Plan Ahead to Make This Halloween Greener

Instead of decorating your home with non-biodegradable plastic item this Halloween choose more natural ones like a real pumpkin. Pumpkins can be composted at the end of the season resulting in less waste being sent to the landfill.

Instead of decorating your home with non-biodegradable plastic item this Halloween choose more natural ones like a real pumpkin. Pumpkins can be composted at the end of the season resulting in less waste being sent to the landfill.

(Published on Wednesday, October 14, 2015, in The Daily Citizen, Dalton, GA.)

Recycle & Reuse: Plan Ahead to Make This Halloween Greener


With decorations inside and outside of the home, bags full of individually wrapped candies, and costumes that get used only once Halloween is a holiday where tons of waste is generated. It’s also quickly becoming one of the most expensive holidays celebrated in the US. The National Retail Federation estimates that “more than 157 million Americans will celebrate Halloween this year… Total spending in 2015 will top $6.9 billion, with the average American celebrating planning to spend $74 on decorations, candy, costumes and more.”


All of that spending combined with parties, truck-o-treats, and trick or treating door-to-door results in waste headed to the landfill or littering our homes, neighborhoods, and streets. But Halloween doesn’t have to be all that frightening to your pocketbook or the environment. Here are several ways to can reduce your waste and probably reduce your spending all at once making this Halloween even greener.


Costumes are a must have to participate in the creepy celebrations. Yet, just like a prom dress, a costume typically only gets worn once. To make better use of costumes set up a swap meet with family and friends about a week or two before Halloween. Children and adults can trade costumes and get something to wear that is new to them. Get tips to organize a swap from the National Costume Swap day website:


Use vintage clothes, worn bed sheets, and miss-matched accessories as the base for new costumes. Bend old wire hangers into the shape of wings for angels, and fairies.  Skip plastics masks and use non-toxic makeup to complete the look you want. A costume prop like a doctor’s bag or a diva’s glittery purse can be a creative way to collect some treats while staying in character.


Another aspect of a greener Halloween that we often don’t think about is the candy.  Small, individually wrapped candies lead to lots of waste after all the fun is over. Take a second bag with you to help pickup any litter you may find along your route.  Most wrappers you find will have to go in the trash, but some may be recyclable if you mail them to TerraCycle. Visit and click on ‘Send Your Waste’ to see which brigades match the products you want to recycle.  The Candy Wrapper Brigade, for example, takes used M&M's® wrappers and transforms them into new benches.


Many Halloween decorations are made with plastic materials that are not recyclable in our community. Avoid artificial materials and decorate your home with biodegradable items like pumpkins, gourds, and cornhusks. You don’t have to limit your color scheme to green and orange, however, if you use natural products like the Lumina pumpkin distinguished by its creamy white outer shell. In outdoor areas, straw bales can add height and help create a focal point. After the holiday you can place the items in your compost pile or use them in to make some autumn favorites like roasted pumpkin seeds. 


Craft spooky decorations from the items piled in your recycling bin or storage areas.  An entertaining craft is the milk jug monster that can be used as a decorative center piece or treat bowl.  To get started you’ll need a clean milk jug, small knife or kitchen scissors, a marker, paint, and if desired, craft tape, scrap papers, glitter, and other decorative items.  Using a marker, draw the mouth for your monster on the side of the jug opposite the handle.  Carefully cut out the opening using a small knife or strong scissors. 


Once you’ve decided what kind of monster you’ll make, paint the jug and let it dry.  A green monster would make a good Frankenstein, while a jug painted orange could be a jack-o-lantern.  If you don’t want to paint the jug, you can always glue on scraps of paper.  Decorate your monster by cutting out and gluing on eyes, fangs, horns, feet, and claws.  By creatively reusing materials you’re keeping your celebrations more eek-o-friendly.


Host an eco-friendly holiday party the easy way by providing guests with clearly labeled recycling bins and trash bins. Avoid disposables like single-use napkins, plates, and cups if possible.  If not, use disposable items that are made from recycled materials or are compostable. Before and after the party, clean using green cleaning products you can make at home, or commercial cleaners made with fewer chemicals. And, don’t forget to make place cards and invitations from reused paper.  


Liz Swafford is the Recycling and Education Program Coordinator for the Dalton-Whitfield Solid Waste Authority.  Learn more about recycling in Whitfield County by visiting or call 706-278-5001.