9 Helpful Tips for a Zero-Waste Halloween

All those Halloween tricks and treats really add up. For 2018, Halloween spending is predicted to reach $9 billion in the United States — with an average price tag of $86.79 per person, according to the National Retail Federation. And the part most likely to make you say “Boo!” is much of what people buy for Halloween ends up in the trash. To give your wallet and the environment less of a scare, here are nine helpful tips for a zero-waste Halloween.

1. Choose candy in recyclable packaging

Halloween candy can lead to a frightening amount of waste. Those bite-size candy bars come with a lot of packaging, but trick-or-treaters usually only can accept items that come in sealed wrappers for safety reasons. Fortunately, there’s a lot of Halloween candy that comes in recyclable packaging — namely items in cardboard boxes or aluminum foil. Yes, there are no guarantees they will be recycled, but it’s better at least to give your trick-or-treaters the option.

2. Find alternate treats

If you want to move away from the candy route entirely, there are many alternatives you can hand out to trick-or-treaters. “Waste-less ideas include pencils made from recycled money, small coins or recyclable items that will find a useful place in a kid’s life — as opposed to a home at the bottom of the garbage bin,” The Wilderness Society suggests. If you’re a crafty (and ambitious) person, you can make an assortment of small artwork or crafts for kids to pick from. Not every trick-or-treater will be thrilled about the lack of candy, but many will appreciate the change from all the sugar already in their treat bags.

3. Pick a reusable bag for your candy tote

a fabric Halloween pumpkin tote

Those plastic pumpkins are everywhere on Halloween. But do kids (or you trick-or-treating adults) really need more wasteful plastic in your life? If you already have the plastic pumpkins from Halloweens past, by all means keep reusing them — or turn them into holiday decor. But instead of giving in when your kids beg for a new pumpkin to use as their candy vessel, offer to buy or make them a reusable tote bag instead. It might just set your kids on a path to becoming eco-warriors themselves.

4. Donate candy

It’s likely you’ll find something in your Halloween candy haul that you don’t like or can’t eat. Or maybe you or your kids came home with way too much candy for you ever to consume. Gather the candy you won’t (or reluctantly shouldn’t) eat to donate instead of throwing it out. Depending on where you are, there are many charities that gather candy for needy families or soldiers. Just a little effort on your part could immensely brighten someone’s day.

5. Skip store-bought costumes

What’s Halloween without a scary good costume? But typical store-bought costumes are alarming for another reason. “Store-bought costumes are often made up of nonrecyclable petro-chemical based plastic and synthetic fibers,” according to The Wilderness Society. “Those Halloween costumes can include one of the scariest plastics — polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a soft plastic and known carcinogen that releases harmful toxins in its creation and breakdown.” So instead of buying a new costume, consider making one with items you already have or borrow from a friend. Or check thrift stores and costume rental companies if you don’t already have something that works. And remember you can donate old costumes or recycle them through textile-recycling programs.

6. Plan a Halloween party instead of trick-or-treating

It’s pretty inevitable that if you go out trick-or-treating, you’ll return with some wasteful — albeit delicious — items. That doesn’t mean you have to totally deprive your little (or adult) goblins and ghouls of the trick-or-treating fun. Instead, strike up a compromise if you must. Limit your trick-or-treating to only a couple blocks (aiming to pick the candy with recyclable packaging), and then host a Halloween party back home. You can control the waste produced at your own party and still have a spooktacular holiday.

7. DIY your decorations

If you buy decorations, make sure they’re durable enough to use for years to come. But there are many decorations you can easily make yourself with items you likely already have. “Don’t discount the old standbys: White sheets still work well as ghosts, scarecrows are best when decked out in old grubby clothes, and candles … still cast a perfectly eerie glow,” Recyclebank says. For instance, make a ghost by stuffing the middle of an old sheet with leaves or newspaper and tying that part off to form the head. Plus, look through your recyclables for ideas. There’s likely a Halloween craft just waiting for your imaginative spin.

8. Decorate with fall’s harvest

Autumn arrangement of pumpkins, gourds, squash and corn with bales of hay

Nature makes some pretty amazing decor, too. And if you adorn your home with fall’s harvest, the decorations will last you all season — rather than just Halloween. “Decorate with things that can be composted, such as pumpkins, gourds, corn stalks, hay, leaves, and sticks,” Recyclebank suggests. If you can, purchase some of those items directly from the grower, and plan to eat and compost them, too. You’ll definitely get your money’s worth with natural decorations.

9. Cook your decor

Finally, what’s Halloween without cooking up some delicious pumpkin guts? If you’re buying pumpkins for carving or decor, don’t waste any part of them. “The flesh of a pumpkin makes wonderful pies, muffins, smoothies, soups, lasagnas, chilis, pastas, and even puddings,” Recyclebank says. “Pumpkin seeds are great snacks you can prepare in the oven, on the stovetop, or even on a grill.” And remember you can compost pumpkins as long as they haven’t been painted. Or simply smash your pumpkin, and bury the pieces in your garden to enrich the soil. No word on whether its pumpkin ghost will come back to haunt you though.

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Main image credit: splendens/Thinkstock


Frances G
Carla G6 months ago

thank you for sharing

Hannah K
Past Member 6 months ago


Shae Lee
Shae Lee6 months ago

Thank you for sharing♥

Daniel N
Past Member 6 months ago

thanks very much

Diane E
Diane E6 months ago

Good ideas! Old style British Halloween used to be fun with country-style entertainments. Usually quite environmentally friendly.

Leo C
Leo C6 months ago

Thank you for sharing!

Martin H
Martin H6 months ago

fine ideas.

Greta L
Past Member 6 months ago

Thank you

Janis K
Janis K6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

Val P
Val P6 months ago

great article