Friday, October 7, 2011

Halloween and thoughts on consumerism

It's fall here.
The leaves are all starting to change and the nights are getting colder. School is going in full swing and we are adjusting to the next season.

And with this season comes a real challenge for our waste free lifestyle with kids: Halloween.

For years when my kids were younger, I was able to keep them away from trick or treating. We would have parties with friends and dress up and eat treats... but those years are behind us now (if you have young ones - it's not too late). At a certain point, they just can't deny that urge to go trick or treating - and I don't really want to deny them of the fun of going from house to house and being a part of a mob of dressed up kids.

Last year one thing that stood out in my memory was how consumed the children have become with getting as much candy as then can, as quickly as possible. I was noticing that other kids weren't even saying "trick or treat", let alone "please" or "thank you". In this age of staring at electronic devices all day and not having to look eye to eye with others, so many kids have lost their manners. I mean come on - these people are giving you free candy - at least look at them and thank them!

Anyhow, there are many aspects of Halloween that make me think. There are the costumes, the purchasing of unhealthy and over packaged sugar treats made by large corporations that do little good for our environment, and then there is the trash.

But let's start with the costumes.

I generally try to get creative with helping my kids pull together costumes. I've made some from scratch in the past, used things from the dress up box, shopped at thrift stores and even bought new over the years. If I had been thinking more creatively, I probably could have even avoided buying the new costume (I feel like this has maybe only even happened once).
Last year my youngest wanted to be a knight so bad... and while this looks like a store bought Halloween costume, it's actually a hand me down dress up outfit from his big brother - straight out of the dress up box. What a great opportunity to wear dress up clothes outside of the house!

This year is proving to be a bit trickier for him... especially since he changes his mind once a week. Last week he was going to be a ninja, so I was scoping out black shirts and pants and looking for some nice black cloth to turn into a ninja mask. But this week he wants to be Han Solo. Stay tuned for this exciting decision.

I wish I had a picture of what my oldest son was last year, I'm kicking myself for not documenting that one. He and two of his friends decided to be consumerism kids... I can't remember what they called themselves exactly, but they covered white t-shirts with every logo that they could find (all hand drawn) and handed out old monopoly money with the following printed on the back: "We are yet 3 more kids on an already overpopulated planet manipulated by huge corporations to make our peers and ourselves the cynical and alienated youth of today".
He hasn't decided what he's going to be this year, I guess it's hard to top that.
My daughter, however, collaborated with a friend and made a cool costume out of an old shirt and some other supplies. Her costumer was pretty creative as well (she was Thing 2).

I just heard about this really cool idea that I would totally take part in if I was the type to buy Halloween costumes, it's called national costume swap day and it happens to be tomorrow! Have you heard of this? It's a great idea... but why not create a costume swap with some friends any time? I encourage everyone to think like this regularly.

Ok, let's move on now to the candy and the trash. The truth is, I don't have enough energy to go into the issue of small individually wrapped sugar snacks that we all know we shouldn't be giving to kids. Don't get me wrong, I love good chocolate just as much as the next person (except my oldest child, who doesn't really like chocolate at all...) but I am really struggling with the waste that this holiday produces. I'm certainly not going to deprive my kids of their trick or treat experience... but I'm on the fence still about what to do about all of the trash that will come of it! If anyone has ANY suggestions out there (other than banning trick or treating), I'm all ears. Meanwhile, my best plan of action so far is this:
This year, I want my kids to save every single wrapper and every piece of trash from their Halloween candy. I want them first to recognize how much waste this holiday produces, and then I want them to find something creative to do with the trash instead of just throwing it away.

Sadly (and luckily), we don't get any trick or treaters at our house, so we won't have to worry about handing anything out... but what if we did? What are the best waste free options out there? There are always apples... or fresh baked mini muffins... worse case scenario, I would maybe (MAYBE) buy some all natural candies or lollipops made by a company that I feel good supporting and hand those out...

What are your thoughts on this holiday?


  1. First of all, I love all the costumes in this post. Your kids are so creative! LOVE your oldest's from last year. Awesome!

    In past years, I have made costumes, but I've found that until E becomes less fickle, I'm not going to invest the time. We went to the kids' used/consignment shop and there were tons of costumes for under $10. We found a very well made, cotton, non-branded race car driver costume for $6. Pairing it with a baseball hat, he's good to go. He's very excited.

    The kids we went trick or treating with last year were very dead set on getting as much candy as possible, even if they couldn't eat it all by NEXT Halloween, and never said please or thank you. The parents weren't there to correct them, but E watched it all and mimicked the behavior. It was a lesson to me in making careful considerations about who we go trick or treating with. Also, I will tell E that the requirement for trick or treating is please and thank you. I don't like to threaten with consequences too often, but hopefully "otherwise we'll go home" probably will work in this case.

    About the trash, I have no ideas. I feel that for this, it's too large to fight. Your idea of focusing on lessons and awareness for kids is a good one - the trash generation, greed, manners and taking only what you will need/use.

    We are giving out little packs of Utz Halloween pretzels. Trash in those, but at least it's a local PA company and there's no HFCS.

  2. Don't people make bags and wallets and things out of old wrappers? I don't know if those little halloween wrappers are long enough. Maybe tiny fingers can fold tiny wrappers...

  3. Anonymous - thanks for those links... We are totally making bags out of any wrappers that we end up with!

  4. It is too bad that wrapped candy is the safer bet, but I love the idea of making something out of the wrappers. Maybe next year's costume???

  5. I think the only thing you can hand out to kids that doesn't have a wrapper and wont be thrown away is money (small coins/small toys). I'm a survivor of growing up when razor blades and other sharp objects were placed within food and given to kids. I wouldn't trust unwrapped treats from strangers... BUT! What if you started a Halloween cooperative? Similar to a Farmers Market... it would take the entire neighborhood to participate in healthier/cleaner/environmental choices. But with the right neighbors and some education I could really see it take off.

  6. Anonymous,
    Great idea. Let's all keep thinking like this and work towards some change.