Halloween has been a fond memory of childhood for generations: in fact, far longer than you might realize! Halloween has been around for hundreds of years, and is closely linked to the prehistoric Gaelic festival of Samhain. Many of the Halloween traditions that are popularly associated with the US actually originated in the UK and Ireland, where children have been trick-or-treating and wearing costumes as early as the 16th century. Looking at photos of Halloween festivities from the early 1900s, it’s exciting to see how long this holiday has delighted children on the night when the morbid and the macabre become a whole lot of fun!
[Source: Wisconsin Historical Images, Flickr]
Halloween has been my favorite time of the year since I was a little girl growing up in Canada, and I’m excited to see how much it’s taken off here in Australia in recent years too. I fondly remember my mum sewing me gorgeous costumes (she now sews them for baby Natasha, who made an adorable Togepi last year!) The holiday also has a fascinating developmental side to it: for one day a year, the scary monster under the bed is fun!
But there’s another side to Halloween that many parents are worried about: decorations in landfill, a whole lotta sugar, and the scary clown phenomenon that’s even reached us Down Under.
But a few easy tweaks can make a big difference, so here’s some tips to have a happy, healthy, and green Halloween!
1. Think about your treats! A ton of trick-or-treating candies means a lot of sugar, and a lot of sore tummies the next day if we’re not careful! (Confession time: my copious treats collection was always finished by the next evening, and I’d spend the 2nd of November each year coming down from sugar-shock, full of so, so much candy and regret.)
Once you get home, ration your kids’ treats so that they’ll last for a week or two. (This might get some grumbles, but mama knows best.) If your child has food allergies, or you want to make sure they get healthy treats, you could knock on the doors of the neighbours you’ll be visiting and give them some non-allergenic or healthier treat options to give out to your child.
If you’re having a Halloween party, there’s heaps of spoooooky treats you can make at home: this Healthy Halloween Snacks board on Pinterest will get your creative juices flowing!
Once you’re back home and handing treats out, you could hand out healthy snacks to the neighbourhood kids (although you may find yourself cleaning egg off your windows the next morning), or you could just go for healthier and more environmentally-friendly: avoid palm oil and look for lower-sugar options. Greatist has a guide to some better Halloween candy options.
2. Eco-conscious decorating. $7.4 billion gets spent on Halloween decorations each year in the US alone, and they’re largely made of plastic. Your own decorations might not seem like they’re doing much harm, but times that by the huge number of people celebrating Halloween worldwide, and that’s a whole lot of waste. (Not to mention the ethical supply chain issue: your kids getting to enjoy the Halloween decorations that might be made in factories exploiting kids their age!)
Store your decorations from last year and use them again: even cheaper decorations will often have many years worth of use left in them. You can also avoid plastic decorations altogether by doing it DIY. There’s plenty of Halloween printables and craft ideas online for you to decorate the house with, and reusable trick-or-treating bags that you can make yourself. and your kids will enjoy making these with you so much more than they’ll enjoy buying things in the store. Moments spent crafting with you will turn into memories that last a lifetime!
3. Careful costuming. Confession #2: I buy two new costume every year, one for Halloween and one for Purim (basically, Jewish Halloween minus the macabre and a whole lot of triangular pastries). I’m lucky enough to have an expert sewer to make baby Natasha’s costumes (thanks, Mum!), so she gets new costumes too. Part of the joy of dressing up is the novelty and excitement of wearing something new; which, over your lifetime, is going to add up to a lot of costumes.
There’s a few things you can do to minimize the environmental impact: you can buy some great costumes second-hand, you can give your family’s old costumes to a second-hand store (*sings* it’s the ciiiircle of costumes~) or you can use old costumes for a dress-up bin for the kids (or your playgroup or daycare) to play with. You can even organize a costume-swap party with your friends before the big day.
(Or yes, you can just re-use previous years’ costumes and be a better eco mama than I am. I’m proud of you.)
4. Don’t throw out that pumpkin. According to The Independent, the UK wastes 18,000 tons of food while carving Halloween jack o’lanterns. Excuse me? Pumpkin is pretty much my favourite food on the planet. Also, did you know that 21 thousand people die in the developing world per day due to hunger? Please don’t buy a pumpkin with the intention of throwing it out; we’re lucky to have enough to eat in the first place.
Pumpkins are seriously cheap here in winter, so as a single mama on a budget, I eat a lot of pumpkin. (So much so that in winter, my friends know that when they visit my house, they will almost certainly be going home with a bag of pumpkin muffins.) Eating pumpkin dishes really is a lovely part of the autumn season, and there is so much that you can do with this humble but delicious squash: pumpkin pie, pumpkin curry, pumpkin soup, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin seeds, roasted pumpkins in a salad… In case you can’t tell, I could pretty much do an entire blog post about how much I love pumpkin.
If you’re just not into pumpkin, just make up a bunch of pumpkin muffins and bring them to your workplace, give them to a neighbour, or hand them to somebody who is homeless in your area: it will really brighten up their day!
5. Don’t let your kids trick-or-treat alone. It wasn’t unusual to do this even when I was growing up, but it’s just not safe. Make sure that there’s an adult you trust around the kids at all times; you could even get together with some mothers on your street and trick-or-treat together, and then go back to your place afterwards for an eco-friendly, fun, spooky and healthy(ish) Halloween party!
How are you and your family keeping things green while having a great time this October 31? And from Happy Eco Mama and her happy eco toddler, we hope that you have a Happy Eco Halloween!