Nothing can give a climate activist quite a “scare” as a Google search on “Halloween Decorations”. Believe it or not, the U.S. ranks first as the most wasteful country in the world, with 236 million tons of waste per year. We accumulate 25 million tons of waste between Thanksgiving and New Year’s alone, but Halloween may be one of the worst offenders. Single-use candy wrappers, single-use costumes, and party decorations all end up in the garbage. In 2017, Americans spent $3.4 billion on Halloween costumes, and 85% of them ended up in landfills.
While it’s easy to get drawn into the inflatables and costumes for sale this time of year, we do have an opportunity to be a little more conscientious this Halloween season. I’m excited by my new role at ASID, as Chief Sustainability Officer, and so feel a certain obligation to be especially careful. Let me point out one thing, however, none of us is perfect. As we move towards more sustainable practices, the best we can do is to try our best.
None of us will be perfect in this conversation, so please try to be your best, but leave perfect out of it for now.
Back to Halloween. Here are some basic rules to keep close to heart when it comes to holiday decorations:
Think re-use and re-purpose. The website Greenmatters has a bunch of great ideas, such as using tin cans to make Jack-O-Lanterns and re-purposing cardboard into creepy tombstones for your front yard. Because so many of our decorations are outside, it’s easy to keep it low waste.
Try to stay away from any single-use plastic, as that’s our biggest problem with waste. Single-use plastic can be found everywhere, and it is hugely damaging to our environment. Single-use plastic is used to wrap candy and as packing material to ship your costumes and decorations. It’s the plastic you’ll use once and throw away. While it might be convenient, this kind of plastic is a significant contributor to the over 25 million tons of waste each holiday season.
Jack-O-Lanterns. Those beloved carved orange squashes should not go to a landfill. Eat them or compost them, but don’t throw them in the garbage! There’s a great website with some ideas on what to do with your pumpkin after the season. Got chickens? Your pumpkin can make a great snack.
Donate when you’re done. Organizations like ‘Ween Dream, The Halloween Helpers, Theatre Development Fund, and American Textile Recycling Service accepted used Halloween costumes as donations.
Finally, if you’re going to TP your neighbor’s front yard, please use recycled content toilet paper. I feel like that needed to be said!
These are just a few things to keep in mind that will help you have a more enjoyable Halloween season and remember, if you can do just a few things to make an impact, you’re making a difference.
Jon Strassner LEED AP,
Chief Sustainability Officer
American Society of Interior Designers