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Put a Little Less in the Landfill this Halloween

Halloween has got to be the least green holiday there is. Nothing is more single-use or disposable than a holiday you celebrate by buying an outfit to wear once while setting out eating bowls full of individually wrapped candies as your child dons a piece of plastic with a superhero painted on it that probably won’t even make it to the second house before it is torn, let alone make it to next year to be used again.

Image via The Green Dandelion


The good news is that precisely because Halloween is such a celebration of the disposable, it actually makes it easier to find ways to be a little greener about this holiday. There are lots of options for reducing your contribution to the landfill this Halloween; for example, you can avoid buying a new costume by using thrift store clothing or by participating in a costume swap. For Halloween decorating, you can get creative and buy repurposable items at secondhand stores. You can even organize a Halloween party with activities, toys, and homemade desserts instead of trick-or-treating for individually wrapped candies.

Or if all that sounds like way too much work, you can still have an impact just by buying different treats at the grocery store to hand out to trick-or-treaters. Remember the 3 R’s of environmentalism: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Good luck applying “reduce” to Halloween treats, and don’t go near “reuse”, but giving out candy with recyclable packaging is an easy way to put more green in your ‘ween.

Here’s a list of Halloween treats with the greenest packaging to get you started:

A can of pop is one of the greenest Halloween treats you can give out. The packaging is 100% recyclable and new pop cans are back on the shelves in as few as six weeks. Even the outer packaging is fully recyclable if you buy the pop in the cardboard cases instead of the plastic-topped flats. Cases of pop are regularly on sale at grocery stores, making a single can cost $0.25 – compared to $0.30 each if you give out Halloween chips. As a bonus, trick-or-treaters frigging love cans of pop.

Juice boxes follow closely behind cans of pop in greenness. They are usually even cheaper per unit than pop if you buy them on sale, which they regularly are in grocery stores. Minus the straw, the entire juice box is recyclable.

Chiclets, Smarties (the chocolate kind, not the American Smarties that Canadian trick-or-treaters know as Rockets), chocolate raisins, chocolate peanuts, and boxed raisins all come individually packaged in cardboard, which is 100% recyclable. Buy in large quantities to reduce outer plastic packaging waste and avoid that internal debate you always lose anyway about how much candy you should buy.

Snack-size containers of Jell-O and applesauce usually come in plastic cups with foil lids. Check the bottom of the containers for a recycling symbol and make sure your city’s recycling program accepts it. If the foil lid is actually made of foil instead of silver plastic, it can usually be recycled too.

Halloween molasses kisses, Tootsie rolls, and bubble gum all come in waxed paper wrappers that can be tossed in the green bin for composting. Or you can toss the candy in the green bin too since I never met a kid who liked those rock-hard Halloween kisses.

And finally, the single greenest Halloween treat you can give out that has absolutely no packaging, will never end up in the landfill, and is universally liked by all trick-or-treaters: coins!

When the single-use saturnalia that is Halloween is finally over, parents can take in any candy their kids don’t want to work and watch it disappear. Any truly unwanted candy can be composted … along with the jack o’lantern.

Saving the planet is a nice side benefit to going green, but I have to admit I'm in it for the money. Why pay more for new when used is better?

3 Responses to “Put a Little Less in the Landfill this Halloween”


I used to love getting toothbrushes. Not recyclable, but useful at least.


    Lisa H

    Toothbrushes on Halloween, that has got to count as irony.

Betty Higgs

Back in the good ole days, everybody used to go through the old clothes to make up a costume!! 🙂


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