October 11, 2008

Have a Mindful, Green Halloween (Start with Fair Trade Chocolate and Eco-Friendly Costumes).

It’s estimated that in the U.S., we spend $5 billion dollars on costumes, candy and decorations for Halloween. Imagine the impact upon our wallets if we first bought less, and on the environment if we made different choices for the things we do purchase for the holiday.

Let’s start with candy.Many Halloween treats are chocolates. Look for chocolate that is certified Fair Trade. Why? According to certification organization TransFair, “Fair Trade certification ensures that cocoa farmers receive a fair price for their harvest, creates direct trade links between farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers, and provides access to affordable credit. On Fair Trade farms, slave labor is strictly prohibited and farms are inspected to ensure that Fair Trade standards are being met.” Yes, you read correctly: slave labor. It wasn’t until I worked for a company that had a Fair Trade product within the last year that I became aware of the conditions under which much conventional cocoa is farmed.In the spirit of October being Fair Trade month, let’s continue to educate our friends and neighbors! Co-op America has great resources to help spread the word on this issue. You can also order a “Fair Trade Trick or Treat Action Kit” through Global Exchange.Good choices for individually-wrapped Fair Trade chocolates for Halloween include: Sweet Earth Chocolates (skulls) and Divine Chocolate (eyeballs).

What about other goodies? I love Clif Bar’s kids snacks, and they have an organic bar made with whole oats in a ‘smores flavor, complete with spooky packaging. There’s also YummyEarth Organic Fruit lollipops, sweetened with cane juice, not corn syrup. Vegan? Check out a list of vegan candies here.  National Geographic’s The Green Guide also has an extensive list of healthier and eco-friendly treats. There’s also the idea of passing out non-edibles, like these neat pencils made from 100% recycled content. For collecting treats, I always used a pillowcase as a kid. Reusable grocery bags also work and Chico bags can hold up to 20 pounds! Also thanks to Grist for the tip on adding things in good condition but no longer needed by your household to your porch offerings. Back in Brooklyn, we’d do this all of the time, books, CD’s, clothes, are left outside and they’d disappear so fast. Why not offer quality goods to someone who may need it with all of those extra visitors to your porch or stoop on Halloween night (and save the addition to the landfill)?

On to costumes. Get creative for the best eco and inexpensive options. (In the fifth grade I went as a Christmas present –seriously- all we needed was large box, some wrapping paper and a bow). Check out your local thrift store or eBay for clothing pieces that can be re-imagined, have a costume swap with friends whose children are different ages, using get-ups from previous years. EnviroMom lists some great ideas to avoid the imported, cheaply made once-worn regulars that we’re used to seeing. If you’re of the crafty sort, Sprig just ran a great article of ten homemade costumes with photos and instructions.And if you are short on time, try Sarah’s Silks, costumes made with renewable sources in monitored factories.

Decorations are a fun way to make your home an eco-friendly spot for hosting friends or passing out candy. Choose organic pumpkins and buy less. We tend to forget that they are a food source in addition to a decoration and that many are simply thrown out at the end of the season. Toast the pumpkin seeds from jack-o-lanterns and use others for eventual cooking (recipes here) and then, compost what’s left over. Squashes also make beautiful decorations until it’s time to cook them! If you’re into the traditional ghosts and ghouls, read this article on how to make some spooky décor from recycled goods and things already in the house. Or check out these incredible 1960’s vintage Halloween decorations I tracked down. Set the mood with soy or beeswax candles, or try energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs in Halloween colors.

Before you head out the door, remember that it’s all about safety. Here are some good general tips for Halloween night, and also one of the best I came across was via the Red Cross, “put reflective tape on bikes, skateboards and brooms” and look I even found eco reflective tape! And thanks as well to Care2, for some good tips on keeping your pets safe on Halloween as well.

While your kids are at their trick-or-treating best, why not help them to support children in other parts of the world? Consider supporting UNICEF’s “Make Halloween Count” youth action program.

Okay after writing this I am really getting excited for Halloween. I’m about to send a friend one of Grist’s e-cards.

I hope this information is helpful in greening your Halloween, and if by chance this couldn’t possibly be enough links for you, try Green Halloween. As noted in the latest issue of Elephant, it’s an excellent resource to help you to do something different and healthy for your family and the Earth on this holiday.

Happy Halloween!

Photo via Sprig.com

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