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A Zero Waste Halloween…with Kids

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I love the fall season. There’s something about leaves falling and cool weather that makes me happy. I used to love summertime, but I’ve found that summer and winter give me climate anxiety. Every summer is the hottest year on record and every winter seems milder. So I’m super excited to share my own zero waste Halloween article with a focus on families.

Disclaimer: There is no such thing as zero waste. Even the most ardent zero wasters produce waste. Even if they purchase ALL of their consumables from the beautiful bulk bins at Whole Foods, the store still uses packaging. Utilizing the bulk bins lowers an individual’s overall packaging, but it doesn’t eliminate it. Most zero wasters still send waste to the landfill and recycle. Zero waste is the goal, but rarely the result. Remember, there is no such thing as a perfect zero waster.

Zero Waste Halloween Costumes

This has been a tough one! It’s difficult enough to find ethically-made sustainable clothing. It’s even more difficult to find ethically-made Halloween costumes. Before I was a zero waster I bought cheap Halloween costumes without a second thought. The costume was always made in China under unknown conditions. I’m sure there are factories overseas in which employees are treated well and the resources are harvested sustainably, but this seems to be few and far between. There has been documentation that some textile companies utilize Chinese prisoners. So finding a sustainable, ethically sourced costume has been my top priority.

In short, I have NOT found a company that makes sustainable or ethical Halloween costumes. This is a market we desperately need. In lieu of clicking a button to press “BUY,” I had to do some serious legwork. It reminded me of being a kid. As a child from a low-income family, I had to cobble together my own costumes.


Shop Your Closet

The best option for a truly zero waste costume is to use what you already have. If you have an old Halloween costume, break that bad boy out again. You can also put together a simple costume from items in your closet. Here are 22 homemade costume ideas from Bustle.

Shop Secondhand

Another option is to buy secondhand. Online thrift shops have gained traction. You can visit your local thrift store or check out Swap.com, eBay, and thredUP.

Costume Rentals

The costume rental business is a small industry, but it does exist in some mid- to large cities. I recently found a costume rental business in my hometown through Yelp. The rental fees may be equivalent to purchasing a cheap costume online, but it will be worth it. Costume rental companies typically have high-quality theatrical costumes. theAcme has a list of U.S. costume makers and rentals.


Custom Made Costumes

I found some reasonably priced handmade costumes on Etsy, which is where I ultimately purchased from. Etsy is a great option for the budget-conscious zero waster, but buying on Etsy doesn’t always mean handmade anymore. There are quite a few items on Etsy that are manufactured overseas and resold. I’m not sure how this isn’t a violation of Etsy’s policies, but this seems to happen all the time.

NYC Play Blocks


I’ve searched high and low for low-waste individually wrapped candy. For holidays like Christmas and Easter I typically buy candy from the bulk bins, but Halloween is different. Parents are typically very cautious about allowing their children to receive unpackaged candy from strangers. The packaging will likely end up in a landfill (which is anaerobic) and will not degrade, but cardboard or paper wrapping is miles better than plastic.

Did you know that you can buy from Dollar Tree and Dollar General online? Dollar Tree allows shoppers to purchase in bulk. You can purchase an entire case of candy. Dollar General sells individual boxes of candy packaged in cardboard. Boxed sells candy in large packages (which lowers your overall packaging wase). Amazon has a large cardboard box of Junior Mint mini boxes. I ended up purchasing most of my Halloween candy at Target. The candy from Target comes in a large plastic bag, but it’s individually wrapped in the cardboard, waxed paper, or foil packaging.

Listed below are all the candies I could think of in low waste packaging.

>Dots (cardboard)
>Junior Mints (cardboard)
>Milk Duds (cardboard)
>Whoppers (cardboard)
>Nerds (cardboard)
>Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups (foil)
>Bits O Honey (waxed paper)
>Hershey Kisses (foil)
>Mike & Ikes (cardboard)
>Fun Dips (paper)
>Hot Tamales
>Super Bubble Gum (waxed paper)
>Sugar Daddy (waxed paper)
>Tootsie Rolls (waxed paper, however, sometimes they come in plastic)
>Good n Plenty (cardboard)
>Red Hots (cardboard)
>Taffy (waxed paper)


I personally love all things pumpkin. Needless to say, I purchase lots of pumpkins. The best thing about pumpkins is they are completely compostable. I’m fortunate to have a local composter nearby and my local government offers free composting, but not everyone has the space to compost, the funds, or the municipality. If you fit into this category, head over to BioCycle and enter in your zip code to find a local composter.


Halloween Alternatives to Candy

I won’t be passing out toothbrushes or toothpaste for Halloween, but coloring books, crayons, books, pencils, note pads, or puzzles are fair game. There are quite a few items children can enjoy other than candy. Admittedly candy is the main event, so perhaps a package of candy and one of the items listed above?

Avoid Seasonal Coffee Drinks

This one is for the grownups! Fall is also synonymous with Starbucks’ Pumpkin Spice latte. Innocent enough right? Inhabitat Design examined the true cost of all those extra non-compostable or recyclable coffee cups we go through this time of year, along with the resources required for all that java. ⁣I haven’t given up the occasional Starbucks cup of coffee, but it’s interesting food for thought.⁣

I hope you’ve enjoyed some of my zero waste Halloween tips. What are some of your favorite zero waste fall tips and tricks? I’d love to hear about them. Find me on Instagram.

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