Nova Scotia·New

How to have an eco-friendly Halloween

Candice Batista explains how to have a more sustainable Halloween.

Environmental journalist Candice Batista explains how to have a more sustainable spooky season

Halloween decorations are on display in front of homes in St. Vital Centre, a neighbourhood in south Winnipeg. (CBC / Radio-Canada)

With Halloween right around the corner, many Nova Scotians might be considering how to make costumes and decorations more eco-friendly.

To help Nova Scotians have a more sustainable spooky season, environmental journalist Candice Batista spoke with Portia Clark, the host of CBC Radio's Information Morning, on Tuesday.

This discussion has been edited for length and clarity.

What are the environmental impacts of Halloween? 

Let's start with the pumpkins. Pumpkins are unbelievably amazing — they taste good, they make a great pumpkin pie — but most of the pumpkins that are used during the Halloween period are carved. They sit on the front stoop, people have a lot of fun with them and then unfortunately, most of the time, they throw it in the garbage.

The thing with that is we really want to keep food out of the garbage can. When food ends up in landfills and it starts to rot, it creates methane gas. We know that methane gas is much worse than carbon dioxide, so it actually adds or contributes to global greenhouse gases, which we know contributes to climate change. 

A woman is seen picking out a Halloween pumpkin in Quebec. Batista said pumpkins that are thrown in the trash can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Find other ways to use those pumpkins. The best thing that you can do is to compost it. Use the seeds. You can roast them in the oven, add a little bit of salt and they make an absolutely wonderful snack for you and your kids. You can make bird feeders from your old pumpkins. A whole bunch of stuff.

What can people do to have a sustainable costume each year?

Costumes are part of fast fashion and in many cases, they're made from polyester synthetic fibres that are essentially plastic. Typically, we don't reuse the same costume every year because you want to have the latest and newest trend so those costumes end up going into the garbage.

We want to keep those kinds of things out of the garbage because textiles are typically not recycled in Canada, so we want to make sure that we're reusing those items. 

There's lots of different things that you can do. First of all, you could DIY it, so shop your closet first. If you have an old wedding dress, perhaps you can turn yourself into a corpse bride. Does your dad have an old bowling T-shirt? Maybe you could become a 1970s star bowler, so there's lots of different things that you could look for inside the home. 

The second thing is to look at thrift shops, but when you're buying from these stores, you know that you're only buying [something] to wear once so maybe try to come up with a costume that … you could use again.

You could also rent your costume. Renting is a great way to reduce your footprint in a number of ways. The costume isn't being shipped here from another part of the world and it's not cheaply made and it's not part of fast fashion. 

The other thing is you could swap or trade. You can use apps like Facebook Marketplace to find items and maybe you want to swap your old costume with somebody else. 

There's lots of different things that you can do — just really keeping in mind, "What am I going to do with this at the end of Halloween? Is it going to go in the garbage or can I find other ways to use it or repurpose it or donate it?"

What about decorations?

They're made from cheap plastic and we're literally having a crisis when it comes to plastic. Plastic is interesting because it's an unbelievably durable, cheap product that you can make anything out of, but we're not looking at what ends up happening to a lot of that plastic, and when it comes to decorations — not only are they shipped here, so you've got the carbon footprint of the stuff being shipped here — but then most of the time this stuff is being discarded. 

Instead, people should consider natural things, so using pumpkins and gourds to decorate your house. Using old sheets to decorate the house. We've got an abundance of stuff in Canada and people can go online and look for ways to DIY your decor.

People should also be mindful of some of the decor that can actually harm wildlife. Specifically, if we look at those thin spider webs you put over your trees and that kind of stuff — lots of little critters get trapped in those kinds of things because it's a spider web, right? It works really well at capturing things. 

Be mindful of the fact that biodiversity is very important, our ecosystems are very important. Just be cognizant of the fact that some of these things can actually harm wildlife. 

But if you do have the [lawn inflatables] and all these things — keep them, save them, use them over and over again every single year, if you can.

With files from CBC Radio's Information Morning

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