Help! - How do I do a plastic free Halloween?
Tips for a sustainable halloween by Claire McCluskey
In my old age (early onset due to Covid-19) I have forgotten what fun is. So as Halloween approaches, I'm getting nervous. Isn't fun what Halloween is supposed to be about?! As the days get shorter and Winter approaches, the ancient Celtic tradition of Samhain marks a time where the boundary between this world and the next can become blurred, allowing ghosts to enter and weave their weird ways amongst us. The only way to protect yourself from their spooky boldness is to dress up, play games and have FUN, so you remember to feel the full expression of your ALIVEness! That's how I interpret the historical references anyway.
But, feeling so decrepit and out of touch as I am now, I realise I need help. Uninspired, I can't remember on my own, how to 'Halloween'. I need a spark to jog my memory... - but of course! The youth of children will surely do the trick! So I hop on my broomstick and out I go.
It just so happens I know these cool kids across town, so I figure I'll ask them if they have any ideas. On my way, I stop to pick up a barm brack to bring with me - I may have forgotten how to have fun but I still have my manners. Standing in the shop I notice something weird – there are all these things out for Halloween; loads of decorations and costumes... I guess it should be exactly what I am looking for, but everything is all shiny... its all covered in PLASTIC. Plastic masks, plastic pumpkins - even all the treats are in it. Plastic takes years and years to break down and causes so much damage to our environment. Halloween is only for one night, and even though I want to have fun - I don't want to generate so much pollution. That's way too much Trick and no Treat at all!
‘When you are bored of a costume, you can share it with someone else’
Now more concerned than ever, I know I need to talk to my friends, pronto. Do you know my pals, Corin and Daithí? They really do know how to have fun, and they also know a LOT about the problem of plastic. As I pull up on my broom outside their house, they're already out in the yard, running a jumble sale for their neighbours. I spot a really cool hat out of the corner of my eye, but there's no time to get distracted. We have work to do! And thankfully they have LOADS of ideas! Lucky for you, I will share them here, so you can have a Maximum-Fun Plastic-Free Halloween too!
Corin and Daithí at their successful jumble sale
step 1: treats
First things first, at Halloween, treats reign supreme. But what to do about all the plastic sweet wrappers?
- buy bigger boxes of treats and divide them up, instead of buying the single serving bags - this helps you cut down on loads of packaging
- buy loose apples - and dip them in melted caramel or chocolate!
- monkey nuts are in season and they have their own natural wrapper that biodegrades - and they are loads of fun to crack open too!
- if you have a Halloween bonfire, marshmallows are great (again buy big bags so that you use less plastic than individually wrapped)
- hang donuts from the ceiling using string and try and eat them with your arms behind your back - a treat and a game all in one!
• and why not make some treats yourself? Fairy cakes or buns are super quick, easy and double the fun - to make and then to eat
‘Halloween is all about the spooky atmosphere’
step 2: decorations
As Daithí always says, Halloween is all about the spooky atmosphere. The shops might try to sell you plastic cobwebs and ghosts, but those are for chumps. Instead - we need to go back to our ancestral traditions... and carve pumpkins! The great thing about pumpkin carving is that you can have competitions for the best designs, they biodegrade (and you can eat them!) and you can put candles inside to get a great spooky flicker for telling ghost stories.
For extra Halloween vibes, you can get creative and make your own bunting and hanging decor; Daithí's favourite thing to do is make ghosts using tissue paper and his balled up socks!
step 3: costumes
But my main concern, I explain to the lads - is how can I get a really scary costume that doesn't have plastic in it? All the masks I saw in the shop were made of plastic or polyester. And as plastic lasts for such a long time, my single use costume will still be around even when I become a real ghost, and that's not the kind of spooky I am after!
Corin jumps straight to the rescue with some fab ideas:
- make something: Using cardboard, old clothes, whatever you can find - you can give new life to old materials in a really fun way!
- face paint: You don't need a mask, your own face can be scary enough!
• bedsheets: Remember the classic ghost is a sheet with two holes! You can also use black bedsheets for batwings, colourful bedsheets for superhero capes, you name it! And forget about those plastic pumpkin bowls for collecting sweets in - a pillowcase is more sustainable and MUCH more spacious = more treats!
And don't forget, says Daithí, you can:
• reuse, share or swop costumes!
When you are bored of a costume, you can share it with someone else who will have new enthusiasm for it! With a proud flourish he shows me the costume department of his jumble sale, full of really excellent items donated by his friends. It's perfect for someone looking for new-to-them dressing up ideas, and it also saves all these things being thrown out and more plastic being created.
I decide to investigate that hat after all, and I find it actually goes really well with my broom! Maybe I still have the Halloween spirit after all..?!