Zero Waste Halloween: A Non-Scary Guide to Less Waste This Holiday

Plan the perfect zero waste Halloween with these tips and tricks. It's easier than you think - just need to plan a little bit ahead of time. Wait too long and you'll be running to the store on October 30 and purchasing very wasteful kid-sized chocolates in plastic wrappers. And we don't want that! #halloween #zerowaste #ecofriendly

With Halloween quickly approaching, kids around the block are building up anticipation for the day when neighbors and strangers, alike, give them candy for free!

array of pumpkins with text overlay: A Simple Guide to a Zero Waste Halloween

Individually-packaged candy, fake plastic cobwebs draped around the house, and new costume ideas. It all seems the very opposite of a zero-waste lifestyle. This is an eco-friendly lifestyle that aims to buy things in bulk, avoid plastics (especially those that can end up as microplastics), and not buy unnecessary things.

However, it would be cruel to deny kids the opportunity to participate in this Halloween tradition if they’re interested, so instead of being the no-fun police, you can take these simple tips to have a more zero waste Halloween.

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The Origins of Halloween

Growing up, all Halloween meant to me was about having to dress up so I could go around the neighborhood to get free candy. But Halloween is way more than this consumerism holiday, and I totally wished I hadn’t missed the point!

Did you know that Halloween has traditionally been all about remembering the dead? The costumes are meant to ward off evil spirits and the ‘trick or treat’ represents asking for food in exchange for songs/prayers on behalf of the dead. You can read more about the real meaning of Halloween here.

The more that your kids understand this holiday is not just a giant costume and candy party, the more they’ll be able to distinguish between excess waste and learn to celebrate the idea behind the day.

Zero Waste Treats for Halloween

When trick or treaters come by your home, they’ll be expecting something! By planning ahead and purchasing some goodies, you can stay in a semi-zero-waste spirit. Here are some ideas:

Candy

Choose ones that are paper-packaging like Pixie Sticks, Nerds, Junior Mints, Milk Duds (my favorite!) for easy recyclability.

Or consider these Fair Trade, organic truffles in plant-based compostable wrappers!

Alternatively, you can choose ones that have foil-packaged like these Dove Promises or the classic Hershey’s Kisses. However, only the most eco-friendly of families will actively collect foil-wrappers together to be able to recycle these properly (just being realistic!).

Fruit

Fruit is an excellent idea for Halloween treats. Now, I don’t expect many kids under 10 to choose fruit over candy, but the more grown-up you get, I think the more you appreciate fruit over sugar. Not just for the health benefits either!

Some good ideas include clementines, tangerines, apples, or Sun-Maid raisins. You could visit a Costco to buy them in bulk! Just find something that can’t be easily squished.

Other Ideas

Remember that you don’t have only to give out snacks! You can think of something useful that kids might want like these super cool Halloween-themed pencils, pumpkin erasers, or try these cute DIY bat bookmarks (while you’re there, follow me on Pinterest @pawsandpines)!


Other hits with kids include coins (a small candy costs around a quarter – perhaps a better ‘treat’ would be the quarter!), seed packets, stick-on tattoos, or mini pumpkins.

My favorite non-food Halloween treat are these seed balls that I found on Etsy. I would’ve totally chosen these over candy even as a kid! If you have extras after Halloween, you can give them away as cute gifts, or you can plant them in your yard.

Zero Waste Decorations for Halloween

In my opinion, you don’t need decorations for your house. Kids are going to ring your doorbell if they pass by, regardless of if fake spiderwebs cover your bushes.

Just put out a carved pumpkin is enough in my opinion. Keepin’ it classy! Remember to compost it afterward!

I go even simpler and just put one of those fun-sized pumpkins on my steps. Super cute.

Zero Waste Costumes for Halloween

Rent Your Costumes

There are many websites out there that allow you to rent a costume. After all, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t like to repeat a costume year after year, this is super useful and less wasteful. This site is the best for renting out Halloween costumes. You can search online to see if there are local services near you, but many of the other national services rent items like mascots and holiday suits.

Buy Second-Hand

A great zero-waste costume idea is to re-use someone’s costume from a prior year. If you have a large network of friends and family nearby, you can probably find someone with which to swap. Otherwise, you can find used costumes at a great price by looking at your usual second-hand shops. Lastly, you can also check out websites like E-Bay (filter for ‘pre-owned‘), Amazon (just check its warehouse), or Swap.com. When you buy second-hand, you can also sell it back the next season, so it acts more like a rental.

Minimalist Costume Ideas

If you’re going to dress up to be “in the spirit” of Halloween, but you don’t want to go overboard with the entire face makeup and costume situation, here are some perfect minimalist costume ideas for you! Ideal for all ages!

My Favorite Zero-Waste Costume

Unintentionally, I had a pretty amazing zero-waste costume that I used (pretty much) every single year from middle school onwards. I was a serial (cereal) killer. By that age, I was less into dressing up as another princess, fairy, or witch and more into getting candy as fast as possible and going home to enjoy it!

A serial (cereal) killer costume allows you to wear whatever clothes you already have. All you add is a toy knife and an empty cereal box. The cereal box also serves to collect candy (I was ever the practical one). The costume gets you a nice chuckle once adults understand the pun, and you don’t need to paint your face or spend money on one-use costumes!

A Zero Waste Halloween

You don’t immediately think ‘zero-waste holiday’ when you think about Halloween, but if you plan ahead and consider these tips, you can have a relatively low-waste Halloween pretty easily.

  1. Keep the house decorations minimal.
  2. Be deliberate about what “treats” you hand out to kids. There are some fantastic and useful things you can hand out besides candy!
  3. Dress your kids in costumes that can be used again by others, or serve double-duty (like the animal onesies!).

Enjoy your Halloween. I’ll be at home in my giraffe onesie handing out seed balls, pencils, and erasers!

array of pumpkins with text overlay: A Simple Guide to a Zero Waste Halloween

10 Replies to “Zero Waste Halloween: A Non-Scary Guide to Less Waste This Holiday”

  1. I love these ideas! This year we went to the thrift store in Switzerland for costumes, but since they don’t celebrate much we didn’t find anything. So my fiancé ended up dressing up as a repurposed box we had in our house. It was pretty hilarious! My friend Cristina also wrote a post on this topic and there are a few cute food decorations she made zero waste that I loved!

  2. Great ideas! I see peoples seasonal decorations and am always impressed, but can never bring myself to buy things that I don’t need or will end up throwing out. Today I saw some Halloween decorations in a store and already a ton of Christmas ones… it’s only September! Going to try some of the tips… although I’m not sure about the fruit, my kids might not speak to me if I gave out fruit…. which isn’t always a bad thing.

  3. Great ideas! We lived in the UK when I was 3/4 and Halloween wasn’t as big of a thing there at that time. It was totally normal to give our pencils, apples, or even pennies. My costume as a robot my dad built from a couple boxes we picked up for free at the grocery store and aluminum foil! About 10 years later my sister and I dressed up as birthday presents by wrapping larger boxes in paper and wearing a bow. It’s so true that Halloween doesn’t have to equal lots of waste!

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