Happy Halloween! As one of my favourite holidays, I'm super excited to write about it, and to be able to give some tips on how you can have a fantastic yet sustainable Halloween!
Included in this blog:
- The history of Halloween
- The dark side of Halloween
- Tips on how to keep your Halloween sustainable
The history of Halloween
Halloween originated with Samhain – an ancient Celtic festival where people would light bonfires and wear costumes to keep possible ghosts away. It originated over 2000 years ago in Ireland (where the Celts mainly lived), and the day marked the end of summer and harvest. People were pretty suspicious back then – they believed that the 31st of October was when the ghosts of the dead returned to Earth to cause trouble and damage crops. On the other hand, they thought the presence of these ghosts and spirits made it easier for Druids to make predictions about the future, which would provide comfort and direction during the long winters.
Druids would build enormous bonfires where the locals could burn their crops and animals as a sacrifice to the Celtic deities. They would also wear costumes such as animal skins and heads – I’m glad costumes aren’t like that today!
It's clear that Halloween today has evolved into something completely different - activities such as carving pumpkins and dressing up to go trick-or-treating are what we enjoy doing today, I can't say I've ever sacrificed any crops into a bonfire! As a child, I remember always looking forward to my grandma's yearly Halloween party - she seriously went all-out from apple-bobbing to homemade spider cupcakes and pumpkin pie, with her house completely decked-out in decorations!
The dark side of Halloween
Until recently, I had never thought of Halloween as a celebration that could be damaging to the environment. Surely one day of fun can’t cause that much damage?
But when you sit and think about it, how many times have you bought a cheap costume from Asda or Tesco that you’ve never worn again? Plastic broomsticks and devil ears, plastic masks, trick-or-treating buckets, plastic decorations, plastic wigs and beards – the list goes on. Can you see the running theme of plastic? Annually, it's estimated that the UK throws out nearly 5 million tonnes of plastic, and each UK family throws away around 40kg of recyclable plastic. And where does it go? It sits in massive landfills for decades, only to be forgotten about.
In 2015, 15 million pumpkins were carved and not eaten – even after taking composting and food bins into consideration, at least 5 million pumpkins were still sent to landfills to rot. Furthermore, 12,500 tonnes of Halloween costumes are sent to landfills every year. All for one day of fun? Is all that waste really worth it?
But don’t worry, you can still enjoy a more sustainable Halloween just as much – if not more!
How to keep your Halloween sustainable
Here are some tips on how you can have a fun and sustainable Halloween - while saving some money too!
1. Make your own treats
For anyone throwing a Halloween party, there are millions of recipes and YouTube videos for simple and easy Halloween-themed treats from toffee apples to ghost cupcakes. Although buying from a shop may be easier, baking and cooking your own treats can be enjoyed by the whole family – and may save you some money too!
2. Use or correctly dispose of your pumpkins
There are so many meals and recipes both savoury and sweet that you can incorporate your carved pumpkins into. But if like me you’re not the biggest fan of pumpkin as a food, make sure to correctly compost or put your leftover carved pumpkins into your food waste bin!
3. DIY your own decorations
This can be applied to both decorations and costumes. Like with Halloween treats, there are thousands of videos you can use to create your own paper and card decorations – they’re only being used for one night, and you can either save them for next year or chuck them in your paper recycling bin! If you are in a situation where you don’t have the time to make decorations, there are many cheap paper decorations already available – I’ve seen a great selection in B&M & Asda and on Amazon this year.
If you do want to invest in some more expensive, plastic decorations, ensure you buy decorations that you could use for years to come, or give to a friend if you have no use for them again. Purchasing a new set of plastic decorations every year is unnecessary!
4. Don’t buy a new costume
Similar to decorations, buying a whole new cheap costume every year is super wasteful. You can dress up using the clothes you have in your own wardrobe, DIY using old bed sheets and clothes, or even go to charity shops to see if there are any costumes or clothes you can DIY into a fabulous costume! You can also use eBay and websites such as Depop to buy second-hand costumes, normally at a discounted price. Creating your own or buying second-hand is a great way to save money too, and you can then give these away, sell them or take them to your local clothes recycling bin when you’re finished with them. Furthermore, it’s super easy to create any props and accessories from things you already own, or from card and paper so they can still be recycled!
5. Remove makeup & facepaint responsibly
Makeup wipes and disposable cotton pads are the most obvious way to remove any face makeup you may be wearing as a part of your costume – but most are not biodegradable. You can buy reusable cotton pads and makeup-remover flannels, which will save you some money as you don’t need to keep re-buying them!
Although Halloween is a fun and exciting time, you need to be aware of the environmental impact you may be having. By being organised, doing some research and following the tips above, you'll be on your way to having the best Halloween ever!