Halloween is spooky by nature, but it doesn’t have to be a scary time for the environment. You can have a jack-o-lantern full of Halloween fun while helping to protect and preserve the environment. And save a lot of money!
Halloween has become a very scary occasion, and not because of the ghouls and goblins that haunt the neighborhood this time of year. What began as a harvest festival has turned into a celebration of commercialized excess – second only to Christmas in terms of consumer spending.
Stores are filled with mass-produced Halloween decorations that cost a fortune and may not even survive the season. Why spend a lot of money on plastic junk when you can use stuff you have lying around the house to make your own creepy concoctions? Go green this Halloween by skipping the shopping spree; have a fun-filled weekend craftactular instead.
The history of Halloween
The original celebration of Halloween or “Samhain” was held on the eve of November 1 as a brief time between the seasons when spirits could mix freely with humans. A Celtic festival, Samhain’s purpose was to placate dead and evil forces and to please the gods after the end of the growing season. It was a time between the joys of the harvest and the hardships of the winter to come.
Animals were sacrificed for winter storage, their life-energy was returned to the dormant soil to replenish it. Revelers donned costumes and masks to ward off evil spirits, and fires were lit to ward off the coming darkness.
Centuries after it was first celebrated, by Scottish and Irish immigrants, descendents of the ancient Celts, who brought the tradition of Halloween to North America in the 19th century. Feasting and costume balls highlighted the early North American celebrations. It wasn’t until the early ’50s that door-to-door trick or treating became popular on Halloween. By the ’90s, Halloween had evolved into the major commercial event that it is today.
Raid the garbage and recycling bins. What did you find? Tin cans, glass jars, plastic containers and toilet-paper rolls? Perfect. Now let’s see what Halloween goodies you can create out of these items.
Turn the tin cans into luminaries (a fancy word for candle holders) with a little paint and a hammer and nail. Use the hammer and nail to punch holes in the can. They can be random or in spooky Halloween designs like pumpkins, ghosts and cats. If that’s too hard, just punch holes around the top and bottom in a row all the way around the can, and then a few in the middle. This helps the candlelight shine through. Paint fun Halloween colors and designs on the cans with acrylic paint. Add some candles or flameless LED lights.
Transform the glass jars into crafty candy containers or fun candle holders. You can glue on paper designs, add stickers or paint the bottles with acrylic or glass paints. If you are creative and skilled, you can even etch the glass with fall designs. Get unwrapped colorful candy in bulk and add to the candy jars for colorful displays. Or place candles inside to make them scary luminaries.
Turn the toilet-paper rolls into fun favor boxes and creepy little crafts. With some paint, stickers, pipe cleaners and maybe even a few jewels, you can turn plain and ordinary into something surprising and extraordinary. To transform them into simple Jack O’ Lanterns, paint them pumpkin orange, let them dry, then paint black or yellow faces on them.
Turn plastic containers into fun Halloween creatures. Plastic laundry soap bottles can be turned into spooky black cats and big orange pumpkins with a little bit of spray paint for plastic and a good imagination. To make a cat, paint the bottles with black spray paint (suitable for plastic) two or three times to ensure solid coverage; then let them dry overnight. Use craft foam, plastic jewels and pipe cleaners to give the cat ears, eyes, a nose, whiskers and a collar. Glue everything on with a hot glue gun.
Get ghostly with old sheets, pillowcases or tablecloths. Old white or very light blue linens can easily be made into ghastly ghosts that you can hang indoors or out. You can toss a sheet over a ball or a “head” made of stuffed newspaper, tie something around the head and let the rest of the sheet float freely. Get fancy and shred the bottom of the material to let it float freely in the breeze. You can even get really creative by adding some blood spatter with red paint or taping in some battery-operated LED lights for glowing creepiness.
Welcome trick-or-treaters and party guests with scarecrows, zombies or dismembered body parts. Use old clothes to create spooky creatures and dismembered parts that can be placed in chairs, seated on benches or arranged shockingly wherever you wish. Stuff the old clothes with other old clothes or crumpled newspaper; then add a mask or a pumpkin as a creepy head. Add a small tape recorder with some creepy sounds or a moving animatronic hand to really give people a fright.
Incorporate natural elements as part of your spooky Halloween and seasonal decor. Pumpkins, gourds, squash, cornstalks, dried corn and apples look great arranged artfully together, especially when you add fall flowers like mums, marigolds and late-blooming sunflowers. The tops of pumpkins can be cut off, scooped out and filled with water, then used as a decorative vase filled with flowers. Artful arrangements are easy to make; just group everything together in a way that pleases you.
Carve some pumpkins. The trusty Jack O’ Lantern is still one of the best ways to decorate green for Halloween. Grab some pumpkins, have a family fun night and see who can carve the best pumpkin. Then don’t forget to light them up on Halloween.
Commercial pumpkins are generally grown with pesticides and herbicides, so try to purchase locally-grown, organic pumpkins and limit to one. Even better, if you have a vegetable garden, commit to growing your own next year.
The most commercially made candy is loaded with high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, chemicals and preservatives and may contain genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. Opt for organic, fair trade candies that are locally produced, 100% fruit snacks, granola bars or trail mix for little “treaters” this year.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a non-recyclable, known carcinogen that can release toxic chemicals and it’s found in the soft vinyl used to make plastic Halloween costumes and masks. Avoid PVC by making costumes from discarded clothing or visit a charity store such as Goodwill or rent a costume that will be reused again and again.
Commercial makeup is not regulated and may contain parabens (known to cause breast cancer) and phthalates (sperm damage and reproductive problems), so look for non-toxic face paints or make your own by adding food coloring to 30 ml of shortening and 30 ml of cornstarch.
Disposable plates, cutlery and glasses used for parties end up in the landfill, so use your own reusable plates or rent items as needed. To set the perfect mood, go for for beeswax or soy candles instead of paraben wax candles that release toxic gases into the air and are made from petroleum. Be sure to cover candles with glass hurricanes to reduce the risk of fire and extinguish before leaving the room.
Commercial Halloween decorations are made from plastic or Styrofoam, which are difficult to recycle and are made from petroleum – a non-renewable resource. Use your creative flair and try decorating with items from your garden (like fallen tree branches and leaves, corn stalks, apples, and dried flowers), which can be composted after the big night.
Purchased ghouls and goblins are expensive and usually made from plastic , but white sheets can make great ghosts and strips of old sheets can be used to create a very scary mummy. To light up your haunted house, go with LED lights, which use significantly less energy and last much longer than the ordinary variety.
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