How to Go Green for Halloween

Don't be a grinch this Halloween; do right by the planet. luckyraccoon/Shutterstock

It’s "CDC" season folks, and we’re not talking about getting a flu shot or prepping for the zombie apocalypse (although both of these things are important around this time of year, too). Rather, we’re referring to the three, non-foliage or college football-related things that define October: Costumes, decorations and, last but not least, candy. That said, planning to go green for Halloween is easy and doesn’t necessarily involve dressing up like the Incredible Hulk or everyone’s favorite frozen vegetable spokesperson.

To get in the spirit of things, we’ve zeroed in on ways to make that all-important seasonal trifecta more eco-friendly without rendering your Halloween festivities any less fun. From using what you already have instead of buying new in the costume department to bedecking your abode with handmade décor to distributing natural confections that won’t permanently scare away local trick-or-treaters, scroll down for all your basics on how to go green for Halloween on the “CDC” front.


Feeling an enormous amount of pressure to secure the best ever store-bought Halloween costume? While attending a raucous party of the spiked punch variety and/or chaperoning your kids around the neighborhood in a terrifying latex horse mask or sexy [insert profession here] get-up is all good, you needn’t look much further than your own home for DIY costume resources and inspiration. The bottom line? You’ll be saving a few bucks and resources. (Remember, Halloween costumes don’t come cheap and chances are you’ll just wear it once.)

We've got a few fresh homemade Halloween costume ideas to help you go green while celebrating this season of orange and black. And yes, they’re a bit more involved than cutting eyeholes out of that old set of Ralph Lauren bed sheets, so have that glue gun ready for a little Katy Perry-style bra bedazzling.

Honey Boo Boo

Our favorite topical yet on-the-cheap Halloween costume creation just involves a little (okay, a lot of) leftover self tanner, lip liner and the trashiest outfit in your wardrobe. Voila! You’re tanorexic New Jersey matriarch, Patricia Krentcil. Easy peasy. Other ideas that involve rummaging around the closet or a quick trip to the local thrift or consignment store include McKayla Maroney (a warm-up outfit, a ponytail, a silver medal tied attached to a purple ribbon and, of course, the biggest scowl you can muster), Courtney Stodden (ample cleavage and a bounty of “sexy veggies” as accessories are key here), Clint Eastwood (or better yet, his chair) and, of course, a precocious and pint-sized individual who's no stranger to the concept of thrift: Honey Boo Boo.


This year, it’s anticipated that Americans will collectively fork over a whopping $8 billion in Halloween dollars, with a sizable chunk — $2.36 billion — going toward spook-ified yard and home décor. While spending your hard earned cash on a life-size, AA battery-operated witch or a half dozen manufactured-in-China-faux tombstones is fun and all, don’t forget that there are just as ghoulish alternatives that will help you save money ... and the planet.

Of course, websites like Etsy are overwhelming treasure troves of vintage and handmade Halloween goodies with many options being crafted from sustainable and/or reclaimed materials. Looking for the gruesome zombie garden gnome yard display of your dreams? How about a crocheted Freddy Krueger doll? You’ll find 'em at Etsy along with plenty other creative, mostly domestically produced items and previously loved decorations including classic Beistle die-cuts a serious trip down memory lane if there ever was one).

If you’re not keen on buying Halloween decorations that are secondhand or lovingly made by other folks, try gathering the youngin’s and crafting your own. You can truly let your imagination run wild while incorporating upcycled materials that would otherwise be trashed. While not exactly terrifying, embellishing your home with autumnal plant life of the gourd variety is also a planet- and pocketbook-friendly way to go green while getting into the Halloween spirit. Pluck your pumpkins from a local patch and be sure to compost — not smash — them after the holiday. Or, try your hand at creating a jack o’ lantern of the non-pumpkin variety. The one downside of this method? No extremely delicious roasted pumpkin seeds to enjoy afterward.


When the doorbell starts a-ringing on All Hallow’s Eve, it can be a true juggling act between standing by your own personal convictions about healthy eating and not wanting to be “that house” — you know, the house that everyone under the age of 12 avoids like the plague because you’ve gained yourself a reputation for handing out bags of baby carrots and vegan brown rice marshmallow treats. It’s a shame, but chances are if you opt to dole out healthy snack options in lieu of sugary name-brand confections, they run the risk of later being unceremoniously discarded, not snarfed, by their recipients. While thoughtful and ultimately more delicious, going the homemade route is also risky — and potentially wasteful — as some parents still eschew any edibles that aren’t pre-packaged in fear that Junior may chomp into a razor blade. Food allergies can also be a concern here.

brain lollipop

There is a compromise, however. There’s tons of candy out there that, while appealing to kids, won’t leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Sure, these items won’t send kids clamoring to your stoop in the manner that a king-sized Snickers bars can, but they also won’t result in disappointed eye-rolling for a 9-year-old dressed like a pirate. Keep an eye out for organic lollipops, vegan gummies and fair trade chocolates. The Natural Candy Store has one of the widest selections of organic, fair trade, vegan, corn syrup-free and made-in-the-U.S.A candies out there. (That's their brain candy lollipop.) All are free of artificial flavors, sweeteners and colorants. Looking to go the gluten-free route? Don’t fear, perennial Halloween favorites like Necco Wafers, Mike and Ikes and Lemonheads all make the cut.

Other thoughts and ideas on how to go green for Halloween:

  • Send the kiddos off with reusable trick or treating bags that they can use year after year. Customizing old pillowcases works, too.
  • Use a solar-powered lamp or shake torches when out on the prowl for candy (or hand them over to the kids for the night).
  • Watch horror movies ... with an environmental twist. Films featuring killer vegetation, anyone?
  • Participate in a local National Costume Swap Day event.
  • Bobbing for apples? Buy 'em organic.
  • Replenish your body by plotting a day of post-sugar rush detoxing.
  • Beware toxic imported Halloween costumes.
  • Walk, don’t drive!