Changing how we approach holiday celebrations is one of the simplest ways to model eco-friendly habits for our children. Showing them how to consume less, consume responsibly and consider the impact of our actions on the environment while still having fun demonstrates how easy it can be and how important, too.

Halloween seems to serve as the unofficial kickoff to the holiday season-so what better place to begin?

When gearing up for a hair-raising green holiday, it means that your own closet, recycling bin, and neighborhood thrift store become your very best friends.

Choose decorations that are the right kind of scary. As in, jump-out-of-your-skin spooky, rather than what-is-this-made-of-and-when-the-heck-will-it-biodegrade blood-curdling. Skip the plastic spiders and animatronic pumpkins and go old-school with homemade decorations like scarecrows or pumpkin head people (old clothes stuffed with newspapers), lanterns with votive candles, lots of jack-o-lanterns, or even Dad hiding in the shadows, ready to pounce.

Image courtesy of Madeleine Somerville (thanks for sharing!)

Get crafty with costumes. Remember how our moms used to scoff at store-bought costumes? My proudest moment was strutting off to school in a homemade spider costume, and when I look through old Halloween pictures there’s barely a licensed character in sight. Forgive me this curmudgeonly aside,  but in MY day kids used to go out dressed as brides and clowns, dogs and baseball players. When did things shift to kids having to dress up as the latest character-de-jour from Disney or Pixar? Besides the fact that the costumes are expensive and about as durable as toilet paper, it’s boring! Take your child to a thrift store and hunt around for witch fixins or pirate’s booty. He can exercise his imagination and I guarantee that us old ladies will love him.

Party smarter, not sweeter. For younger children (and older ones, if they’re into it) consider limiting trick-or-treating to a block or two, or skipping it altogether in favour of hosting an annual Halloween party instead (bonus points if you can get the whole block on board!) Kids still get the opportunity to show off their carefully-created costumes without weeks of sugar-high-induced chaos afterwards. A party changes the conversation of the holiday from “How much candy can I get?” to “Oh my god, Dad is doing the robot again.”

Truly terrifying, I assure you.

Trick or … kale? A huge component of waste generated at Halloween comes from the 2.08 billion (you read that right) dollars we spend on candy during this screamy season. And here’s where I actually find myself at a loss for advice – experienced parents, how do you get around this? I would love to hand out an eco-friendly alternative to the conventional sugar-and-plastic-wrapper fest, but I also don’t want my house to get egged because I was passing out kale chips. What’s an eco-friendly mom to do? Fair-trade chocolate? Homemade treats that some parents will likely throw away because of their dubious origins (to say nothing of my scary baking skills)? If you have found a way to sidestep this conundrum, please share your knowledge! I would be ever so ghoulishly grateful.

Feature image courtesy Zombie Leah

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.