Top Tips For a Sustainable Halloween

Looking to be more sustainable this Halloween? Find out how with this complete guide!

Sustainability is important for the planet but also for the economy and our communities. The United Nations refers to sustainable consumption and production as “doing more and better with less.”[1] When we look at it from that approach, it makes it easier to feel like our everyday decisions can truly make a difference if we take time to approach them with care. 

These days, there’s a chance to choose more sustainable options for every part of our lives, including celebrating our favorite holidays like Halloween. Read on for our tips to enjoy a more-sustainable Halloween without sacrificing any of our favorite traditions, from eco-friendly decor ideas to upcycled costume inspiration, we’ve got you covered for the spooky season.

#1 Be Picky about Your Pumpkin

When it comes to Halloween and fall decor, pumpkins are the easiest way to make an area feel festive. With pumpkin patches in full swing, we have a chance to support local farmers and pick a few gourds to grace our doorways and tablescapes. However, it pays to be picky.

First, shopping locally supports small businesses and also cuts down on gas emissions from middleman transportation. It also reduces packaging, especially when you’re plucking the product directly from the patch! Plus, it gives you a chance to feel more connected to your community and learn about where your produce grows.

Second, by being picky about your pumpkin selection, you can reuse it for baking or cooking. There are certain varieties that are best for these purposes, like sugar pumpkins and Long Island Cheese pumpkins, but ask your local farmer for their recommendations. Chances are your Halloween decor can be used to prep for your Thanksgiving meal as well, as both pumpkin chunks and pumpkin puree can be stored in the freezer for several months.

#2 Get Crafty with DIY Projects

Channel your creative side with DIY holiday decor made from recycled products. Your options are only limited by your imagination.

How about a hanging ghost? All you need is an old, white sheet and some newspaper.

  1. Ball up the newspaper and place it in the center of the sheet to form a head.
  2.  Gather the sheet under the newspaper “head” and tie it off with rope or twine.
  3. Add face stickers to the front of the sheet or use a non-toxic marker for the eyes and mouth, and voilà!
  4. Finish by adding a simple ornament hook at the top of the head to make it easy to hang your creation when ready.

Another crafty and sustainable project is to recycle old cans to make tin can luminaries. These lanterns will show off your seasonal designs when lit from within

  1. Peel the labels from old tin cans and rinse them well
  2. Fill the clean cans with water and freeze them (The ice creates a solid fill inside so you can hammer your designs into the outside of the can without denting them.)
  3. While the cans are freezing, draw your designs onto a sheet of paper the same size as the label and tape them to the cans once frozen.
  4. Use a hammer and a nail to tap holes all along the lines of your designs.
  5. Once the ice is melted, pour out the water and place rechargeable LED tea lights in the bottom of each can.

This project allows you to upcycle household items and use energy efficient lighting (while also avoiding the risk of a real flame catching fire!).

#3 Shop Secondhand

Whether it’s Halloween decor or clothes and accessories for this year’s costume, shopping secondhand allows you to reuse products. (Plus, it’s more budget-friendly when compared to shopping for new items.) According to thredUP, buying used closed vs. new vastly reduces carbon emissions, energy demand, and water use associated with producing new clothes.  Purchasing a used item vs. a new one diverts the clothing from landfills and displaces greenhouse gases used to make one item, reducing its carbon footprint by up to 82%.[2]

Thanks to a rise in demand, the ease, accessibility, and affordability of shopping secondhand have all risen as well. The website, Sustainable Jungle, compiled a great list of online thrift stores, making finding gems online a cinch.  Another online option is Etsy, which supports local artisans, many of which ethically source their products and practice sustainability.

To further reduce your carbon footprint and support your local community, take a trip to your local thrift stores, and peruse neighborhood garage & estate sales to find what you need to make the holiday festive. If you take the time to look around, we’re certain you’ll uncover some hidden gems.

#4 Host a Costume Swap

How many of us have worn a costume once and then tucked it away in storage to be forgotten about forever? Hosting a costume swap is a fun, sustainable way to build this year’s Halloween costume with bits and pieces supplied by your friends and family. Ask everyone to dig out their own past costumes and host an exchange in the weeks leading up to Halloween.

This is an eco-friendlier alternative than relying on the mass production of fast fashion costumes that leave behind a big carbon footprint. (Statistics show the fashion industry produces 10% of all carbon emissions.[3])

Buying a new costume every year also tends to be pretty pricey. Why not repurpose materials and give your wallet a break? A few of our favorite reusable costume ideas that are easy to put together are:

  • Rosie the Riveter - All you need is a denim button down shirt, tied at the waist, a red bandana in the hair, and red lipstick.
  • Superhero - A cape and a mask and you’re good to go. Doesn’t get much simpler than that.
  • Fairy - A set of wings can turn you into an angel, fairy, butterfly… whatever you want to transform into come Halloween.

Homemade face paint goes a long way when putting together a costume within minutes. A well-placed scar or all-green face can make you part of the festivities. Simply use ingredients you already have in your pantry, such as cornstarch, lotion, vegetable oil, and food coloring for a homemade mixture. PopSugar has a great recipe for this here!

#5 Use Biodegradable Products

Whether you’re having a Halloween party or searching for trick-or-treat bags, pick products made from recycled, biodegradable and/or compostable materials. Brands like Green Paper Products offer certified compostable cutlery sets  that are non-toxic, non-porous, and petroleum-free.

Swap your trick-or-treating bags for one made from 100% recycled material, like these Bagito Bags, made from 100% recycled plastic..

Susty Party is another compostable party goods option with products made from sustainably sourced materials that are non-toxic and are created from renewable or recycled content. They offer everything from paper towels to cups and napkins, all of which are designed to biodegrade in a home or industrial compost.

Many brands across all industries are finding alternative ways to ensure their products do their part for the planet. What used to be hard-to-find, eco-friendly options for everyday items are now as easy as adding to your online shopping cart or finding right on your grocery store shelves.

#6 Buy Treats in Bulk or Go Homemade

Buying in bulk reduces packaging waste, not to mention is more cost-effective, so, this Halloween, try to buy fewer, larger packages of individually-wrapped candy for trick-or-treaters.

If you’re planning a smaller gathering at home or on your block, opt to bring homemade treats. Caramel apples, rice crispy bars, and Halloween-themed cookies are big hits among kids and adults at parties this time of year.

Also, while many candy brands are not yet eco-friendly, there are a few taking big steps toward sustainability. Namely, Nestle has switched its Smarties brand packaging to recyclable paper, eliminating up to 250 million plastic packs every year from hitting landfills. The company plans to expand on this by shifting all of its candy packaging to either reusable or recyclable materials by 2025.[4]

#7 Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Nearly every aspect of your Halloween festivities can be sustainable. Reduce the amount of materials you use for decorations and costumes by reusing items you already have around the house.

After the holiday, pack everything you’re keeping for next year in a clearly labeled storage bin so it’s easy to find season after season.

Recycle costumes by donating them to local thrift stores or favorite charities. If the costumes aren’t in great shape, check with your city facilities about local textile-recycling programs.

Lastly, don’t forget to balance an increased sugar intake and stay hydrated through the season with ZenWTR.With these tips to help spark inspiration, you can easily upgrade your decorations, costumes and treats for the good of your community, and our planet. Here’s to celebrating spookiness in a sustainable way!





[1] The United Nations. Sustainable Development Goals. 

[2] thredUp. 2021 Resale Report.

[3] Business Insider. The fashion industry emits more carbon than international flights and maritime shipping combined. Here are the biggest ways it impacts the planet.

[4] Nestle. Smarties becomes the first global confectionery brand to switch to recyclable paper packaging.