Halloween is fast approaching, and while many of us love our little ghosts and goblins, princesses and famous persons coming to the door to yell trick or treat, it still leaves many of us in the environmental movement wincing at all that plastic trash that goes along with handing out goodies to kids.

Probably the most environmentally friendly thing we could do on the subject is to turn our lights out and hide for the evening, but if you don’t like being “THAT CURMUDGEON” on the block, then we have to get a little creative, and think outside our usual boxes.

It would seem to make sense to try for candy apples or organic popcorn balls, but unless you know your neighbors well, a lot of your visitors won’t let their kids have your hard work for fear of all the scary people that might be out there making treats. One possible solution is to arrange to trade visits with a group of environmentally aware friends that you trust, so that all of your goodies can be considered safe. But that still leaves the question of what to do with the strangers who show up at your door.

The good news is that by working to find more environmentally friendly options for strangers, we are also doing something kind for many kids with food allergies and celiac disease. For so many children these days, they struggle to participate in our Halloween rituals, because of these food limitation. The candy and treat industry just doesn’t reflect their needs. But there is a whole movement springing up around the idea of alternatives to candy. Check out this description of The Teal Pumpkin Project; https://foodallergydad.wordpress.com/2017/10/03/teal-pumpkin-project/

So we get to do a kindness to some young people, but we have the added challenge of upping the game to something more eco friendly than plastic toys. So what’s a self respecting wicked witch to do?

Well, here are a few ideas: 

They probably aren’t all perfect environmentally, but they are a long way from the  mountain of plastic wrappers that can’t be recycled we are used to.

1. Consider using some of that junk mail that everyone is sending you, and all the paperboard political ads to cut out some bats and spiders and other Halloween fun. Bend and curl some wings or legs as needed to stand out a bit from the wall. Get yourself some non-toxic tempura paints, and coat those babies in appropriate colored fun. And then seal it with some of this non toxic eco friendly sealer. http://www.ecosafetyproducts.com/EcoFlorZ-Floor-Finish-Sealer-p/ef-4001sm.htm. Drop a little note in the bag that now they have their own room decorations fitting for the season if they add a little ball of wax or some tape to attach them to the walls. And tell them that they’ve helped to recycle and save the planet by enjoying this gift instead of candy in plastic wrappers. And close it all up in a recyclable paper lunch bag with a note “Please recycle or compost me!” on the bottom. And you have a neat little gift bag to hand out.

2. Find yourself some nice rocks no bigger than your palm, and use the paints and sealer listed above to create some cute little monster pocket palls with big teeth and crazy expressions. Attach a little note to them that gives them a cute or funny name, and explains that this little monster friend helped to keep some plastic wrappers out of landfills, and you hope it brings them joy and a friend to talk to even when they are alone.

3. Consider handing out a kid friendly packet of seeds with instructions for how to grow the goodies inside. It’s even better if they will grow pumpkins for carving or other tie-ins for the season.

4. Or better yet, reuse some of those glass bottles that always go in the recycling bin to create little Halloween themed terrariums, with instructions for how to take care of their little plants, and a thank you for

helping to keep plastic wrappers out of landfills and recycle by accepting these little gifts.

5. Got some old t-shirts it’s time to get rid of, and a few markers? Used to be that a lot of rag dolls were made more from tying up scraps of fabric, than from real sewing. Make yourself some cute as well as spooky ghosts to hand out to kids on Halloween. Here is an image link to help you visualize. https://www.pinterest.com/pin/389279961514790024/

6. If you have some basic art skills and some old books you don’t want anymore, especially if they are falling apart anyway, and you can recycle them by tearing out pages from the books to use as a canvas to paint some neat little Halloween themed pictures. Or even your Sharpie collection can be put to use on this cute little project. Maybe add a little Halloween themed poem. And then on an extra bit of recycled paper, explain that this art is your gift to them that helps provide something neat for kids who can’t have candy, while it also keeps some wrappers from landing in landfills, and recycles paper that would otherwise go to waste. Roll it all up and tie a string around it, and hand them out.

7. Love to knit or crochet and have a fair amount of free time leading up to the holiday? Get yourself some organic cotton yarn and try your hand at some of these cuties to hand out for the holiday. http://crochet.craftgossip.com/halloween-cupcakes-anyone/2016/10/13/

8. Take some of those glass recycling bottles out of your recycling bin, make sure they are thoroughly cleaned out, soak the labels off of them, and create your own creepy potion labels. Almost any glue you have handy can be painted over and behind the new labels made out of recycled paper and a little creepy marker art and ideas like “Eye of Newt.”

9. Look up the instructions for how to create an origami coffin online, and then fill it with little Halloween fortune-cookie-like messages, or slightly spooky stories, or Halloween themed kid jokes on recycled paper. Decorate the outside with your paints or markers, and have fun.

10. Raid your junk pile, the stuff your kids have outgrown using, or the local thrift store for what might be made into a creepy fun gift with some black paint, red eyes, dirty browns, or being dipped in a single color. The really cheap bags of nearly garbage are often full of interesting tidbits that cost nothing, and can be turned into creepy fun. I promise those weird broken toy parts take on new life as creepy wreathes or when strung on necklace cords, and similar ideas once you’ve created your own paint job. And you kept all that out of a landfill for a little while longer. If you apply some of it to making a creepy cover of a great classic book, who knows? You might even inspire a child to read a classic, just because it came with such a spell binding cover. Google “DIY creepy book” and you will see what I mean.

All of these options can be fun projects to work on with your kids, and then you can talk about why you care enough to do something other than buying candy this Halloween. They will remember these lessons better when they got to help create and have fun. And they range across various different abilities.

Have you got other ideas for planet friendly Halloween goodies? Drop us a message. We’d love to hear from you.

-Amalthea Aelwyn, 350 Denver