Green Halloween

Canada’s favourite spooky holiday is just around the corner…how can we keep this tradition sustainable?

During a blogging Community Hour this month, we looked at the threats Halloween poses to all three pillars of sustainability:

  1. Environmental
  2. Social
  3. Economic

Most importantly, we came up with some solutions to these threats! This post is meant to be read as a brainstorming guide and a conversation. Browse, consider, and let’s see how we can make this Halloween a little more green 😉

Environmental

Candy Wrappers

Candy wrappers.jpg
Flickr, Public Domain.

One of the best parts of Halloween is going around door to door and collecting as much candy as possible. However, a downside of that is all the candy wrappers that goes with it contributing to a large amount of environmental waste created. A potential solution for this would be to hand out fruit. It’s definitely not the same and not as alluring but it is healthier and compostable. Another solution to satisfy your sweet tooth would be to buy candy in bulk, but that doesn’t come without its own set of problems. It could pose a risk in terms of safety as it could be potentially tampered with, and they often don’t come with nutritional facts and information about the ingredients which could be problematic to those with dietary restrictions.

Costumes and Decorations

Leaf decos.jpg
Image from “Buggy and Buddy” blog

While new Halloween costumes and decorations can look and feel great for getting into the spirit of Halloween, the waste can pile up. If new Halloween costumes and decorations are purchased each year with the old ones disposed of in an annual cycle, our impact on the environment can increase significantly as these disposed products have nowhere to go except the landfill if they aren’t redirected. A possible redirection is donating old costumes and decorations. Another way to minimize our environmental impact is the creation of Do-It-Yourself (DIY) decorations.

 

Face Painting

Face painting is a popular thing to do especially in festivals like Halloween. It’s such an amazing art, however, it may bring some problems to us! More than 50% of the cosmetics for face painting contains harmful chemicals that affect health and may led to cancer. Well, they may say those chemicals are under the regulated levels, so we are safe to access. NO!!! That isn’t true! Lead which was found in around 20% of the cosmetics ‘is not safe at any level’; it damages our cognitive ability and is poisoned! So, be sure that you have go through the ingredients before purchasing.

Or you can make your own face paint! Here’s the recipe:

  • Using chemical-free skin cream as your colour base;
  • Cornstarch (optional)
  • Natural pigments from fruits and flowers: rose, beets, berries, etc.
facepaint.png
Suggestions from “Safbaby

The “Rich Neighbourhood”

I’ll confess: I was the kid who charted out the “rich neighbourhoods” in my city so I could get the best candy. The full-size Aero bar, a can of Sprite, a full-sized bag of chips. However, turns out wealth doesn’t always correlate to generosity. (Pro tip: families with lots of kids tend to have the best decos & candy). It may be better for you and the environment to stay local this Halloween. If you are going to commute, carpool with friends to lower fuel emissions and raise fun.

Mansion.jpg

Composting

After Halloween, tons of sculptural pumpkins will be dump into the backyard bin. Are you worried about such huge waste? You don’t need to be! Pumpkin, as organic garbage, can be decomposed and being fertilizer to our soil again.

All kinds of organic wastes are sent to the composter – Edmonton Compost Facility, where organic stuffs would turn into the ‘perfect compose’ after several months. The finished compost is just like the black fertilized soil in our garden.

The basic process:

  1. Garbage trucks pick up our garbages and send them to the Edmonton Compost Facility;
  2. Garbages enter the sorting room to be classified and separated as decomposed or not-decomposed stuff;
  3. The composed stuff enter the Trommel screen (“a big round drum with holes”) several times to be classified as organic or inorganic;
  4. Composing then occurs for one month. It’s 55 degree Celsius with high humidity in the composed environment to kill harmful bacteria;
  5. A big machine drilling into the composed stuff. Air gets in to stimulate the break down of compose by microorganism;
  6. A month later, compose is screened again to remove small unwanted material (small pieces of plastic, glass, and rock);
  7. The perfect compose has been made!

Check out the City of Edmonton’s composting video.

Lights

Here are some ways to light your Halloween “greenly”:

  1. Use solar powered flash lights: Those who are going for Trick or Treat require flash lights in the darkness. Combining solar powering with LED light bulbs is very efficient since LEDs are very efficient. Hence, a small solar panel could provide enough power for a night of trick or treat 😉 Do not forget to charge them up during the day.
  2. Use solar Halloween pumpkin: use small solar panels and LED lights to light your pumpkin. Simply put an LED inside the pumpkin, which uses rechargeable battery. Charge the battery fully during the day using solar panels. It will glow for up to 8 hours 😉

One of the advantages of LED light bulbs is their lifetime, which is 100,000 hours!

But that is not all! You can have a green post-Halloween too. Pumpkins that are food waste can be used as a source of renewable electricity and biofuels like what is done in ENERKEM facility in Edmonton.

Lighting.png
From “GoGreen” Solar blog

Social

Community-building

Family Halloween_crop
A childhood gathering from blog team member Freya’s family scrapbook.

Some of my favourite childhood memories involved Halloween. I loved going to school dressed up and going to parties and bobbing for apples and wrapping people up in toilet paper. Halloween can be a great excuse to get people together, eat a bunch of food, and celebrate spookiness. This can especially be valuable to more isolated populations such as newly immigrated families or the elderly.

Cultural Considerations

4968632556_cd5bc38444_n
“Hungry Ghost Festival 2010.” Public domain, benoxi on Flickr. Link.

Instead of calling the festival “Halloween”, China has their own name such as ‘Teng Chieh’ or ‘Yue Lan’ (中元节 / 鬼节), that means the ghost festival. Believers of Buddhism may go to temples to pray and sing religious songs with monk. Believers of Taoism may place food like apples and roasted chicken in front of their family members’ photo who have pass away; also, people would burn money for spirits that believe they can use in the nether world.  (check out this post on global “Halloween”)

 In my perspective, China has a really different way to ‘celebrate’ this ghost festival from most of the western countries. My family would like to stay at home and try not to go out after the sunset (no Trick or Treat ever!); it’s because we don’t want to ‘disturb’ spirits that wander out. Moreover, instead of thinking the day as a celebration, it’s more appropriate to consider it as a worship to ancestry. So, if your new neighbours or friends do not participate in the Trick or Treat night with you, please don’t be upset!

 

Sexualized Costumes

I’m all for women wearing whatever they like. However, it’s frustrating to shop for a women’s (or even little girl sized) costume and only be able to find the “sexy” version: sexy witches, sexy cops, sexy pirates. Don’t believe how serious this issue is? The online retailer, Yandy, recently stopped selling their “Brave Red Maiden” costume, a sexualized version of the outfits worn in “The Handmaid’s Tale,” a dystopian TV series where women are forced into sexual servitude. Read the story on CNN.

Handmaids Tale.JPG

Trick or TrEAT

The Campus Food Bank’s annual Trick or TrEAT fundraiser collects food donations for those in need. Volunteers deliver flyers to neighbourhoods throughout Edmonton asking households to prepare their donations. Then teams dress up and go door-to-door to collect non-perishable food donations. It’s a fun excuse to ‘trick-or-treat” again, and for a good cause! They’re always looking for volunteers.

CFB.jpg

Cultural Appropriation

 

Appropriation.png
Image from Metro story.

Undoubtedly, many of us spend so much time pondering over what to wear. But do you know that almost every year, at least one clothing company is accused of cultural appropriation?!

This happens when a dominant culture in a society adopt some elements from heritages of the society minorities culture’s without thoroughly understanding what those elements are meant to those minorities. Cultural appropriation can arise from the fact that we are unaware of all the other cultures’ beliefs and taboos. Some customs may make a mockery out of an ancient civilization or may be offensive to a few or many cultures like sexual costumes. 

This year, Fashion Nova was called out for its “Geisha” costume. Read the story on the Metro.

 

Economic

Pumpkin Seed Snacks

pumpkin seedsOne of the best ways to make the most out of your pumpkin, besides turning it into a fun decoration, is to use the seeds. Now, these recipes are so simple that even I can’t mess it up and most of them only require a handful of ingredients!

We have your classic roasted pumpkin seeds here: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/13768/roasted-pumpkin-seeds/

If you want to spice up your life there is also cinnamon sugar pumpkin seeds here: https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/recipes/a44055/cinnamon-sugar-pumpkin-seeds-recipe/

Finally, if you want to ward off any potential vampires, this recipe should do the trick! https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipes/a49801/garlic-parmesan-pumpkin-seeds-recipe/

And if all else fails, someone else created this ultimate list of pumpkin seed recipes so you are sure to find something that suits your fancy: https://www.delish.com/cooking/g3019/best-baked-pumpkin-seed-recipes/

Energy & Fuel

If you plan to spend your Halloween in another neighborhood or join special events probably far from your neighborhood, you’d better watch your cost of energy and fuel you are spending to travel to that area. The easiest way to deal with such economic concern is carpooling. This way, you not only save the fuel cost and reduce pollution, but also you will have more fun spending time with your neighbors or friends.

halloween car.jpg

Culture of Consumerism

Our economy is based on capitalism: a free market run by individuals, guided by the invisible hand. The citizens of this country continuously participate in the market by purchasing desired items. Since our market is based on consumerism, it is standard for people to participate in the cycle of purchasing goods, using them, disposing them, and then purchasing more goods. Without changes in this linear cycle, the waste can pile up significantly. In the “Story of Stuff”, the Story of Stuff Project presents this linear cycle in its extreme. Although they take an apocalyptic view on consumerism, it does make viewers consider their environmental impact as a result of their economic decisions. Watch the video and consider your thoughts on the topic!

To combat the waste of consumerism, implement the three R’s into your life! Reduce the amount you consume, Reuse the products you have already purchased, and Recycle the products you have when its life cycle for its original purpose has come to an end.

Reusables & DIY

In order to combat the environmental and economic impacts of Halloween, here are some sustainable options for costumes and decorations! Buy second hand decorations and costumes, reuse your old ones, or Do-It-Yourself with items you already own! Here’s a tutorial from iSaveAzZ for an easy decoration using fairy lights, markers, and milk jugs!

fairy lights.jpg

Thanks for reading! Now our questions to you:

  1. What do you do to keep Halloween Green?
  2. Are these practices enough to make Halloween sustainable?

30/10/2018
Anika, Freya, Katherina, Maryam, Tao
Blog Team Community Hour

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