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Happy (Sustainable) Halloween
By Helen de la Maza   View more articles by this author
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October 25

Along with the colorful leaves, brisk weather, and longer hours of autumn come three months of holidays marking religious and nonreligious days of celebration and reflection. These occasions are marked by the opportunity for excessive consumerism; this is especially true of Halloween. Walking through a store earlier today, I found at least 15 aisles dedicated to Halloween merchandise including costumes, decorations, candy, and trick-or-treat gifts. Equally prevalent are the thousands of pumpkins that have been grown at nearby farms specifically for this occasion.


Is it possible to find a balance between the enjoyment of a holiday and sustainability? The key to the next three months of celebrations is awareness of what and whom our dollars support, no matter where we fall on the consumer/sustainability spectrum.


What is the impact on our limited resources of using a food source (pumpkins) as a temporary decoration? In most areas of the United States, pumpkin seeds are planted in the spring then harvested in the fall. During those three months, the plants require soil, water, nutrients, and human resources to grow. Once harvested, the pumpkins are purchased by Halloween shoppers for carving and decorating. Some folks may save the pumpkin seeds to roast and consume while many others throw the seeds away along with the ‘meat’ of the pumpkin fruit. Once the pumpkin has served its purpose on Halloween, it often ends up in a landfill where the anaerobic conditions are not conducive to decomposition.


This year, consider an alternative to the wasteful use of a potential food item as a temporary decoration. Instead, create or purchase a ceramic or cloth decoration that can be used for decades to come. If you are concerned about your children missing out on pumpkin carving, engage them in other family activities around the holiday; give them a ball of clay and teach them how to ‘carve’ it to make a long-lasting decoration and teach them why you are choosing to forego using food as a decoration.


Individually wrapped Halloween candies are another source of significant waste during the holiday season. Besides being nutritionally deficient and unhealthy, this candy comes wrapped in plastic or paper that will end up in the same landfill as those discarded pumpkins. Consider giving inexpensive and reusable treats: pencils, erasers, or bookmarks. Stay away from one-time-use or plastic items that will be discarded once Halloween has passed. 


You’re welcome to stop by my house to trick-or-treat. I will leave the porch light on, just for this evening. You’ll find a basket, which I have been using for about 15 years, full of pencils. Take one or two; may they serve as a reminder throughout the several months you’ll use them to carefully consider the choices you make and the impact you have on our Earth.


Make a goal this year to reduce your Halloween consumption by a few notches. stickK to it by making choices that will reduce wastefulness.

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