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Opt for a Greener, Simpler Halloween

New Dream has written about simplifying gift-giving holidays in our Simplify the Holidays booklet, and you can use SoKind registry to manage all the material and non-material gifts you might want for any occasion.

Halloween is one of those holidays that seems as though it doesn't need much simplification: no gifts are exchanged, and the candy we get comes only at the price of some good old fashioned fun.

The truth is, Halloween is big business. Americans plan to spend a record $8.4 billion this year on costumes, candy, and other purchases. Couldn’t this time and expense go toward a greener, healthier holiday? Here are some tips from New Dream:

1. Costumes: Don’t limit yourself to vinyl masks and polyester costumes wrapped in plastic; make your own! Use natural items, such as leaves and sticks, for a particularly natural look, or use items you have in your house. Want to be Harry Potter? Use a stick for a wand. A hula dancer? Use straw for the skirt. You can also go to a secondhand shop to mix and match pieces for a particularly creative look. Think about engaging the community by holding a costume swap where you exchange previous years’ costumes. Always consider donating or reusing costumes the next day as well.

2. Decorations: Gourds, pumpkins, straw bales, and corn husks are beautiful and inexpensive ways to make a home or party look festive without damaging the environment. LED or solar-powered lights can help set spooky vibes with less energy generation. Always recycle decorations that you buy or save them in the attic for next year. And while you’re thinking about recycling, be sure to provide recycle bins at any Halloween bash to ensure that guests dispose of items properly.

3. Candy: Fortunately, you’re not limited to individually wrapped Snickers bars. Think about buying all-natural or organic candies, now sold widely. Consider giving out small useful items (pencils, erasers) instead of candy to limit consumption of processed sugary foods. Go to a farmers market to purchase local treats to pass out to kids or have at a party. Don’t limit the creativity of the candy bags either. Who wants a boring plastic bag when you can use a decorative pillowcase, purse, flower pot, or reusable bag instead?

4. Pumpkins: Avoid a last-minute purchase at the grocery store and shop instead at a farmer's market or roadside stand (to find a locally grown pumpkin, or pumpkin patch, search on Local Harvest). And while you may have tried your hand at toasting the seeds left over after carving, fresh pumpkin puree is also delicious in recipes such as pumpkin bread, spicy or sweet pumpkin soup, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin pancakes.

These ideas are simply the basics! Use the brainpower you exerted in designing your costume to think of more creative ways to use less and reuse what you have. Thinking resourcefully and getting family and friends invested in the season will create very sustainable memories. And that’s really the purpose of holidays, right?

Check out New Dream’s Simplify Halloween Pinterest board for more super simple Halloween ideas.

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