooning a stoop, doorway, driveway, or door mat. Perhaps the harvest look isn’t quite horrific enough for you. Then purchase creepy Halloween decor that can be re-used every year, instead of throw-away paper items. Consider making things yourself, or, if you’re short on time, or just not much of a DIY-er, check out Etsy or Ebay for spooktacular offerings.
If you’re hosting a ghoulish get-together, remember that the devil is in the details. If your number of guests exceeds your ability (or desire) to use actual serving ware, consider natural, compostable options, such as the new Bare line from Solo. Party fare could also highlight seasonal (and local, if at all possible) foods, such as butternut or acorn squash, apples, root vegetables like beets and turnips, and, of course, pumpkins!
For further Hallow-Green inspiration, haunt these sites, guaranteed to spook you into something spectacular!:
What frightfully fun eco ideas do you stir into your Hallow-Green cauldron?