Holidays should be happy times and there’s no reason why fun for the family can’t be fine for the planet, too. This Halloween, let’s take a look at the way we celebrate and see if we’re doing all we can to keep the holiday super fun for kids while making the most of the green living ethics so many American families are working to incorporate into daily life. We’ve got a list of nifty tips to help you green your Halloween and we’re betting your kids will have the best Halloween of their lives if you can put a little extra thought into this year’s festivities.
10 Green Halloween Ideas
1. Visit A Local Farm For Pumpkins
Many of our nation’s small farmers supplement the income they make from growing food crops by growing a fun crop like big pumpkins for the Halloween trade. Maybe your family only visits these wonderful farms once a year to pick up your jack-o-lanterns-to-be, but October is a super time to find out who the farmers are in your area. Most farms that are open to the public are staffed with family members and friends who will be eager to tell you all about what they grow and you just may find that you could get better, organic, more affordable fruits and vegetables from these skilled, hard-working neighbors than from chain supermarkets many months out of each year. Your family can have a gorgeous day in the sun visiting local pumpkin farms and getting in touch with the lands where healthy food growing is going on near you. It’s a great and important experience for the kids to see crops growing and may introduce the grown-ups to the best apples, potatoes, squash, greens, melons and tomatoes money can buy!
2. Decorate for Halloween Without Plastic
Just a couple of generations ago, no one had plastic Halloween decorations. Holidays are one of those little instances in which this non-planet-friendly material has crept into our lives as a norm or a must. Think outside the box and back to your grandparents’ day when homes were made cute, spooky or autumnal with home-grown or handmade decorations. If you have a home farm or garden, your squashes, pumpkins and dried corn stalks are the most authentic Halloween decor you can get your hands on. Old clothes and fabric scraps become scarecrows, ghosts and goblins. Let the children make their own paper cutouts of witches, cats and owls instead of buying plastic ones. Those gigantic plastic Halloween objects which are seen covering the lawns in some towns may have a sort of instant appeal, but when you think about the energy that goes into producing them for just one night’s use as well as the dangerous off-gassing that occurs with most new plastics, you may start to see something a little monstrous about them and not in a nice, Halloween-ish way. Doing without plastic gives your family a chance to express creativity while reducing pollution this Halloween.
3. Make Halloween Costumes out of Recycled Materials
If time seems short, it may be tempting to buy ready-made plastic masks and costumes for the kids, but if you can set aside just an evening or two to help children plan and craft their own Halloween costumes, you’ll have a lot more fun…and save money! If someone in the family sews, there may be fabric remnants to work with, in which case, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the creative costumes you can make, but very often, everyday clothing can be turned into great costumes with just a little effort. If Mom has a fancy velvet or velveteen robe, that’s the stuff little kings and queens are made of…wizards and other magical characters, too! A pillowcase painted with a heraldic symbol can be cut and belted, turning any boy into a legendary knight and a black dress becomes a little girl’s witch costume if you’ve got a small broom handy. Ghosts are as easy as your old sheets and pirates come to life out of a striped shirt, a red bandanna and rolled up trousers. Let the kids rummage through closets and cedar chests for colorful scarves, old hats and funny shoes and see what they can dream up. With a little help and guidance, the kids will have costumes they’ll be crazy about this Halloween.
4. Bring Something Sugar-Free To Hallowe’en Classroom Parties
With concerns about obesity, not to mention the growing distress over genetically modified sugar being allowed on the shelves of American supermarkets, many families are beginning to think twice about conventional sugar. Unfortunately, most candy and the majority of pre-packaged baked goods and sweets are made with conventional sugar. If you can find treats made with organic sugar, you’re making a safer bet for children’s health (and your own!) but if you’ve signed up to contribute a snack to a Halloween party, consider bringing something sugar-free. All-fruit fruit rollups are a super idea as are 100% juice drinks. Or what about bringing a big tin of hot, freshly-made organic popcorn into the classroom or shish kabobs on which pieces of unusual dried fruits have been colorfully skewered – mango, papaya, pineapples? Raisins and dried papaya make a cool black-and-orange Halloween snack or how about purple bell pepper and carrots sticks with a creamy, yummy dip? Then, even if all of the other parents are loading the classroom down with sugar, sugar, sugar, you’ll be doing a little something to balance that overdose with snacks that taste great, have visual appeal and are super fun to eat.
5. Make An Extra-Healthy Local Harvest Dinner On Halloween Night
Halloween falls at harvest time and there is no more bounteous time to eat locally than in this ripe season of the year. If you know your kids are going to be stocking up on junk food Halloween night, fill them up first with a good, healthy dinner. Try baked winter squash, carrot-raisin salad, iron-rich greens, sweet potatoes or whatever you find growing right now at the farms nearest you. In all cultures since the dawn of agriculture, autumn has been the time of eating well and giving thanks for the very best foods Earth produces. Halloween, itself, is an ancient holiday, once tied into the belief that bad spirits could be warded off with the right practices. In modern times, our families can ward off bad and wasteful eating habits by choosing to eat what’s fresh and in season, and Halloween is a perfect night to celebrate the harvest with a locally-grown supper.
6. Give Trick-or-Treaters Something Spicy Instead Of Sweet
If you live in a neighborhood that gets haunted by small witches, ghosts and goblins every October 31st, do them a favor by filling their sacks with something that’s both tasty and healthy this year. There’s nothing worse than a little pirate with cavities! In our society, we automatically equate Hallowe’en (and most other holidays) with sugary stuff. Try a new twist on the old tradition of trick-or-treating by giving out something spicy this year. Kids would be really excited to receive individual packages of spiced pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds, flavored, salted and roasted nuts. Steer clear of peanuts to make sure no child with allergies is left out. When the kids go home with a bag full of candy bars, that little pack of cinnamon coated almonds will stand out as special and different.
7. Host An Old-Fashioned Halloween Party At Home
Some families live in places where kids can’t go out trick-or-treating, either because of lack of rural lighting or safety concerns. Other families opt out of trick-or-treating because of dietary concerns. Whatever the case may be, hosting an old-fashioned Halloween party at home solves all problems. Prizes for games like Bobbing For Apples can lean more towards little toys and games than sweets if you’re trying to cut down on the sugar. Have a costume contest, a Halloween parade around the house or a square dance in the family room. Tell ghost stories, carve jack-o-lanterns or make Halloween crafts. With a little extra thought, a homemade Hallowe’en party can provide varied entertainment and enjoyment for folks of all ages.
8. Serve Homemade Halloween Treats
Apple cider, homemade doughnuts and popcorn are the time-honored snacks that have added a tasty element to Halloween parties for generations. You can make caramel popcorn or popcorn balls with maple syrup or molasses or try herbed popcorn popped in a bit of olive oil and sprinkled with a mixture of thyme, sage, dill, salt and pepper for a more sophisticated crowd. Let the children help make some of the snacks. Teaching kids how to cook is a green habit every family should get into. The goodies you make at home will taste oodles better and be better for you than anything you could buy at the store.
9. Make Halloween Night A Lights-Out Night
Halloween is the perfect night to shut off the electric lights and illuminate your home with candles. Plain tapers work just fine, but you can buy Halloween-themed candles, luminarias, and lanterns, too, in addition to your jack-o-lanterns. Life by candlelight is weird, wonderful and spooky for kids and romantic and memorable for adults. Be sure to practice good fire safety! You’ll be saving energy and creating a fun atmosphere with this simple Halloween tip.
10. Compost Your Jack-O-Lantern
When Halloween spooks have gone off to bed and the sun rises on November 1st, most families are left with a row of pumpkins that will quickly start to grow mold and draw flies if left unattended. Large jack-o-lantern-type pumpkins generally don’t make good pies…but they make fabulous compost. Invite neighbors to bring their old jack-o-lanterns to your compost pile where you will gladly recycle them into food for next season’s garden. Don’t have a compost pile? Put your pumpkins in the yard wastes bin if your local garbage service provides one. These green leftovers are often used to create municipal compost piles at county dumps where they can rot properly and enrich soil for community projects.
Do you have any other cool Green Halloween ideas? We’d love to hear them. Happy Halloween to all your family from the potters at Emerson Creek Pottery!
Flickr Photo Credit