In the early 1980s, my family was environmentally ahead of the times, especially during Halloween. Although we celebrated the season, out of budgetary concerns rather than consciously trying to be earth-friendly, we still made a great effort to save money. We made our own costumes and baked cookies for the neighborhood trick-or-treaters. We carried our pillowcases to hold our mounds of treats after saying “trick-or-treat!” I was a princess with a thrift-store dress, the Cat in the Hat wearing all black and a cardboard top hat, and the Karate Kid with my karate gi from class.
Later in the ‘80s and ‘90s, plastics and commercial Halloween accelerated in our consumeristic society. Everyone wanted plastic pumpkins to carry their candy and glitzy costumes to show off their favorite Saturday morning cartoon character. We all wanted more than what we had or could afford. We saw the rise in dedicated fancy Halloween sections at K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Target and other corporate stores. Also during this time, tragedy struck our parents’ homemade creations, when reported cases of pins, needles and razor blades made its way into Halloween hand-outs. This scared the nation so badly that store-bought, individually wrapped candy became the strict parental safe standard and we bought them in mass quantities. However, as a parent in today's society, I totally understand not accepting sketchy cookies or candy from strangers. You just never know.
So candy and costumes are now super pricey and the selections are all very tempting. Why make a costume when you can just buy it already made? It saves time. I’m already guilty of giving into general society’s norms in purchasing such elaborate, but poorly-made, overpriced costumes for my now 6-year-old daughter. She has been Draculaura for $50, Tinkerbell for $30 and the Little Mermaid for $40. We have borrowed a couple of costumes from friends when she was younger, but as she gets older, she gets more selective in her choices. Must be a girl thing.
However, this year, my daughter decided to be Glinda the Good Witch from “The Wizard of Oz.” I couldn't be prouder of my green little girl because she’s wearing a pink dress she already owns and we are making her crown from construction paper. Oh the memories from my childhood.
To me, just like Valentine's Day, Halloween is over commercialized. But we can only blame ourselves because we give in to the temptations. We see it, we like it, we buy it. Simple as that. The companies continue production as usual based on our buying habits. If a store sells out, they just order more stock.
It is never too late to go green this Halloween and save some green, too.
Swap a costume with a friend, shop for your costume at the thrift store or better yet, make your own costume with stuff you have around the house. Shop your closet for unique costumes. You can make bat wings from an old broken umbrella or moose antlers from old gloves. Then, there is the ever-staple bedsheet toga.
Hand out candy alternatives to trick-or-treaters. Some ideas include treasures such as crayons, stickers or books.
Visit a local pumpkin patch or stand that supports a local organization or business. Some of those include: Thompson Farm in Conway, Indigo Farms in Calabash, N.C. and several churches.
Ditch the plastic pumpkins and decorate with nature, small pumpkins, leaves and dried flowers make interesting decorations for the fall, including Halloween.
Share candy resources and trick-or-treat as a group with other parents. Have one central house in a good, safe neighborhood and “potluck” the candy to give out. It saves in having to handle it all yourself.
However you enjoy your Halloween, be safe and be green.
For more information, please visit www.greenhalloween.org.
Jennifer Sellers is the sustainability coordinator at Coastal Carolina University and offers her eco-views at her blog, mygreenglasses.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.