Holidays,  Zero Waste

Sustainable Halloween Guide

Who doesn’t have fond memories of dressing in tacky costumes, eating tons of candy and running amok? Halloween is the best holiday for kids and adults alike.

As you start becoming more eco-conscious, it becomes blatantly apparent Halloween is a huge source of waste and unsustainable practices. The Halloween industry completely revolves around disposable items. It’s estimated that Americans will spend $9.1 billion on Halloween this year, with the majority of spending on costumes, candy and decorations. That’s A LOT of stuff. Plus, cheaply made costumes, decorations and candy are full of hazardous chemicals and ingredients that are unhealthy for us and the environment.

Halloween is a celebration worth experiencing to the fullest, but we shouldn’t have to sacrifice our sustainable values to do so. Use this guide to have a fun Halloween experience while staying eco-conscious too.


Photo by Buffalo Exchange

What better way to celebrate Halloween than by creating a unique, earth-friendly costume? It gives you the chance to get your creative juices flowing and it means you won’t be supporting the unsustainable costume industry. Plus, when you buy a generic costume from the party store, you run the risk of bumping into five other clowns in the same costume, and that would be tragic. Luckily, there are some fun ways to create the costume of your eco-friendly dreams!

Buy secondhand. Thrift stores are one of the best resources for Halloween costumes.  There’s always an eclectic mix of pieces, including fully packaged costumes, for a fraction of the cost. Many thrift stores even have special sections for Halloween, so it’s easy to find what you need to be that hippie, warlock, or sports star.

Other places to find secondhand costumes (or finishing touches): yard sales, estate sales, resale shops, Buffalo Exchange, your friend’s closet.

Rent a costume. Not into DIY? Rent a full costume! Do a simple online search for costume shops in your area, and check them out. By renting, you get a high-quality, unique costume to impress your family and friends.

Get clever. Who says you need to be something basic for Halloween? Instead, use your costume to align with your values and start conversations about sustainability. Save your trash for a week and recreate Rob Greenfield’s 30 days of trash challenge. Save old cardboard from that Amazon package and make an avocado costume (we love a pregnant friend who did just this for a recent party!). Transform into a plastic bag person. The ideas are endless if you think of interesting people prompting more sustainable practices.

More costume ideas and inspiration:



Use what you have, make your own or borrow from friends! There’s no reason you need to buy a makeup kit for a one-night event. Everyone knows a makeup junkie, and that friend can save you cash and help you avoid wasteful purchasing. If you do need to buy that perfect eyeliner to finish your costume, find something you can use more than once to spice up your beauty routine and shop eco-friendly brands.

Other Halloween makeup ideas:



It’s easy to get festive for Halloween without buying cheap plastic decorations. With a little creativity, you can create a creepy, cute or spooky Halloween vibe.

Some ideas:

  • Find decorations at thrift stores or resale shops.
  • 6 DIY Halloween Decorations Made with Upcycled Materials from inhabitat.
  • Utilize pumpkins! Pumpkins are wonderful decorations for the fall season. They add pops of color and can be used for soup when you’re done.
  • Carved pumpkins. Use seeds for roasting, and compost when they start to rot. Get creative without paint to make it as earth-friendly as possible.
  • Get crafty with scratch paper, old toilet paper rolls and twine. With some scissors and an afternoon, you can whip out spooky figurines, banners and more.
  • Spooky ghost jugs (for inside or outside). Such a simple and adorable DIY.
  • Fill small bowls with bulk candy for some extra Halloween decor and temptations.

Halloween Candy

Food wrappers are consistently in the top trash found on beach cleanups, such as the annual International Coastal Cleanup Day. Plus, many candies include animal products, palm oil and other not-so-festive ingredients.

Do what you can to find more sustainable candy options. Some ideas to get you started:

Buy individual candy sans-plastic. Think cardboard box candies like Junior Mints, Dots and Milk Duds.

Bulk candy. Many bulk options come wrapped (so you can safely give them out) but will still save you on some plastic wrap…because a little plastic saved goes a long way!

Sustainable palm oil candy. Check this guide for companies committed to using only certified sustainable palm oil in their candy. Candy includes Nerds, Sour Patch Kids and Justin’s Peanut Butter Cups.

Vegan candy. Vegan candy ideas include Dots, Swedish Fish and Airheads.

Buy eco-friendly candy. Support sustainable candy brands like Glee Gum and YumEarth Organic Candy.

Non-candy treats. Ideas include coins, small art supplies, seed packets, cool gemstones and kid’s books (for some inspiration, check out Books for Treats). Look for non-candy options that’ll still appeal to your neighborhood kiddos.

Collecting treats. Use what you have. Don’t buy a cheap plastic pumpkin container when a pillow case will work-and work even better because you can collect more! And we all have reusable shopping bags now, right?! If you have kids and they absolutely need a cheap plastic container, let them pick out their own container from your local thrift store.

After Halloween

Halloween Candy Buy Back. Give your candy to a local dental office (or business) to support the troops, and get some goodies in return. Check here or with your dentist.

Donate, save or reuse items. Hopefully, you picked decorations and costumes that you can reuse-if so, save for next Halloween or incorporate in your home the whole year (who doesn’t love a well-placed skull decoration?). If you’re ready to let go of something, donate to a friend or a local thrift store.

Compost organics. If you have jack o’ lanterns, compost them after Halloween. Instead of going to waste in a landfill, they will quickly breakdown to create rich compost to nourish next year’s garden.