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Earth-Friendly Fright Night

October 14, 2010

By Jennifer Chaky

When I was young, I spent the weeks coming up to Halloween re-exploring the box of holiday decorations from the attic and gathering material to make my costume. Rummaging through thrift scrap fabric piles, my dad’s closet, my mom’s make-up drawer, the cardboard recycling pile, and the kitchen cabinets was the stuff great Halloween memories were made of–not running out to the Big Box store to pick out some toxic plastic and franken-fabric store-bought costume at the last minute.

I feel like many kids today in our pre-packaged, mass-produced society are robbed of their chance to express themselves or to see what they can create on their own when it comes to Halloween festivities. The sad fact is that many parents are too busy to help kids with such projects, often with both parents working full-time jobs, but maybe if we try hard, we can bring back some of the homemade magic of the Halloweens of yesteryear. Making homemade costumes, decorations, and treats is great family fun, is better on the environment, and can bring us back to a place of simplicity and joy that togetherness and creativity bring. So this year:

* Reuse, recycle and re-imagine costumes. Make your own using old clothes and items from thrift stores and yard sales. Research online to find ideas for easy homemade costumes. Here’s some inspiration.

* Banish disposables. Outfit trick-or-treaters with reusable bags or containers that do not have to be thrown away when Halloween is over. Use cloth shopping bags, pillowcases, or last year’s trick-or-treat bag. Use flashlights with rechargeable batteries or LED lights instead of disposable batteries.

* Get the most out of that pumpkin. After the holiday, cook the pumpkins and use for pies, soups, and other recipes. Roast the seeds to eat, or leave them out (wet or dry) for the birds. Discarded plant material can be composted or buried in the ground to provide nutrients for your garden.

* Fall’s harvest makes for wonderful natural decorations. Use mums, gourds, pumpkins, leaves, bales of hay, and other biodegradeable goodies instead of plastic and vinyl options. Make skeletons, spiders, and other designs out of cardboard or construction paper. When the holiday has passed, save the decorations for next year or recycle the paper. Instead of making ghosts out of white plastic bags, use old white sheets- maybe from the thrift store. Wash and save them to use again next year. To get that spooky glow, use soy candles instead of paraffin, or LED string lights instead of traditional bulbs.

* Be fair. It may not be possible to eliminate sweets at Halloween, but companies like Hersheys, M&M/Mars, and Cadbury have horrible track records when it comes to child labor in West Africa. It is sad injustice that the candy young children enjoy in this country often comes from the slave labor of a child that never even got to enjoy such a treat. Consider buying true treats from smaller companies that use organic ingredients (better for the environment), no artificial sweeteners (better for health), and fair trade labor (better for everybody). Try all-natural lollipops like Yummy Earth, nutrition bars (Cliff Bars makes a Halloween flavor), and Fair-Trade Organic Chocolates like Divine or Alter Ecos. Or maybe even handout recyclable paper cups filled with cider to thirsty trick-or-treaters.

* If entertaining, use as many reusable cups, bowls, utensils, and plates as possible. Let’s bring Halloween back to all it’s homespun, earth-friendly splendor!

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