Have an environmentally friendly HalloweenPosted on by Kirsty
Around a quarter of adults in the UK will actively take part in Halloween this year, spending an estimated £300million in total on sweets, costumes and decorations. This record spend puts Halloween up there as our third most expensive holiday just behind Christmas and Easter, but ahead of Valentines day – not bad for an event barely celebrated in England only 30 years ago.
True, we’ve been marking this day for centuries as part of Christian tradition, but only recently have we adopted the American, consumer-driven, version. Just like Christmas, Halloween is now mostly about the children, with a huge market building up around costumes and sweets.
Sadly, lost amongst the fun and frights of Halloween, there comes a cost. Aside from even the staggering millions we spend, almost everything to do with the spookiest day of the year has a big environmental impact.
The Perennial Problem With Pumpkins
Enormous numbers of pumpkins are sold in the UK each year, as many as 4,000,000 according to some, and most of these in the weeks just before Halloween.
Rarely do us Brits make good use of the pumpkins that we buy, choosing sadly just to make our decorations and then toss the remains. The vast majority of our pumpkins are used for carving out the iconic jack-o-lantern, and almost 99% of the vegetables meeting their end this way.
All this carving produces quite a bit of waste and, according to some surveys, a lot of us don’t even compost our pumpkins. Whether this is because we view them more as a decorations than the vegetables they are, we can’t say, but they can definitely be composted. Cut them up once you’re done with them and compost away – you could even grow next years’ pumpkin in the remains, how’s that for recycling.
Before it comes to composting the remains though, what can you actually do with a pumpkin? Well, cooking is an obvious choice. Our American cousins are eager to turn pumpkins into food of all kinds, most famously the pumpkin pie, and would doubtless be heartbroken to know how wasteful we are with their favourite veg.
Many of us will claim that we don’t like pumpkin without even trying it, but it can be turned into all sorts of delicious things, from pies and breads through to curry and sweets. Why not look up some pumpkin recipes to try out for Halloween treats?
Environmental Cost Of Costumes
Pumpkins aside, there are all sorts of ways to make your Halloween a little greener.
The majority of decorations and costumes available in shops are made of plastic or rubber, and themselves come in plastic packaging. That much plastic obviously creates some environmental issues, not only from its production, but also the huge amount thrown in the bin each year.
To counteract this plastic menace there are loads of resources online to help you to make your own ‘green’ costumes. By using old clothes, recyclable materials or even just reusing old costumes, you can save both money and the environment. The same applies to decorations too, with paper, cardboard or fabric making far more responsible alternatives to plastic.
Perhaps even more damaging than all the costumes and decorations we buy are the sweets. You might imagine that one tiny sweet couldn’t do much damage, but when you multiply that by the millions that are handed out in just one night to ‘trick or treaters’, the potential is huge. Massive quantities of sweets are bought for Halloween, each individually wrapped in plastic and foil – creating staggering amounts of waste.
Making your own treats, or giving other non-plastic gifts, will help you do your part, though perhaps won’t make you any friends amongst the neighbourhood kids. It’s worth considering the laws about what you can give out to the public too, especially as far as food standards are concerned – though it would provide a handy way to get rid of all that extra pumpkin laying around.
In truth, the key to a green Halloween is the same as any other time of year – recycling. Decorations, costumes, sweets and pumpkins can all be recycled, reused or composted, and doing so will save thousands of tonnes of harmful waste from going to the UK’s landfill sites.
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