Are you celebrating Halloween? There’s a lot to think about! Here is A Comprehensive Guide On How To Make Halloween Eco-Friendly.
I grew up in South Africa in the ’80s and ’90s; Halloween was something we saw on American TV shows and movies. We never celebrated Halloween at all (they do now), so I find the whole concept of Halloween to be quite strange. My husband on the other hand LOVES it, all of it, and calls me the Halloween Grinch. I’ve come to terms with this label!
I have to admit though that dressing up as my fav character and eating a ton of chocolate is not really that bad! Is it?
Well, let’s dive in a little deeper shall we?
Halloween by the numbers:
Halloween in Canada is not just about carving up a couple of pumpkins and raiding thrift stores and grandma’s closet for home-made costumes. According to The Retail Council of Canada, Canadians spend close to $1-billion on Halloween. Canadians have become so wild about Halloween we now spend more per capita on costumes, candy and décor than our U.S. counterparts do, with holiday-related spending that is second only to Christmas.
For this comprehensive guide, I am going to look at all aspects of Halloween.
1. CHOCOLATE/ CANDY
Halloween is second only to Christmas when it comes to the consumption of sugary treats, with $397 million spent on candy, confectionery and snack foods each year.
And all those mini-candies are wrapped in….you guessed it plastic! But it’s a little more complicated than just the plastic wrap.
The bigger issue is the consumption of chocolate from brands that don’t have the best track record when it comes to human rights and environmental stewardship.
The documentary film The Dark Side of Chocolate is a very revealing and disturbing look at child trafficking in the Ivory Coast and how that relates to the harvesting and purchasing of cocoa beans. As the film illustrates, the cocoa bean business is competitive and the desire for cheap chocolate in first world nations like Canada and the USA only increases the demand placed on these countries.
In the USA alone, people spend $2 billion on Halloween Candy. A few years ago a lawsuit was filed against Hershey, Mars and Nestle claiming that they were “duping consumers into unwittingly funding child slave labour trade in West Africa, home to two-thirds of the world’s cocoa beans”.
Another film Slavery: A Global Investigation depicts children as young as 11 years old, working 80 to 100 hours a week to harvest cocoa beans.
This is a much larger issue for sure and one that calls for open dialogue between the companies that make the chocolate and the local government who accept large kickbacks from the same companies.
There are things we can do. First off, buy ethical chocolate. It’s more expensive, but at least you have peace of mind that no child was hurt in the process. You can also check out THE GOOD GUIDE CHOCOLATE GUIDE, World Vision’s guide to ethical chocolate. Also look for third-party certifications like Fair Trade Canada, Fair For Life, Fair Trade USA and Rainforest Alliance Certified.
Here are a few brands that I like:
I’d also always opt for GMO-free chocolate and candy.
On average, Canadians spent $52 to dress up and most of those costumes are made from cheap (plastic) materials like polyester. And even worse, most of these costumes are worn once then tossed in the garbage. In Canada we have very low recycling rates, 85% of textiles are going to landfill and you can bet that number included disposable one-time-wear Halloween costumes. We can do better!
All of this begs the question, are Halloween costumes part of “fast fashion”, yes they are!
From my research, it was very hard to find any transparency on mass-produced costumes. It’s impossible to really know if the people that made these costumes are working in safe conditions and are being paid a fair wage. But given the cheap cost of the costumes, we can assume they are not being treated well.
In an interview with MTV News, Ilana Winterstein, director of outreach and communications at Labour Behind The Label, said:
“Unfortunately there is a real lack of transparency in the industry, which is one of the big issues we campaign on,” Winterstein told MTV News. “It is this lack of transparency which allows human rights abuses to continue unchecked and makes it very difficult to trace an item of clothing back to a particular factory or for consumers to know the working conditions of the garment workers making the clothes.”
And then there is the issue of cultural appropriation! Ah-hem! Justin Trudeau!
WAYS TO MAKE YOUR COSTUME MORE ECO!
DIY – shop your closet first, do you have an old wedding dress or prom dress? Maybe you or a family member (dad) has a retro bowling shirt you can use? Once you have an idea of what you have, head on over to Pinterest and do a search.
Vintage/ Thrift/ Consignment – popping into a local vintage shop is a great way to find something that you can repurpose into a cute costume.
Rent – I’ve rented mine twice. Great way to reduce waste.
Swap or Trade– Apps like BUNZ and Facebook Marketplace make it super easy to find used items that people want to get rid of. A quick search on BUNZ reveals so many cute outfits to choose from. If you already have a DIY costume in mind, you can find accessories like bunny ears, tutus and tiaras!
Buy Ethically – The best I could find is American Apparel. They actually have a Halloween Shop with some pretty cute stuff in it, and all ethically produced. Try to buy something you know you will wear again.
Goes without saying, use nontoxic makeup as much as possible.
In a study conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, it was found that the majority of conventional Halloween makeup on the market contains heavy metals such as lead, nickel, cobalt, and chromium.
Here are some great ones to get you started:
There are more than 2,500 farms in Canada with pumpkin patches, according to Statistics Canada. Collectively, they produce 80 thousand metric tonnes of pumpkins, with about two-thirds sold fresh to customers.
Most of those, however, are never eaten. Instead, we carve faces in them, light them up and throw them out. Scary!
Lower your emissions by purchasing locally grown organic pumpkins.
HOW TO DEAL WITH YOUR PUMPKIN AFTER HALLOWEEN
Compost it! Please don’t put it in the garbage. Remove all the seeds and place it in your green bin. If you don’t have a compost bin or pile, check your local government, nearby farms, or community gardens to see if they collect old pumpkins.
Feed Wildlife! This is the best way to reuse a pumpkin! Turn your jack-o-lantern into a snack-o-lantern for wildlife!
Use the seeds! You can roast them for yourself or feed them to the birds. If you are feeding them to wildlife, collect seeds from your pumpkins before composting them, and let the seeds dry. Please don’t add salt or seasoning. Place seeds on a flat surface, tray, shallow bowl, or mix in with existing bird seed in your garden.
5. DECORATIONS- DIY all the way
Decorating is one of the best parts of Halloween but also the most wasteful. As the second-biggest decorating holiday of the year, many of the decorations are made from non-recyclable plastics. Use natural products like pumpkins and gourds to create an autumnal look.
Or search Pinterest for a ton of great ideas!
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