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Tips for a sustainable Halloween

Like most other holidays in 2020, Halloween is going to look a little different this year. While we may not be comfortable attending large parties or even taking our kids trick-or-treating, we can still have a blast celebrating Halloween from home. Regardless of your plans, here are some tips to help you reduce waste and otherwise protect the environment during Halloween season. 

When I think of Halloween, one of the first things to come to mind is candy! When purchasing candy (either for trick-or-treaters or yourself, no judgment here), look for brands produced by companies that are committed to improving the sustainability of their supply chain. Palm oil, which is in over 50% of household products like candy and snacks, is of particular concern. The Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping App can help you find sweet treats made with wildlife in mind. 

Another thing that quickly comes to mind is costumes! Costume shops are full of mass-produced options, most of which are made from polyester – aka plastic. Instead of buying a new costume, coordinate with some friends to costume swap. This way, everyone gets a new costume, but no new resources are used. Another great option is to dress up as a real person or a fictional character that wears everyday clothing and accessorize. Look to your favorite historical figures, mythological characters, scientists, TV shows, movies, musicians and actors, or careers for inspiration! You could even draw some inspiration from Zoo Atlanta and dress up as an animal care professional. You might already have appropriate clothing, but if not, you can probably find what you need at a second-hand shop. Does your character need transportation or a little something extra? A cardboard box or a wagon can easily be decorated to become a rocket, pirate ship, race car, submarine, or any number of things for both kid and adult costumes. Either way, you won’t need to purchase new items. Saving money AND the environment? That’s what I’d call a win-win. 

Finally, one of my favorite things about Halloween is something we get to enjoy for more than one day – decorations! And there are many ways to decorate sustainably. Have some family fun making your own decorations out of recyclable materials such as paper and cardboard (I hope you saved a couple boxes from all that quarantine online shopping!). Or for a more natural look, use pumpkins and decorative gourds. If you choose a generic autumn theme, you can even leave them out through Thanksgiving (keep them inside or in the shade to help them last longer). For your Jack-o-lantern (or Jill-o-lantern), look for locally grown pumpkins to reduce the emissions associated with transportation – visit the Georgia Grown website to help you find options near you. Or for even more family fun, spend a day together at the pumpkin patch! No matter where you buy your pumpkin, consider composting it when the time comes so it doesn’t end up in a landfill. 

These are just a few ideas for how to reduce the ecological footprint of your holiday celebrations, but the possibilities are endless! Anything that prevents waste (trash) or reduces your carbon footprint is more sustainable than single-use options or products that require new materials. While you’re planning your festivities, asking yourself a few questions can help you make more sustainable choices. Is this item reusable and/or recyclable? Did it require new materials to make? Can I create this with materials I already have? If you’re visiting us for Boo at the Zoo, we look forward to seeing your sustainable costumes! Either way, we’re wishing you a very scrappy Halloween! 

Sarah Hamilton
Interpretation Specialist

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl