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sustainable halloween

Sustainable Solutions for a Happier Halloween

By Laura BourlandRise Writer
Oct 5, 2019

As you gear up for all the fall fun of costume parties, haunted houses, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating, don’t forget to think about your choices and their impact on the environment. It’s easy to get carried away come the holidays, but a little forethought can help you have a more sustainable and enjoyable Halloween.

Pumpkin Carving

From jack-o-lanterns to intricately carved masterpieces, there’s nothing quite as fun come autumn as carving a pumpkin with friends, family, and little ones. Pumpkins are already a sustainable Halloween decoration, given their organic nature, but a little preparation ahead of time will stretch your pumpkin even further.

Where to Buy Your Pumpkins

As pumpkin patches pop up on every corner, scope out your options where pumpkins have traveled the least. Big box stores and large pumpkin patches often import their pumpkins from great distances, which takes an awful lot of vehicle travel. Instead, buy your pumpkins from local farms and mom and pop shops where the pumpkins grow closer to home.

Setting Up a Sustainable Carving Station

Before you plunge into your pumpkin, set your pumpkin carving location up to avoid unnecessary waste.

  • Table coverings. Carving a pumpkin is a messy job. Think ahead and cover your table with a washable tablecloth or newspaper that can be tossed in the recycling or compost bin when you finish.
  • Save the seeds. All those seeds you scoop from the pumpkin make for a delicious and healthy snack. Set out a clean bowl to collect the seeds and roast them in the oven afterward for a satisfyingly crispy reward.
  • Compost the guts. All those extra stringy and slimy guts are excellent for compost piles. You can either set out your indoor compost bin or a separate bowl to collect the goop.
  • Flameless candles. Every carved pumpkin needs good light. Instead of a traditional candle, consider using a safer, flameless LED light.

Pumpkins will rot quickly, so it’s best to carve your pumpkin on October 30th or 31st to avoid sad, droopy jack-o-lanterns. If you wait, you can even bring your carved pumpkin back inside after trick or treating, scoop out the flesh and use it to make a delicious pumpkin pie!

pumpkin soup
Photo Credit: Half Baked Harvest

You can also skip carving altogether and decorate your pumpkins with paint instead. In doing so, you’ll have an extra week or so to transform your pumpkin into a pie or a yummy stuffed pumpkin dinner.

Sustainable Halloween Decorations

Halloween and Thanksgiving both fall during the harvest season, which makes them prime for the incredibly beautiful decorations generously provided by Mother Earth. If you have at least one deciduous tree in your yard, chances are it’ll change from lively green to gorgeous fall hues of yellow, orange, and red. Letting nature decorate for you is both sustainable and straightforward.

Want to add a little more Halloween pizzazz? Steer clear of those cheap, one-time-use decorations and opt for edible, compostable, and reusable décor.

  • Squash comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and colors, including the orb-like acorn squash, funky striped carnival squash, and long orange butternut squash. The best part is, most squash can be cooked and eaten once you’re done displaying them!
  • Dried corn stalks and bundles of dried grass are a classic Halloween decoration directly from the harvested fields. Gather them up from your own garden or find them inexpensively at local farms and pumpkin patches. Tie them together with twine, and compost these beautiful bundles when you’re ready to transition to Christmas décor.
  • Wreaths make a statement when hung on your front door, garage, or gate and can be designed in any style you like. Save your wreaths to use every Halloween.
  • Scarecrows are another harvest decoration perfect for Halloween. They’re easy to make with just one set of old clothes you plan to donate, a pole and a plump stuffing of grass clippings, fallen leaves, and dry brush.
  • Paper bats and ghosts can be quickly crafted from paper grocery bags, cardboard boxes, magazines, and junk mail. Just cut your shape (a die cutter or stencil will make this a speedy task) and let the kids help color, paint, and decorate them. Then, thread them on a string and hang them up. These paper garlands are a fun decoration that can be composted, recycled, or reused.
  • LED candles and lights are available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes that are perfect for creating a spooky front porch.
spooky halloween porch

Once Halloween is over, store your decorations in a sealed plastic tub to pull out and reuse year after year. Or, you might opt to skip on Halloween decorations and make Halloween about the experience instead.

Create a Haunted House

Adults and kids alike love the thrill of a fun haunted house. The best part is they are all about the experience rather than material decorations. All you need are some old black sheets or tablecloths, spooky LED lights, creepy-crawly music and some friends dressed up in costume, ready to jump out and scare brave visitors. A make-believe bowl of “brains” can be made with cooked, cold noodles!

Host a Halloween Block Party

Reminiscent of traditional harvest festivals, block parties are a fun way to get neighbors and friends together to celebrate Halloween. You don’t need a lot of décor for a block party because, again, it’s all about the experience.

Encourage your neighbors to each contribute in their own way by grilling up some burgers and corn on the cob in their front yards, run a hayride on the back of a tractor or truck, put out a bucket to bob for apples, share some live music, and set up games like corn hole and touch football. You might even consider hosting an old-fashioned pie-baking contest as a fun activity and draw for delicious desserts.

Sustainable Options for Trick or Treating

Kids love the treats they receive going door to door, but don’t let your tricks be on the environment! Skip on those throwaway candies that people don’t enjoy and opt for more enjoyable and sustainable treats instead.

compostable wrappers
Photo Credit: Alter Eco

Candies with Compostable or Recyclable Wrappers

With a little forethought, you can choose treats that are both yummy and safe for the environment. Alter Ego and Seattle Chocolate both sell Halloween goodies wrapped in compostable packaging. Many larger companies, like Mars, are working on releasing popular candies with compostable wrappers soon.

Other excellent options are candies wrapped in recyclable foil-like Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and those packaged in recyclable cardboard boxes like Dots, Nerds, Junior Mints, and Milk Duds.

When you go to buy your Halloween candy, remember to bring your reusable bag and pass on the printed receipt.

Homemade Treats

If you and your neighbors feel comfortable with each other, you might consider making your own treats and packaging them in a reusable bag or compostable paper bags. Bulk candy is just as good as the fun-size packaged varieties, but is often cheaper and can be packaged more sustainably. You could also make Rice Krispie Treats, cookies, or zucchini bread to hand out to the neighborhood kids.

Healthy Treats

Think outside the box of sweets, and you might consider giving out fruit, vegetables, or packages of nuts or seeds. Be mindful of potential peanut allergies.


An often-overlooked treat is a refreshing beverage that can quench the thirst of trick-or-treaters and help them avoid sugar headaches. Consider handing out bottles of water, juice boxes, or cans of sparkling water in recyclable bottles and cans.

Non-Food Treats

Of course, you don’t have to hand out edible treats at all. Pens, pencils, crayons, erasers, books, and temporary tattoos are all excellent treats that will be put to good use. You could also give out some grow-your-own seed packets and kits to encourage the neighbor kids to get into gardening by growing their own winter-hearty greens and herbs.

Have a Happy, Sustainable Halloween

It’s within your power to reduce or eliminate the scattered candy wrappers and trash bins full of one-time-use Halloween decorations this year. There are dozens of ways you can cut back on waste and choose more sustainable Halloween decorations, traditions, and treats.

Share your favorite sustainable Halloween ideas below!

Disclaimer: This article does not constitute a product endorsement however Rise does reserve the right to recommend relevant products based on the articles content to provide a more comprehensive experience for the reader.Last Modified: 2022-01-19T04:14:10+0000
Laura Bourland

Article by:

Laura Bourland

Laura grew up in the California suburbs, far removed from environmentalism, but nature always has a way. She uprooted her life in 2015, moving to the countryside of Washington to live a more sustainable and simple life on 12 acres. She and her fiancee are learning on the job as they attempt everything from gardening and natural pest control to eco-friendly building and home improvement.

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