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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at CU Boulder chapter.

In a 2019 study done by a U.K. research group, roughly 7 million Halloween costumes were disposed of, totaling about 2,079 tons of waste. Additionally, 83% of the material in 324 Halloween clothing items promoted through online platforms or retailers was oil-based plastic, equivalent to the weight of 83 million Coca-Cola bottles. Yikes…

Due to COVID-19, fewer people celebrated Halloween in 2020, giving our landfills a needed break. However, I expect that this year we will be back to “normal,” with millions of people across the world participating. Don’t get me wrong, I love dressing up for Halloween, but many people don’t understand the amount of waste they’re adding to the world during the holiday season. Although I love the orange and black that overtakes everything in October, these are my top tips for having an all-around green (aka sustainable and as zero-waste as possible) Halloween!

Use What You Have

Store-bought Halloween costumes are one of the biggest contributors to waste and leave a massive carbon footprint. They’re cheaply made, mass-produced, then sold at a high price — a consequence of the fast fashion industry. Many people buy a new costume every year, don’t see a use for it in the future, then throw it away. The best thing you can do is not buy a costume at all. Instead, reuse items you already have in your closet to create something unique. This will not only save you money, but you’ll be helping the environment. If you choose to buy a costume, be conscious of the items you buy and try to pick items that you know you’ll use multiple times. This year, one of my costumes is a fairy. I plan on reusing the top and wings at a festival I’m going to in November (and most likely future festivals too), and I’m wearing a skirt, shoes, and accessories I already own.

Costume Swap

Another option is to see if a friend has accessories or a costume you can borrow. Not only are you going to also save money this way, but you’ll also have new items to wear for a night or two. If you ask a few different friends, you’ll be able to put together an entire outfit and accessories without spending a penny!

Thrift It

I had to include this because although you’re purchasing something, it’s still a better option than buying directly from a costume store. If you’re looking for simpler pieces, the thrift store will most likely have it. Thrift stores also have some funky accessories that might be perfect for you, and you’ll still be spending less than you would regularly.

Avoid the Glitter

Yep, I’m serious. Glitter, sequins, and plastic embellishments remain unaltered in the environment for many years, adding microplastics into our ecosystems. If you do want glitter, go the extra mile and get certified biodegradable glitter from Bioglitter. Many companies have glitter that isn’t actually biodegradable, so do your research and make sure it is before you buy.

Compost Your Pumpkins

Start by buying your pumpkin from a local grower or farmer’s market. When your pumpkin reaches its expiration date, put it in the compost bin instead of the trash. If you don’t have access to composting, ask a friend or family member if you can use theirs. Compost the pumpkin guts too if you don’t plan on making a pumpkin pie or toasted seeds

Decorate Consciously

I’m not gonna lie, I don’t see the point in buying new decorations every year for every holiday. When it comes to Halloween, reuse decorations you already have, or try some of these fun things:

  • Use tights with runs for spider-webbing
  • Turn cardboard boxes into tombstones and/or skeletons
  • Use an old sheet to make ghosts
  • Use soy-based or beeswax candles to light up your pumpkins, and avoid paraffin-based ones
  • If you want new decorations, go to the thrift store and see what you can find

Party Plastic

Party plastic is another huge contributor to waste. If you’re having a smaller party, try to use dishes that can be washed and won’t create waste. However, if you do need to buy cups, plates, napkins, and utensils, buy ones that can be composted. Susty Party, Everspring, and Matter are great brands to support. 

Candy, Candy, Candy

Halloween candy is delicious, so try to choose candy that has little or no plastic packaging or can be recycled. I also recommend checking for locally-made treats. If you’re hosting a party, opt for a potluck style and bring homemade treats instead, which will probably be favored more by guests!

There are so many ways to have a green Halloween. Before you buy something, take a minute to see if there’s a better alternative. Even if you don’t implement all of these suggestions, doing one or two of them will be better for everyone in the long run. These numbers will only grow unless we all do what we can now. Happy Halloween!

Hannah Curran

CU Boulder '22

Hannah is a Junior studying Creative Technology and Design. She is passionate about website development, graphic design, digital art, and of course, writing! Hannah also has her own sticker business, @whoishan!