A quick guide to plastic-free Halloween decorations

Halloween scarecrows
CC BY 2.0 Brian Holland

Stay away from plastic dollar store junk. Decorations can be kind to the environment while still setting the right atmosphere for the eeriest night of the year.

I’m a last-minute decorator, as you can probably tell by the fact that I’m posting this on Halloween afternoon. Most of my highly organized neighbors transformed their homes into spooky spectacles last week, but apart from a few pumpkins and one scary jack-o-lantern, mine remains unspooktacular.

A big reason why it’s taking me so long is my phobia of superfluous plastic waste. I could easily stock up on cheap, plastic Halloween decorations that are in abundance at the local dollar store, but that fills me with dread. I don’t want to deal with all that trash, even if it’s years down the road.

So, between now and tonight, I hope to decorate in as green a manner as possible, to create a house that’s somewhat alluring to trick-or-treaters. Here are some ideas that you can use, too, should you find yourself in a similar last-minute decorative pickle.

Pumpkins: Pumpkins and gourds are the ultimate in zero-waste Halloween decorations. Fully biodegradable, you can cook them, compost them, bury them in the garden, or toss them in the back forty, if you’ve got one. Google some scary designs and get carving.

Lighting: Paint glass Mason jars black and put tea-lights inside. Line the pathway to your house with them. Put a colored light bulb in your exterior light fixture for an eerie atmosphere.

Spider Webs: Use natural twine to create a web between porch posts or trees.

Ghosts, Witches & Scarecrows: Make a ghost by stuffing a towel in a white sheet, tying with twine, and hanging in a tree or near a door. Witches are the same, although I used a brown pillowcase with a hole cut in it for a face, a green blanket for the head, and twigs for arms. Make a creepy scarecrow with tattered clothing and a jack-o-lantern head.

Signs: Kids love warning signs of danger ahead. Paint your own creepy message on a wooden board. “Turn back now! You’ve entered the Land of the Walking Dead!” The more rustic, the better! Paint a large kraft-paper banner with orange and black paint that can hang over the door. You can also turn boards into gravestones.

Bats: Cut out black paper bats and hang upside down on a clothesline.

Double-duty decorations: See what you can use from other seasonal decorations you may have, i.e. black and orange tree ornaments. You can even decorate old wine bottles.

Music: Don't underestimate the power of music! Set up a speaker near the door and play a scary Halloween soundtrack from YouTube. Look for Harry Potter-type music or Bach's Toccata & Fugue in D minor on organ.

Trick-or-treaters: Purchase candy in cardboard boxes because those can be recycled, i.e. Smarties instead of chocolate bars. Buy in bulk to avoid excess outer packaging. If you’ve got kids going trick-or-treating, send them with a reusable cloth bag or a pillowcase. These can be decorated to match their costume.

Tags: Decorating | Green Entertaining | Holidays

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