When I think about how I celebrated Halloween as a child I’m reminded of the amazing costumes my mom made for my brother and me. Store bought costumes were never an option in our house, and many of the costumes my mom made were revamped into new costumes the subsequent year. Halloween also involved pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating. Looking back, I my mom did a lot of Halloween activities in an eco-friendly way. I don’t think that was her intention— it was just the natural way for her to do things. I try to follow the example my mom set, and now that I stay home full-time with my kids, it’s gotten a lot easier.
While I don’t have quite the same amount of creativity my mother does when it comes to making costumes, I certainly try. Per my son’s request, this year we will be dressing as Nickelodeon’s Fresh Beat Band. You cannot buy costumes to dress up as this foursome (so it isn’t even a temptation), nor does Nickelodeon have directions on how to make these particular costumes (although they have others). What I’ve done is to find clothing that resembles what each band member wears for each member of my family—some items we already had, and others I had to find in stores. While I wouldn’t be caught dead in the ensemble the way it’s worn on the show, any day besides October 31st, I will be able to wear the articles of clothing separately throughout the year, as will the rest of my family. As such, my first recommendation is to try costumes that can double as regular street clothes.
It isn’t always easy to put together costumes with everyday clothes, so another idea is to take part in a costume swap. There are some great organizations out there trying to keep Halloween costumes out of our landfills. One is Green Halloween, which sponsors “National Costume Swap Day” where people bring in an old costume and trade it for one that’s “new to them.” This year’s National Costume Swap Day officially took place on October 8th, but several communities hold it on other dates, so it’s definitely worth taking a look at the website.
If you’re looking to simply pass your old Halloween costume along there are some great options available. Besides the usual—giving the costume to a friend or donating it to a local charity—there’s a cool website out there called thredUP. While not solely dedicated to Halloween costumes, this site offers a way for people to pass along children’s clothes to someone who can use them. It’s free to join, and you can purchase a box for $5 plus shipping (which is $10.95). Additionally, you can purchase up to two boxes of clothes before posting one of your own. You can go directly to the Halloween Costume Swap section of the website and view all of the boxes currently available with Halloween costumes or Halloween themed items. The costume swap on thredUP is going on now until October 22nd. Last year nearly 2,000 costumes were exchanged through this service. And remember, data suggests that Halloween Costumes take up approximately 12,500 tons of landfill space each year—so instead of throwing yours away, why not swap it or lend it forward?
Halloween is also a great time to decorate your home—both inside and out. This year, each week in September we saved our gallon milk jugs to make Jack-o-Lanterns. I found the craft online, and it was so easy. My son and I spent one afternoon painting the milk jugs pumpkin orange. Once the paint dried, we cut out faces on the orange jugs. We’ve put the new jack-o-lanterns on our front stoop and they are a great addition to our other fall decorations. Everyone who comes to our house compliments them. What I like most is that my son and I made them together. Recycled Halloween-themed crafts are a great way to get everyone in the Halloween spirit, while helping the environment. Remember to save the decorations you make for future Halloweens. Not only will they look great, but you’ll also love the memories they carry with them.
What would Halloween be without trick-or-treating? Since your kids will need something to store all of their candy in, why not use something other than a plastic bag that will probably find its way into the garbage. In our home, we use a plastic jack-o-lantern that my son carries throughout the neighborhood. In the days leading up to Halloween, we keep it in the front window as a decoration, and then on Halloween it serves as his candy storage. I like this pumpkin because we use it every year, so it will never find itself in a landfill. Even when he stops trick-or-treating, my plan is to use it to hold the candy we give out to neighborhood kids. Your kids could also carry a reusable canvas bag—much like the ones used for your groceries. If you get a plain one, it offers the opportunity for another Halloween craft project. You can either decorate it with fabric paints or cut out pieces of fabric to glue on with fabric glue. No one will have a trick-or-treat bag like your child’s.
With swapped costume, and reusable trick-or-treat bag in hand, not only will your kids look and feel amazing this Halloween, but so will you. You’ll know that you’re helping the planet by consuming less and by teaching your children that swapping and reusing IS the way to do things. Oh, and your wallet will thank you, too!