Welcome to the 4th edition of the Everyday Eco series, tracking down ways to reduce our impact on the environment without breaking the bank.
This week: reducing waste this All Hallow's Eve
I definitely don't want to sound like whatever the Hallowe'en version of a Scrooge or Grinch would be, and whatever you may think about the gradual Americanisation of Samhain or All Hallow's Eve I do love autumn-related activities, sweet things, and dressing up, so it really is one of my favourite times! That said, any celebration brings with it a touch of excess, and with a few small tweaks I do think it could be a much more planet-friendly time, and our pagan ancestors would thank us for it.
Scroll on to learn more.
About our stuff (a shameless plug)
While none of our clothing has a specific Hallowe'en vibe, the season's autumnal colours certainly influenced the collection's palette, culminating in this glorious, pumpkin-worthy 100% organic cotton beanie we added to the collection a couple of weeks ago. Grab yours here!
Ready for some downright scary facts?
83% of Hallowe'en costumes are made from non-recyclable, oil-based plastics
Around 7 million costumes are thrown out in the UK each year
8 million pumpkins are thrown away in the UK each year
95% of all pumpkins are bought only for Hallowe'en
Only 33% of people actually eat the flesh of the pumpkin before disposing of the rest
So there's the costumes and the pumpkins to think about, plus all of the sweet wrappers, trick-or-treating bags, decorations... It's a kind of consuming mania that begins in October and sweeps us right through to Christmas, but the good news is that there are plenty of easy wins.
Some quick wins
There are loads of opportunities to save waste - and potentially money too - when it comes to your Hallowe'en festivities.
While you (or the kids) don't want to be going out in the same costume every year, there are plenty of ways of avoiding having to buy brand new, extremely flammable costumes from the shop (that often are a bit tacky anyway).
Re-use: hand-me-downs, costume swaps and second hand purchases are all good ways of keeping good costumes in circulation and save them from landfill.
Create: some of the most fun comes from the creativity involved in coming up with your own costume. Whether it's sewing it together from scraps, going for some seriously ghoulish make-up, raiding your wardrobe to repurpose some of your more 'interesting' pieces (there are some great ideas here) or crafting a full Transformers costume from cardboard boxes and toilet roll tubes, there's something really satisfying about making it yourself. Double bonus - you know it'll be unique, and pretty much free!
Disposal: for your old costumes, you can always re-wear or re-vamp, gift to someone else, or give to charity - just please don't bin them!
We just scratched the surface of the food waste challenge in the last issue, and there's a huge opportunity at Hallowe'en to save around 18,000 tonnes of pumpkins going unused. That's the equivalent of 360 million portions of pumpkin pie each year in the UK alone! So let's start there...
Eat: don't forget that pumpkin is food! As a type of squash it's got loads of uses, from soups, stews, cakes, curries and gnocchi to salads, risottos, purées, traybakes and tarts. And of course, the classic: pumpkin pie. The other benefit is that the more flesh you cut out from your lantern the better it will glow, and the faster it'll dry out, so the longer it should last!
Sprinkle: the seeds are amazing too - coated in spices, roasted and sprinkled over your pumpkin soup, or sweetened and baked into healthy muffins, flapjacks or granola.
Dispose: once Hallowe'en's over, don't let your lantern go to landfill and release harmful methane as it rots - it's taken so much energy to grow, you may as well convert it into something useful! Compost it yourself, put it into your food waste bin, or see if someone nearby could use it - a local safari park, animal shelter, or someone with pigs could all be grateful for it.
Swap: have you considered alternatives to an actual pumpkin? I don't want to advocate plastic ones even if they are at least reusable, but you could try carving the traditional turnip if you don't like the flavour of squash, join the ARTventurers Big Neighbourhood Pumpkin Trail by displaying your best Hallowe'en drawings in your window and touring your neighbours', or make one out of some old cardboard and tissue paper like I did (but you could probably do way better!). There are a couple of tutorials here and here.
Sweets and Treats:
At some point when I was quite young, supermarkets really cottoned on to the opportunity for mass sales of individually wrapped sweets and chocolates for Hallowe'en, and it seems to have grown since then into full aisles of the stuff. It's the easiest way to make sure you've got enough to hand out to all your trick-or-treaters, but it sure does create a lot of waste! The good news is that there are some alternatives:
Make or bake: while not everyone may have the time, making cakes, cookies, traybakes or homemade sweets does give you the opportunity to wrap them yourself with eco-friendly packaging, plus you know you're not giving away high doses of E numbers to your neighbours' kids - and they'll thank you for it! Other options I've made in the past are toffee apples (messy, but with a healthy centre!), bags of sweet popcorn (super easy, fast and cheap) and little pumpkin-shaped cake pops (super cute and delicious - there weren't many left for trick-or-treaters when I was done with them!).
Buy big: if you don't have time to make your own, if you buy your sweets in bulk it'll reduce the overall packaging waste, and you can then separate them out into individual paper or recyclable bags or jars.
Choose carefully: if you really don't have time to be baking or separating out sweets, you could double check that the ones you do buy are in recyclable wrappers - often chocolates come in an aluminium foil inner and paper outer, both of which can be recycled.
Trick-or-treating: rather than buying plastic buckets you'll use once a year (if you can remember where you stored them), we all have so many different containers around the house there must be something you already have that would work well with your costume - think baskets, tote bags, buckets, paper bags, pillowcases, handbags, backpacks, bum bags...all could be decorated to match the Hallowe'en theme.
FLC at home
Over the years we've somehow acquired a rubber bat, a creepy hanging mask that I love to hide around the house for Mr H to find in the dark, and some very old netting that looks like nasty cobwebs. That's the current extent of our Hallowe'en decorations, which are doubling as decorations to festoon our October markets and our home this year, along with the usual piles of pinecones, conkers and crisp autumn leaves, not to mention this year's new addition of the cardboard pumpkin, however long he lasts!
That said, there are loads of great arts and crafts ideas that I'd love to try, often with stuff you've already got around the house. Have a look here for some inspiration.
What about you?
So, which of the above tips do you already use? Do you have any others that you'd like to share? Comment below, or send us a mail at firstname.lastname@example.org and you could feature in our next issue!
Thanks for reading :)
Founder, Falling Leaf Clothing