Halloween comes only once a year, but it carries with it a hefty carbon footprint and a whole lot of waste. From the wear-it-once costume to the plastic decorations and the individually wrapped candy, Halloween isn’t traditionally the most environmentally friendly holiday — but with a bit of creativity, you can have a far more sustainable (and equally spooky!) celebration.
Here are some facts about the environmental impact of Halloween:
- The National Retail Federation predicts that in 2023, Americans will spend a record $12.2 billion on Halloween supplies (including costumes, candy, and decorations), much of which will only be used once.
- In a sample of more than 300 store-bought Halloween costumes, about 83% of the material consisted of oil-based plastic.
- One UK study showed that approximately 12.8 million pumpkins are thrown away each year after Halloween, contributing to the already massive global food waste problem.
- Some experts estimate that each individual trick-or-treater generates one pound of trash. (Considering more than 28% of Americans plan to take their children trick-or-treating, that’s a lot of trash.)
Ready to plan your environmentally conscious Halloween celebration? Read on for DIY Halloween costume ideas, plastic-free DIY Halloween decorations, and sustainable Halloween candies to add to your kids’ trick-or-treat bags.
10 DIY Halloween Costume Ideas
- A zombie. Upcycle old, stained, or ripped clothing items by tearing them even more for an instant, DIY zombie costume! To make your costume even more timely, carry some cordyceps mushrooms a la The Last of Us.
- A classic cat. All you need are some black leggings, a tail, some whiskers, and a pair of pointed ears for a last-minute, DIY cat costume. Make your own cat accessories using construction paper or, if you’re handy with a sewing machine, some scrap fabric and stuffing.
- Cardboard box costumes. Leftover cardboard boxes = a vast array of sustainable Halloween costumes. Save yours up in the weeks before Halloween, then use them to transform into a robot, the Tin Man, or even Barbie herself in her iconic pink box. Remember to recycle them when you’re done!
- ‘80s prom. Hit your local thrift store (or a relative’s closet) to dig out all the tulle, lace, and bow ties you can find to create a delightfully tacky prom look straight out of the ‘80s.
- Where’s Waldo? All you need is a striped shirt, a pair of round glasses, and a red beanie to recreate this classic character.
- A mummy. Have some old sheets with stains or holes? Tear them into long, frayed strips to create a better-than-store-bought mummy costume (and better yet, save it to wear again next year!)
- A skeleton. Cut the “bones” out of white construction paper or scrap fabric, then hot glue them to a set of black sweats for a DIY skeleton costume.
- A chef. Grab an old apron, a whisk, and an oven mitt for a cute and nearly waste-free chef costume. Want to make it even more official? If you’re crafty, you can also make your own chef’s hat using white tissue paper.
- A farmer. Grab a pair of denim overalls, a flannel shirt, and a pair of boots for the base of this DIY farmer costume. If you have them, add a stuffed cow for extra cuteness, or a straw hat to top it off.
- An NFL player. If you’re a sports fan, you likely already have your favorite football player’s jersey. Add some shoulder pads, leggings, and black paint under the eyes for an environmentally conscious, DIY Halloween costume. (Optional: a football as an accessory!)
Zero-Waste, Upcycled, and DIY Halloween Decorations
- Gather fallen leaves and branches from outside to create mantle pieces and centerpieces that showcase the natural beauty of the season.
- Cut eye holes into white sheets, then hang them from your porch or the trees in your yard to create ghosts that flutter in the breeze.
- Instead of wasteful, artificial spider web decorations that pollute the environment, create your own spider web decorations using strips of scrap fabric from other crafts.
- Cut classic Halloween characters (think: ghosts, goblins, cats, and zombies) out of cardboard from old boxes, then paint them black and hang them in your windows to create spooky silhouettes.
- Try out these quick and easy Halloween crafts using everyday household objects to create your own spooky, sustainable Halloween decor.
- Decorate your sidewalk on Halloween by placing small tea lights safely inside upcycled glass jars.
Sustainable Halloween Tips
More healthy and sustainable Halloween tips:
Step Into the Spirit Realm with a Halloween Recipe for Rosemary Apple Picnic Pies
Healthier Halloween Candies to Hand Out This Year
Allergy-Friendly Candy, Sustainable Costume Ideas, and More Tips for a Healthy Halloween