By Jana Fischback
Halloween is just around the corner. If you’re like me, you haven’t bought candy yet. Not because I’m a procrastinator - though maybe that, too - but because I know if I buy it ahead of time, I’ll have eaten it all myself before the 31st rolls around. This year, it’ll be harder to gauge the number of trick-or-treaters we might get, since many parents may opt for other ways to celebrate Halloween with less contact.
If you haven’t purchased candy yet, here are some green tips: Opt for candy that comes in little, recyclable cardboard boxes, like Nerds or Milk Duds. When choosing candy, also consider the ingredients. Palm oil is often grown in tropical areas that have been deforested, which is not only bad for the climate crisis but also for the habitat of adorable animals like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger and clouded leopard. I first became aware of this issue while working as the Sustainability Coordinator at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium. [That's me with a clouded leopard cub. The zoo had a lottery for non-keeper staff and my name was drawn for an up-close encounter!]. PDZA was doing an awareness campaign about “responsible palm oil” at the time, petitioning large food companies to use responsibly-sourced palm oil. Unfortunately, palm oil is in thousands of products and is disguised by all kinds of names, so boycotting it is largely ineffective. However, you can check out Orangutan-Friendly Halloween Candy from the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo for a list of brands that have committed to responsibly-sourced palm oil.
If you’ve got kids and decide to skip traditional trick-or-treating, you might opt for local events with less contact such as drive-thru options downtown at Pybus or the Town Toyota Center. If you do, try to reduce unnecessary idling by turning off your vehicle while waiting in line. If you’re a two-vehicle family, and you’ll all fit in one, bring the more fuel efficient one, since you may be in it for a while if the lines are long.
And what costumes for kids? Cheap costumes are almost always made from polyester and don’t last. Making your own is great, using things you already have. If you’re not crafty, try setting up a swap with friends. Writing this made me dream of an annual event, in the spirit of Women Service League of NCW’s amazing Prom Dress Giveaway, where parents can drop off old costumes and shop for this year’s all at the same time. For now, at least check out local thrift stores such as Goodwill and the YWCA Thrift Store for costumes and inspiration. Another idea is to create a costume with clothes that can be reused. For example, this year my family and I will be dressed up as Goldilocks and the three Bears. I found a Goldilocks-ish dress for my daughter that she’ll (hopefully) re-wear, and a cozy bear outfit for my baby that he can wear during the winter months. Both were bought used on Mercari. As for the kids’ candy haul, we’ll be grabbing a pillowcase or a reusable shopping bag that we already have for grocery shopping, instead of buying a plastic bucket.
I’m not trying to be a buzz-kill here, but then, there’s pumpkins. I love walking around my neighborhood seeing cheerful orange pumpkins on every doorstep. But as you can imagine, those pumpkin add up to a lot of waste. In 2018, American farmers produced more than a billion pounds of pumpkin! And a whole lot of them end up decomposing in landfills. Unfortunately without a municipal food composting service here, most pumpkins here probably end up in the landfill, too. Patrick Jordan, Stemilt’s Organic Recycling Center Operations Manager, says their facility is not well set-up to take a large amount of pumpkins, so putting them in your yard waste bin is discouraged. In the past, they’ve created a mess and some unwanted pests for Stemilt. So after you’ve made the most of your pumpkin - roasted pumpkin seeds! pumpkin butter! pumpkin dog treats! - compost it at home, if you can.