Before Green Dad suits up in costume (see right), let me share a true story from my own haunted household: There I stood just days ago, rummaging through the pantry for a snack, when I found a plastic pumpkin tucked on a shelf ... brimming with Halloween candy my kids collected in 2010.
For a frugal half-second, I thought about giving out the stale goods this year — some rotten trick that would be! But I found that American consumers will spend $72.31 per household on Halloween products in 2011, up $6 from last year, according to MSNBC.com. And with that spending comes the potential for more than just copious cavities: We're talking enough waste to scare the goblins out of every landfill from Sleepy Hollow to Death Valley.
We can do better and still have fun trick-or-treating. Here are Green Dad's eight tips for a Halloween that's "eco-fiendly," if you will.
Buy Recycled Party Goods
I haven't gotten this excited about recycling leaves since the days when Green Kid obsessed about leaf piles the size of small mountains. Veterra's Eco Party Perfect Disposable 6" Bowls ($9.99 plus free shipping via Prime, a low by $8) are made from fallen leaves, and 80% of the water used to spray the leaves is recaptured and reused. These are single-use bowls, but I'll bet with some careful cleaning they can be re-used, thus making your Halloween party sustainable and seasonal at the same time.
Find a Halloween Candy Buyback Program
Most kids never finish all the candy they collect — not that you'd want your kids inhaling all that sugar anyway. A growing number of dentists are participating in Halloween candy buybacks, where you can swap that candy for service discounts and oral care products. You can click here to research participating dentists nationwide, and learn how the collected candy goes to support Operation Gratitude and the military support groups.
Organic Treats Part I: Save Those Pumpkin Seeds!
A few Halloweens back, my wife Amy showed me how to make the most of a pumpkin by cleaning and saving the seeds. We did it again this year, then placed the seeds on a cookie sheet and baked them (350 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes). You can find variations on the seed theme at TLC's How Stuff Works. What a fabulous snack these are! I like them with cinnamon and Stevia (a sugar substitute), while my kids enjoy them with just a dash of salt.
Organic Treats Part II: Candy Alternatives to Share
Candy's dandy but organic's fantastic, and with each year it gets easier to find organic goodies to pass out to trick-or-treaters. The YummyEarth brand makes organic treats such as gummy bears, sour worms, and this YummyEarth Organic Lollipops 125-Count Container ($13.73 with free shipping via Subscribe & Save, a low by $7) without chemical colors, artificial flavors or corn syrup. Trader Joe's also carries its own line of organic lollipops.
Break Out the Soy Candles
You might think — and I sure did — that using candles during Halloween is spookier and an eco-smart alternative to burning through lots of electric lights. This is true, up to a point. Most candles are made of paraffin refined from petroleum, and leave (and spread) black soot as they burn. Soy candles come from soybeans, and not only burn cleaner, but also fill the air with a lasting scent. These Aroma Soy Vegepure Candles (two for $9.99 with free shipping) are an inexpensive option, while this line of Bridgewater Autumn Avenue Fragrance Candles includes votives that smell of the season ($1.79 each with $5.95 s&h).
Decorations: Enforce the "Reuse or Recycle" Rule
When you think about it, there's no excuse for tossing any Halloween decorations in the trash. If you're using the natural kind (pumpkins, corn stalks, etc.), recycle them just as you would yard waste or compost. As for paper and plastic decorations, take them down carefully and store them for next year in specially-marked tubs. Green Dad recommends the Rubbermaid 30-Quart Storage Tote ($8.99 in-store, a low by $1) in eco-appealing green.
Pre-Halloween Prep: Create Your Costume
Party shops make lots of money selling pre-fab costumes to trick-or-treaters, and unfortunately these outfits are the kind of overpriced, flimsy throwaways that rarely make it back for a second use. Say no to waste and yes to reuse by visiting local thrift stores and resale shops to put together your own ensemble. Bring the kids along and head to your nearest Salvation Army.
Post-Halloween: Donate Your Costume
If, after Halloween, you decide not to hold on to your costume, consider giving back to the community and donate your duds to a local theater troupe or school theater department. Once the candy collecting's done, call around to local schools or acting companies to see if they would be interested in any gently used props or outfits. Chances are good they'll take your Halloween costumes off your hands faster than you can say "BOO!"