How to Have a Zero Waste Halloween
What’s October’s challenge for ecoFamilies? Halloween!
I can still picture last year’s wreckage: the massive pile of trick-or-treat candy in the cupboard that literally lasted for months. The steady stream of candy wrappers in the tiny kitchen trash can that would show up every few days, foiling my zero waste attempts for the day or week yet again. Is there anyway to enjoy the fun of halloween without leaving a trail of trash? I wanted to know how to have a zero waste Halloween.
This year, I had a different vision of halloween: a fun night of trick-or-treating with the kids and friends, followed by a teeny-tiny pile of trash and mildly sugared-up kids. Could it be done? I set out to test the waters.
And I was armed with a plan! Let me share my strategy. As to whether it worked…You’ll have to read to the end for the exciting conclusion :).
First, I knew I would have to get the kids on board WAY in advance, way before the shiny loot was in their eager hands. Second, I knew I’d have to share my vision with my hubby, make sure he was on board, and also fill in any friends that were coming trick-or-treating with us.
You might ask – why even bother with trick or treating? Candy is awful for them, why even tempt them? That is an excellent question. You, obviously, are a much stronger person than I am. I decided not even to try to go there this year. Maybe, in the future, I can convince my girls that passing out candy is more fun than eating it. But they sure are cute going door to door and asking for candy. So, here’s what I did.
Zero Waste Trick or Treaters
The very first step was to talk about it with my kiddos VERY early. The very first mention of halloween, I told them that I had an idea I wanted to share with them. In my least bossy voice, I told them I was thinking it would be nice to go trick or treating, but then to trade in their pre-wrapped candy for some bulk candy. I told them we could go to the candy shop in town and they could get the same amount, by weight, as they’d get on halloween. But this way, we wouldn’t make as much trash. So, same amount of candy, no trash. Then I asked them what they thought about it.
Here’s the thing – they were so fine with this idea that it shocked me. Now, to be honest, I did promise that they could each eat 5 pieces on halloween before handing me the rest. But I didn’t have to do any convincing.
Hip Hip HOORAY! That was awesome.
Now, the big question: Would this cooperation last? Stay tuned!
Zero Waste Halloween Treats
Okay, the next step was to plan for the trick-or-treaters coming to our house. We don’t get too many (the heavy action is one block away, for better or worse). But we usually get some, so I wanted to have treats to pass out. But of course I was hoping for something without wrappers. I know, why not just pass out fruit? No. I just couldn’t. Again, if that is your idea of a treat, you are a much better person than me. Maybe some kids like getting fruit, but I’m pretty sure most don’t. And I’m not interested in letting down happy trick-or-treaters on Halloween. No thank you!
So, zero waste treats to give away: My original goal was to get candy in bulk and some cute paper bags to put it in. I figured that the bags could be recycled and, if they don’t get recycled, they at least release fewer toxins in the landfill than plastic. So, I got some bulk bin candy at Staff of Life (actually, hubby picked it up – thanks, honey!). Then I drove around town in circles trying to find small, cute paper bags. They. Do. Not. Exist. If I’d planned in advance, I could’ve ordered some online, but then you have all the unclear shipping and packaging, probably some plastic wrapping thrown in there just to piss me off. You know. So, I never did find those cute bags in Santa Cruz or Capitola, and instead used some plain brown paper bags that I’ve had since before going for zero. The big kind for lunches. Sigh.
Anyway, back to my treats. Passing out loose, package-free candy to kids can feel a little…creepy. It shouldn’t, but we’re all a little brainwashed to be afraid of anything that isn’t shrink-wrapped and sealed. (this is part of why we have such a trash problem to begin with! I know, preaching to the choir here). So, what’s the best way to handle this? Simple: just let each trick-or-treater know that I’m doing a zero waste halloween. I told the few that came that they could take a bag and a couple scoops of candy, or just dump the candy straight into their bags/pumpkins.
The verdict? None of the trick-or-treaters who came to our door had any issues! They all opted for a bag. It probably helped that I was surrounded by my own kids and friends’ kids when I passed out the candy – they make me seem less creepy and more mom-like :).
Zero Waste Halloween Gathering
Alright, the last part of our zero waste halloween – the gathering! Our neighborhood goes a little crazy during Halloween, so we had friends come over for a quick bite before hitting the streets. A few friends offered to bring something, so I made suggestions that I knew could be zero waste (pasta salad, hummus and veggies). I made an awesome black bean and corn salad, if I do say so myself :), served with chips from bulk bins. I also let the other moms know my plan for zero waste, not to pressure them to follow suit, but so they could be supportive of my kiddos. I’ve found that parents these days are pretty good about being respectful of other families food choices, and my friends are super awesome that way :). Thanks ladies. Now, here’s a little shocker – I used paper plates! I know, I know, WHY? Here’s why – they were a gift from a friend and the kids were excited to use them (they were Halloween themed). And I knew they could be composted in our compost. So, that’s what I did. Once those were gone, we busted out the real deal plates.
Back to my kiddos….
You’re probably wondering how it went after we got home loaded with candy. Let me tell you – it was GREAT! They enjoyed a few pieces of candy, more time with friends, and were fine to put their candy away for the eventual trade in. My older daughter actually gave all of hers to a friend after she had her pieces.
There you have it: a (near) zero waste Halloween. These kids constantly blow my mind! I think they can tell that the true fun of halloween is not the candy. It is every other thing – the costumes, the friends, the wildness of the night, the decorations, the excitement. Really, with all of that, who needs candy?
Thanks for reading!