Unfortunately, many of our holidays have become an opportunity to buy stuff that is used once and then tossed in the garbage. Halloween is an especially hyper-commercialized celebration with individually wrapped candies, disposable costumes, plastic accessories, and disposable decorations galore. But don’t be spooked, there are plenty of ways to treat the environment kindly on Halloween. Here are my five favorite eek-o-friendly Halloween decorations that you can make at home.

girl collecting fallen leaves

1. Upcycled jack-o’-lanterns

I thought of this DIY decoration just last week (although I’m sure someone smarter than me has already done it), and it’s already made the top five of my favorite Halloween-decorations-to-make list. I really wish I had thought of it when my daughters were younger because it’s easy, fun, and not messy at all.


  • Clear plastic bottles from your recycling bin
  • Orange paint (or red and yellow) — most any type of paint will work
  • Water
  • Black Sharpie (or another black marker)

Remove the label from your plastic bottle. Use a black marker to draw your jack-o’-lantern face on your bottle. Fill your bottle three-quarters full of water and, with a paintbrush, add some paint to the water. Put on your lid and shake until your water is orange. Add additional paint as needed. When your pumpkin is the right shade of orange, fill with water to the top and replace the lid tightly. TIP: If you put your pumpkin outside and you live in a climate where your pumpkin might freeze, don’t fill with water to the top because it might burst.

Now you have an adorable pumpkin that you could put anywhere.

Another thing I love about this DIY is that when you’re done using your bottles for decorating, you can simply rinse them out and pop them back in the recycling bin.

upcycled plastic bottle jack-o-lanterns

2. Spooky terrariums

This project is a great way to get your kids out in nature. Have them hunt for tiny pinecones, twigs, moss, and rocks. If you have them, you could also use small Halloween-themed things from around the house like skulls or blackbirds.

assemble the spooky terrarium on the upside-down lid of your container


  • Glass jars with lids from your recycling bin (we used an empty pickle jar)
  • Moss, leaves, twigs, etc.
  • Rock (preferably one that could look like a gravestone)
  • Marker or paint
  • Other small Halloween-themed decorations (optional)

Search outside for moss, twigs, pinecones, and rocks that fit into your jar. If you’re using a rock for a gravestone, use a marker to write RIP on it. Then, build your spooky scene on the upside-down lid of your jar. Remember that you’re going to need to screw the jar onto the lid, so make sure you leave some room around your scene (we learned this the hard way). When your scary miniature landscape is finished, screw the jar onto the lid and enjoy.

This, like the upcycled jack-o’-lantern, could be recycled when you’re done with Halloween. Or, you could reuse it for a Thanksgiving-themed terrarium.

spooky terrarium

3. Ghostly hanging leaves

This Halloween decoration couldn’t be easier and it’s a fun craft to do with your kids. It not only gets them creating a boo-rific Halloween decoration, it gets them outside while they’re finding different-shaped leaves to turn into their ghostly creations.


  • Leaves
  • White paint
  • Black marker
  • White, black, orange, or purple string

painting the ghostly leaves

Make cute, inexpensive Halloween ghosts by painting leaves white, then drawing a spooky face with a marker. Glue on a string to hang your ghosts on a chandelier or on some trees in your yard.

4. BOO board

If you have any old fence board or other scrap wood, you can make an adorable Halloween decoration.


  • Scrap wood
  • Paint

First, sketch out a design for your board based on its shape. I had a discarded fence board that I rescued from going to the landfill, so I decided to make a vertical design. I also incorporated a couple of bats and a cobweb. Next, paint your design on the board, let it dry, and put it on a mantle, by your front door, or anywhere people can see and enjoy it. When Halloween is over, store it to use again next year.

DIY "boo" board

5. Yard monsters

Everyone needs a yard monster (or two). Here’s an easy and environmentally friendly way to make these delightful Halloween decorations.


  • Paperboard from the recycling bin
  • White paint
  • Black marker

making the yard monster

Gather some paperboard from your recycling bin, like a cereal box. Flatten it out and paint it white. Once the paint has dried, you can draw on your eyes. Then glue or tape a string on the back of your eyes. This will be used to tie your eyes to a shrub or small tree. You could also make angry eyebrows or a Frankenstein mouth. Let your imagination be your guide.

yard monster

Keep in mind that the holidays are a time to enjoy time and traditions with your family and friends. With a little creativity and some stuff from the recycling bin, you can lower the impact your holiday celebrations have on the environment.

This post was originally published on October 26, 2017.

By Wendy Gabriel

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in California. Wendy's work has been featured in numerous publications and websites, including the Chicago Sun-Times, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Fox Business News and Mashable.com. For nearly six years, she was a weekly contributor on a popular radio talk show in the Upper Midwest with a segment titled “Simple Tips for Green Living.”