Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Celebrating an Eco-Halloween
by Clare Brauer-Rieke
I've heard of eco-friendly Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I confess, Eco-Halloween is a new one for me. It makes sense, if you think about it -- how often are our little trick-or-treaters walking around (or being driven around) in little plastic costumes and masks, carrying around plastic candy bags full of individually-wrapped candies?
There are many suggestions online for making your Halloween more earth-friendly:
1) Reuse or rent costumes, or craft creative costumes from old clothes, sheets, or recycling (For example, I'm definitely going to be the Paper Bag Princess; for those who don't know the reference, The Paper Bag Princess is a great children's book about a feisty princess who discovers an unconventional "happily ever after.")
2) Use your (obviously organic) pumpkin wisely! Roast the seeds, use the pulp to make pie, compost your Jack-O-Lantern when you're done.
3) Walk, rather than drive, when you trick or treat (or when you take your kids trick or treating).
4) Consider this a grocery shopping trip -- you would use cloth bags then, right? Encourage kids to use cloth or canvas candy bags when they make the rounds.
5) Decorations are also often bad news on the environmental scene. Skip the plastic and styrofoam this year; GreenMuze.com suggests decorating with things from your garden like fallen tree boughs, pinecones, cornhusks, apples and a pumpkin. "A scary ghost can be made from a simple white sheet with a face drawn using a non-permanent pen," they continue. "The sheet can be washed at the end of the evening. Scary music and soy (not petroleum based) candles help create spooky, but environmentally friendly Halloween ambiance."
6) The worst offender in my opinion -- individually wrapped candies. Not only are they not healthy for children (not a news flash), they generate a lot of trash once the candy is gone. This is a tricky one to which to seek alternatives. The unfortunate truth is that, for safety reasons, kids are encouraged-- fairly, probably-- not to accept unwrapped or homemade treats, unless the family knows the giver personally. There is the option of handing out non-edible treats, like Halloween-themed pencils, but the risk is run of handing out trinkets that will be thrown away anyway. Be creative in seeking solutions here!
What none of these eco-friendly Halloween sites mention, that I have seen, is that the very way we approach Halloween may need a fundamental shift.
Halloween can be a fun and festive celebration, but is usually culturally disconnected from its origins and subsequent history. With its beginnings attributed to the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, a day on which it was believed the boundary between the worlds of the dead and the living were blurred, Halloween has further stemmed from the Christian tradition of All Saints Day, a day designated by the pope as one to remember past saints and martyrs. Perhaps it would be worthwhile for ourselves and for the earth to remember Halloween's more sacred and reverent roots. Maybe if we start by considering the question "In our fun and festive celebrating tonight, how can we best honor the memory of those who have gone before us?" the rest will fall into place.