Out of the Bag: Green Your Halloween

Suggestions for a more green Halloween

While Halloween seems like the ultimate disposable holiday - costumes, candy wrappers and sad plastic pumpkins - there are steps you can take to have a more environmentally friendly holiday.


  • Look for eco friendly makeup – less harsh on children’s skin, fewer chemicals and so forth.
  • Saturday October 13 is National Costume Swap Day – genius idea!
  • Not all costumes are actually safe. Check this page for a list of toxic free costume manufacturers.
  • Encourage your child (or yourself) to be creative. Why not be a stick for Halloween? Or jello? Or legal briefs? 



  • Use items that have recycled content or can be composted or recycled – ballons and crepe paper (minus the scotch tape) fit the bill.
  • Reuse! Purchase items that might stretch out until Thanksgiving (we have a harvest wreath for our front door.)
  • Recycled egg cartons and cans can make bats, spiders (paint the cups black, push black pipe cleaners through the “bodies” and add some red-painted eyes for spooky spiders!) and pumpkin votives More ideas here courtesy of Eco Women.
  • Treat your Halloween decorations like Christmas decorations — store them and use them again each year. Consider renting fog machines and such. 
  • Be sure to check out the thrift stores. At this summer’s Reuse Fest someone brought an entire set of light up Halloween yard decorations. Check for sales after 2012 and stock up for 2013.

For more suggestions on greening your treats and your tricks, visit our blogpost on this topic.

Why not use the holiday to remind your children of the importance of compassion  for our neighbors? Remember when children used to collect for UNICEF on Hallloween? Some still do. Here are a few ways you and your family can embrace the "spirit" of the season and turn it into a good fairy!

  • Take a few moments to talk about hunger and remind your kids of their goo fortune to be trick or treating, as well as the many ways they can help other children.
  • Sending a snack to school can put a family on a tight food budget on the spot. Offer other ways to get involved. Offer to prepare multiple snacks. Pass along extras discretely to the teacher so she can make sure the children don’t feel isolated if they don’t have an item to share.
  • Most us get too much candy. Discuss how you can share it rather that letting it go stale or forgetting about it. Can you take it to a community center? How about a nearby shelter – volunteer one evening and take it along?
  • Talk about the green impact. Teach your children how to make green choices when they pick out costumers and when they finish up their adventures. Take the children to a thrift store to donate their items. Make the effort to show them a different world in a way that allows them to safely talk with you about it is a good way to help them be mindful of others. It also helps remove stigmas. 
  • If a neighbor isn’t able to decorate, invite the kids to join in your fun. Wrap up the decorating by making an inexpensive by festive snack. Invite mom, dad and grandma to join in, too. 
  • A great family project is this tote bag design contest sponsored by ChicoBag. Kids up to age 13 can participate.
  • Finally, please be mindful that some people do not celebrate. Its important that children understand that just because a family worships or believes different things, that doesn’t mean we can’t get along. If one of your children’s friends doesn’t celebrate Halloween, why not plan an outing with the children a few days later – a movie and a simple lunch, a little road trip?

We’d love to read your ideas on going green and supporting your neighbors during the Halloween holidays.

Please don't forget - a reusable tote bag is a much better option than a plastic pumpkin. Not only is it generally more comfortable to carry, it is something you can donate. Why not include the kids in putting together bags to donate at one of our 18 permanent drop-of spots? I found some funky bags on Etsy and I know there are tons more - for Halloween last year, I bough a Spiderman bag, a Batman bag, a two kitten bags. Be sure to check out Bakery Scare on Saturday, October 20 at Bakery Square in East Liberty - crafters will have tons of handmade holiday items.

Finally, if Haunted Houses are your thing join us for our ScareHouse Tote Drive on Sunday, October 28 at the ScareHouse in Etna. We may bring a few friends. What is scarier than hunger and 98% of disposable bags not being recycled? You can help.

The Pittsburgh Tote Bag Project collects new and gently used tote bags for distribution to the region's food pantries. We are a project of the Thomas Merton Center. Visit our website for a list of permanent drop-off spots, information on how to organize your own tote bag drive and details on our partnerships with corporations and promotional products items. You can also follow us on Twitter @Tote4Pgh and Facebook.com/Tote4pgh

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Sue Kerr October 12, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Kimberly, thank you. Both totes and reusing costumes can be fun activities themselves - it is a perfect opportunity to teach kids how to put green values into action.
dormonter October 13, 2012 at 03:01 AM
Pillowcases for candy. Worked in the 1970's...and those little bags and pumpkins don't hold enough candy. I used to rummage thru the attic for a costume. I guess previous generations were "green" before it was trendy and a political statement. Share my candy!?! Never! Doesn't get stale. Just trying to make the poor kids feel guilty. Recycle the candy you don't like by giving it to Mom to give out to other kids. :D
Sue Kerr October 13, 2012 at 03:11 AM
Ah, yes, I remember the pillowcase well. There was always the decision of when it was heavy enough to warrant a quick drop off at home. While my brother and I hit the street again, my Mum would helpfully sort out the "yucky" candy. Ha. A few of my costumes were store bought, but most homemade. I wouldn't say recycle candy == learn to share! Only by choice instead of sneaky parents ...
Scott Baret October 14, 2012 at 06:37 AM
Here's a good tip--reuse the pumpkins if possible! If you're carving a pumpkin, save the seeds, either as a nice roasted snack or to grow your own pumpkins in the spring. Add the carved pumpkin to the compost pile when Halloween ends. If you're not carving a pumpkin, you can still gut it for the seeds after Halloween (or Thanksgiving if you're keeping it up until then). Of course, you can also add the pumpkin to your compost pile or even let it decompose in an open area (I started a pumpkin patch one year from this; the seeds took hold when the pumpkin broke down and I had several good seedlings by mid-May). Finally, think of creative ways to re-use pumpkins which may hold up a little longer than others. My "Jack be Little" pumpkins always seem to make it past Thanksgiving. Last year, I painted mine red and green and used them as table decorations for my Christmas party! Make sure to enjoy these "teachable moments" to the fullest with your children--or your own inner child!
Sue Kerr October 14, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Scott - how did your pumpkin patch grow? I've been paying closer attention to decorations and I've noticed several dried pumpkins spray painted and reused. And I agree about sharing these creative streaks - I am feeling a challenge to do something creative this year! Thanks for responding.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something
See more »