By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Planning a low-impact, money-saving Halloween is so much more rewarding than trying to turn some other holidays green. You don’t have to argue with relatives about whether or not to have a turkey, or disappoint the kids with gifts to humanitarian causes in their names at Christmas. All you really need to do is think creatively, get holistic about your pumpkin, maybe dust off the sewing machine and take it easy at the store.

Here are our best nine ideas to help you get started.

Skip the plastic pumpkin -- eco-friendly bags are he way to go.

1 – Get A Reusable Halloween Bag

This is a no-brainer, the equivalent of buying CFLs. If you can’t do this, hang up your werewolf mask right now. We like this Yellow Label Kids Halloween Treat Bag . Yellow Label says all its bags are made by hand by an artisan who is paid living wages, in accordance with Fair Trade practices. Or you can find a pillowcase for treats. Either way skip the clunky orange plastic pumpkins, unless you’ve already got them, then: reuse, reuse.

2 – Make Your Own Costume

Don’t sew? Keep it simple – a cape, fairy wings, a skirt or a toga can be made from remnant material or old sheets with minimal stitching. Use inexpensive, iron-on fusing tape to make seams. Cut with pinking shears so fabric won’t unravel. We won’t insult your intelligence by suggesting you use a sheet to be a ghost (duh!), but old sheets can make good costume base material. Accessorize princes and princesses with glitzy fabric leftovers from the wedding/party section of any fabric store. We once glammed up Ginny Weasley with a pastiche of recycled duds, using a red robe from two previous Harry Potters, and a moon-and-stars cape from wizards past. Capes, velvety robes and glittering trim can add a lot of drama for little sweat equity. Here are some basic instructions.

Boy Snatched by Alien (Photo: Homemade Costumes)

Boy Snatched by Alien (Photo: Homemade Costumes)

But… if you’re making your own, why stop there? Get creative.  Turn your kid into a child being snatched by an alien, a mom-niacal optical illusion they won’t soon forget (that’s just the kid in the photo; the alien is affixed to his back). Read details at, where veteran costume maker, Colletta, mother of six  and grandmom, showcases homemade costume submissions. There’s some amazing stuff here, from Oompa Loompas to boys dressed as both plane and pilot. (Your kid may not remember being a pirate from a package, but he’ll surely recall the day he trick-or-treated as a cardboard plane.)

3 – Hold a Costume Exchange Party

This is novel idea could work for the under-10 or over 30-crowd. Any grade-schooler whose accumulated a few dress-up outfits and costumes would probably love to trade one in for a “new” one from another kid. So share!  Make it a party by allowing participants to “buy” the costumes with coins or points earned at activities or games. You’ll be recycling and creating a fun experience.

We think this idea, now wafting around the Internet, may have taken flight at, a website founded by Seattle mom Corey Colwell-Lipsome and her mom and partner in green adventures, Lynn Colwell. Green Halloween delivers many ideas for making spooky parties healthier and greener, like skipping the candy and serving black olive and orange bell pepper pizza. See their neighborhood Halloween kit for more.

Pumpkin bread


4. Make pumpkin bread

It’s yummy and healthy. Pumpkins are full of beta –carotene (present in all orange veggies) which is converted to Vitamin A. Some nutritionists consider these orange foods to be Super Foods” with properties that protect against cancer and strengthen the immune system. Another reason to celebrate the orange. Drizzle icing over it for picky eaters or serve plain and warm, a perfect fall treat for a Halloween gathering.

There’s a healthy, light recipe using buttermilk on, and another delicious pumpkin bread recipe on (And countless more, but these two are not too sugary.)


Twisted Fruit snack (Photo: Clif Bar)

5. Give Trick-or-Treaters dried fruit treats...

Treats can be tough when you’re thinking green. There’s a problem from the git-go with all that individual packaging and while you may want to give something healthier, you don’t want to suck the fun out of the evening for visiting Draculas. Dried fruit is one answer. Try Clif Kid Organic Twisted Fruit sticks.

Or combine dried mangos, pineapple, cantaloupe and dates into a sweet mixed-fruit goodie bag. Downside: You’d have to package it yourself, which might raise suspicions that your treat was tainted, leading to its expeditious disposal at the recipient’s home.  Hardcore greenies also might have trouble with including tropical fruit, but there are lots of local dried fruits, from apple chips to dried cantaloupe slices. available stateside.

6. …Or crackers

The University of Illinois Extension service came up with these ideas for healthier treats: Cheese and cracker packages; sugar-free gum; juice boxes; raisin or nut packages or peanuts.  We say no to the Aspartame gum, and hold those peanuts (God forbid you’d give them to a kid with a peanut allergy). The crackers sound like a plan though. Butter crackers, graham crackers. Kids love them, especially after consuming a pound of sweets.

Halloween Crackers (Photo: Martha

Halloween Crackers (Photo: Martha

And wait! There’s a variation. From Martha Stewart (who else) comes this idea for Halloween “crackers”, as  in those party favors that you pop open. She uses orange crepe paper and plastic spiders. No, we don’t think the world needs more plastic spiders, but these crackers do reuse toilet tissue tubes. Fill the tube with selected treats and fulfill your Martha leanings.

7.  Don’t forget popcorn

Kids with braces won’t like you, but popcorn would be a welcome departure for some wee spooks. Here’s an idea that uses a little plastic, but not so much as to violate the green spirit: Take some of those thin plastic gloves that servers wear in cafeterias and stuff them with popcorn. Paint the nails red, add some gashes or creepy tattoos; bind the glove closed with a rubber band and give a “hand out” at Halloween.

8. Decorate with compostable stuff

Straw is really great for animal bedding, but it can be used as a  garden mulch. So if you’re decorating with straw bales for fall, spread it on the flower beds afterward. Dried colored corn can be re-purposed as a winter treat for squirrels and birds. Hang a string of dried garlic on the door to ward off evil spirits on Halloween night, and doubtless you know it can be cooked with later. Cardboard can be easily turned into tombstones, and later used as a weed cover.

De-decorate by turning off all the lights except for a few candles at the door. Put on some scary music, dress like a gangster and you’ve turned your casa into a mysterious manse. (We concede it won’t give Tony Soprano nightmares, but it might hit the right note for small tricksters). Bada-bing!

Heirloom pumpkins

Heirloom pumpkins (Photo:

9. Use the whole pumpkin

If they weren’t orange, pumpkins would be the ultimate green Halloween veggie — and some of them actually are green, or blue, on the outside. These heirloom pumpkins (see picture) make some of the best pumpkin foods. Carve them into jack-o-lanterns at the last minute so you can pull out the pumpkin meat for soup or a pie. Remember to roast the pumpkin seeds. We again defer to AllRecipes for directions on this.

Afterward, take the pumpkin to the compost pile. See Earth 911 for composting directions. If you don’t have a compost pile, fall’s a great time to start using leaves, grass clippings and garden dredge. It’s positively frightening how useful the resulting mulch will be come springtime.

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