The Greatest Sustainable Halloween Ideas

zero waste halloween

It’s that time of year again! Temperatures are finally cooling down in Georgia. I am just itching to hop in the kitchen and start baking all of my favorite fall treats. While stopping by the grocery store to pick up some baking supplies, I was reminded how much waste and plastic is involved with the upcoming holiday season, including Halloween. When walking in the grocery store door, I was bombarded with bags of Halloween candy and cheaply made kids’ costumes. Let’s talk about some things we can do this Halloween to avoid the amount of waste that is typically involved with spooky season. Who says we can’t celebrate without all the plastic, am I right?! Here are some of the best sustainable Halloween ideas:

Low Waste Halloween Decorations

In my opinion, sustainable Halloween decorations are the easiest place to start. Think pumpkins, hay bales, and pine cones. There are some really interesting and beautiful pumpkin options out there other than just the typical round jack-o-lantern style pumpkin. Just this week, I saw some gorgeous green, squat pumpkins and even some white ones. A bonus to using pumpkins for decoration, you can eat them! Head over to the Zero Waste Chef’s blog, she can tell you How to Cook a Whole Pumpkin in a Pressure Cooker. You can enjoy your own decorations, then turn them in to fresh pumpkin pie or even pumpkin soup! This is a much more sustainable option than purchasing mass-produced decorations from big box stores.

Gourds are also a great, unique fall decoration if you want to have some variety other than pumpkins. I did a little Googling and it actually seems pretty simple to grow your own gourds at home. How about that for zero waste Halloween decor, home grown gourds?!

Also, using decorations found in nature (seriously get inspired in your backyard!) are great, because they are not only pretty but, a lot of the time, free. I love to hunt for the biggest pine cones I can find in our yard to decorate the dining room table at our house. Head over to Pinterest for fun ideas on how to arrange/design your DIY halloween decor.

If you decide to do some pumpkin carving with the fam, don’t forget you can keep this tradition waste free as well. Start by purchasing a pumpkin or two from a local pumpkin patch. You can roast the pumpkin seeds, and throw the pumpkin guts into your compost bin. Also, when your pumpkin has been sitting out for days and starts to not look so cute anymore, you can either compost your old pumpkins or ask around to local farms or animal sanctuaries to see if any animal caregivers would accept your pumpkin to feed to their animals.

roasted pumpkin seeds

Lastly, If you do have some plastic and not so eco friendly Halloween decorations, SAVE THEM! Keep them and reuse them year after year. There’s no need to purchase new fall decorations very year. If you want to change things up, ask friends to see if they have any Halloween decorations they would like to swap or trade with you.

One Halloween decoration you should absolutely avoid (even if you find it secondhand) is fake spider webs. These are notorious for entangling birds and other wildlife.

Plastic Free Trick or Treat Ideas 

You don’t HAVE to give trick or treaters candy, I promise! First of all, they are probably receiving a whole lot of candy from other door steps. Don’t feel strange giving out a non-candy treat. Secondly, I’m absolutely certain parents will be thankful you went the sugarless route. Also, there are plenty of kids with food allergies, another reason to avoid the candy.

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As far as treat ideas, my favorite thing to hand out to trick or treaters is Throw and Grow Wildflower Seed Balls! It’s by far the coolest treat you can hand out. They’re simply recycled paper + wildflower seeds shaped into a small ball that can be planted to grow flowers to help support the bee population. It’s not just a fun project for kids, but it also is kind to the planet! Lastly, you can find seed balls in the Tiny Yellow Bungalow shop. You could even make some seed balls yourself!

zero waste halloween

You could also hand out pencils, secondhand used children’s books, mandarin oranges (with painted jack-o-lantern faces on them for extra fun), or (I know this sounds silly) but money… No really, why not have a bowl full of coins ready for the picking. There are plastic free trick or treat options, you just have to get a little creative!

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If you just really really want to pass out something sweet to your trick-or-treaters, I’d definitely recommend choosing packaged candies. It is part of the Halloween fun, after all. Passing out homemade baked goods is so thoughtful but I don’t think any parents would go for a stranger giving their children homemade baked goods. If you’re going to a Halloween party of a friend, bringing your own treats you’ve baked is a great option!

Instead there are some candy brands that come packaged in paper boxes rather than plastic candy wrappers like Junior Mints or Dots. You can often find foil wrapped candies at the grocery store as well. Remember, these candies will probably come wrapped in a large plastic bag. Clearly, one plastic bag is better than many many tiny plastic bags inside of a large plastic bag though in my opinion! Consider purchasing USDA organic, fair trade chocolates to share like Alter Eco Truffles.

You might want to check out our post on Eco Friendly Easter Egg Fillers – you could use many of these ideas for your green Halloween sweet treats as well!

Sustainable Halloween Costumes

Costumes can be a little bit trickier. I would say the easiest way to go about it would be to make a stop at your local thrift stores or charity shops for inspiration. A few weeks before Halloween, I like to browse the thrift shop in my town for clothing items I could use to create a costume.

Usually with the combination of things I have at home, new pieces from the local thrift store, and a little creativity, I can create a quick DIY costume ensemble. Some ideas include 80s aerobics instructor, 60s hippie/flower child, Rosie the riveter, lumberjack, cowboy, etc. Again, Pinterest is a good stop for inspiration when it comes to DIY Halloween costume ideas. You could always cut up some old sheets and dress as a ghost!

Lastly, if you leave the thrift shops without a sweet secondhand costume, check Facebook Marketplace next. See if you can find a pre-loved costumes, face paint, and accessories there! This is an especially good idea if you’re hunting for children’s costumes. Kids grow out of costumes quickly.  It shouldn’t be too difficult to find a very gently used or even brand new costume there for a great price. For example, I found a secondhand toddler cow costume for Vasco, and it is absolutely adorable! This year I can repost it on Facebook Marketplace for another kid to enjoy.

You could even host a costume swap with friends to share Halloween costumes from previous years! I have most of my son’s old costumes still hanging in the closet that I would love to share with other sustainably minded parents. You could trade costumes for keeps or even simply let your friends or family members borrow the costumes you have on hand.

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Ok, let’s hear it. What are your best sustainable Halloween ideas to share?? Any unique costume ideas you’ve come up with on the fly? What about treats for trick or treaters in your neighborhood?? How to you make your Halloween celebrations greener?

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zero waste halloween ideas

10 thoughts on “The Greatest Sustainable Halloween Ideas

  1. Perfect timing! I was just starting to think about ZW Halloween decorations today. Even on Pinterest there are lots of wasteful ideas using tape, plastic bags, glow sticks, etc. Definitely will have to get creative! And definitely reusing my pumpkins to make some purée to freeze for desserts later!

  2. I love your ideas! I have a question- kids expect candy. How do you go about handing them other things? Do you explain what those seed bombs are?

    1. Thanks so much for reading my blog! Yes kids do love candy 🙂 But I’ve learned that they get just as excited about something new to “do.” When I give out seed balls I do explain what they are. I tell kids they will be true super heroes, because they’re saving the bees when they plant flowers!

  3. Wow, first post I have seen on #zerowaste Halloween. But it is really timely and relevant because here in Australia it means lots of cheap and nasty plastics from the $2 shop – used for one night and then added to landfill. Making events and celebrations zero waste is my next big thing – so many of us hear that because it is only “once a year” it’s ok to bring out the plastic knives and forks and cups etc.
    Thank you

  4. Very cool ideas, Jessie! I love the rusticness of natural decor, it’s so beautiful. We used to go to thrift stores all the time for costume pieces, since my kids used to cosplay for conventions. WAY less expensive than buying some cheap funky fabric costumes!

  5. I just love the seed bomb idea, although I’m trying to imagine how my kids would have reacted to it!. Have you ever had kids complain?

  6. Those seed bomb ideas are SO cool! I think I may even put them in my kids easter gifts!!

  7. Love these ideas! I’m all for natural and re-usable decorations, and the seed bombs are such a GREAT idea!

  8. My daughter and I have a tradition of carving one of those blue pumpkins into a Cinderella coach. They are hard to find locally, so we saved the seeds last year and are growing some this year. Also, for those who don’t celebrate Halloween, remember that Swan Lake (ballet) takes place in the fall. My daughter’s birthday is in October and one year we had a Swan Lake party. The kids made tutus or other costumes (for the prince and the villain (an Owl). The prince had a sash and a gold cloth crown, and the owl (Von Rothbart) had a recycled Robin Hood shirt and a mask that he glued feathers onto. Her ballet teacher came and taught them a dance. It was a big hit. She was about 8 that year. There are only parts for two boys, but most of her friends are girls. The boys were reluctant to dance at first, but they joined in with encouragement from the girls.

  9. My daughter and I like to buy a blue pumpkin every year to make into a Cinderella Coach and pose a little doll in a fancy dress by it. Sometimes we use toy horses to pull it. But, carving this type of pumpkin (the one we use has a very thick skin) can be challenging. So, we bought some cute Jewelry and frames at Hobby Lobby to use for the doors and windows and lanterns and affix them with straight pins (with pearl tops) pushed all the way in to the pumpkin. We take them off (it only makes a tiny hole) and reuse them year after year. Then after Halloween we make the pumpkin into pies. Zero waste! I see I mentioned this is a previous year, but since then we added the reusable decorations. Wish I could show you.

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