Reducing plastic waste in a world that seems to be wrapped in it is no easy task, and that challenge is multiplied when it comes to holidays. From gift giving to decorations, plastic is everywhere. To avoid it takes a conscientious effort and a plan. With Halloween festivities on the horizon, we’ve put one together for you. When planning for a plastic-free Halloween, remember to encompass all aspects of the event to eliminate the greatest amount of waste.

kid in homemade burglar costume and kid in homemade skeleton costume


Trick-or-treating is an important element of the holiday for most kids. Even those that don’t head out for the door-to-door ritual find themselves needing a costume for a school dance, community event or house party. Even adults participate in the fun. Costumes create an opportunity to invite plastic into your home, especially ensembles that are store-bought. Order one online, and you’ll likely see additional plastic in the packaging.

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The best way to avoid plastic in your costume is to make it yourself. Focus on cloth designs, especially those with organic cotton and other natural fibers. Also, look for ways to use paper or cardboard instead of plastic. Watch those accessories, too: plastic belts, pistols, staffs and hats. If you can’t go entirely plastic-free to complete the look, at least avoid new plastic by borrowing or buying secondhand.

glass jars with toy spiders and bats on a line with paper bats and spider webs


Decorations are to blame for massive amounts of plastic. Skip the giant inflatable ghost or skeleton on the front lawn in favor of a more eco-friendly wood or metal option. Build a haunted house out of a giant cardboard box, or pull together those wood scraps to carve out a black cat. Old pallet boards make fun and easy decor a possibility. You can create single signs or stack boards of different sizes on a stake for a spooky or friendly front porch decor option.

Inside the home, Halloween wreaths will last for many years if they are made from burlap, straw or hemp. Accessorize with mini pumpkins, berries, fall leaves or wood cutouts for a look that incorporates the elements of fall. For the mantle and other surfaces, look to the natural options around you. Carve a pumpkin or decorate the outside with a cloth hat and a painted-on face. Similarly, carve out apples and use them as candle votives.

Glass is another fantastic decor material that produces light and color in fun ways. Use paint to decorate canning jars, or fill them with LED lights to use as centerpieces or hanging decor around the pergola. Use glass platters or bowls to display your spooky collection of ceramic witches combined with pine cones. If you already have plastic items in your home, get as much life out of them as you can. It’s more damaging to trash them while they’re still useful than to reuse them. Just replace items with plastic-free options when the time comes.

apples in metal bucket with water

Party items

Halloween parties are a fun and festive way to celebrate the holiday. But make sure your celebration honors the planet with plastic-free options that everyone can enjoy. Pass on the plastic cups in favor of regular glassware, and provide dishware and silverware. If you don’t have enough dishes, elect for paper plates over Styrofoam or plastic. For a silverware shortage, try planning your meal around finger-foods instead. Serving delectable, utensil-free meals saves on both garbage and cleanup.

For games, go with the traditional bobbing for apples or pinning the (paper) hat on the (cardboard) witch.

brownies with powdered sugar and Halloween shapes like pumpkins, bats and spiders

Food and candy

A quick visit to Pinterest will provide a ghastly number of finger-food appetizers that require no plastic to make or serve. But you might find it challenging to purchase food without the plastic component. Fresh fruits and vegetables are always a good option. Create hot dog or sausage mummies by wrapping them with strips of croissant dough. Make a scary taco dip with a spider web designed out of sour cream and use chips as your utensils. Of course, just about any sandwich or tortilla can be cut into the shape of a bat for an easy treat.

Related: This year, dish out these eco-friendly Halloween treats

For dessert, dish up brownies or pumpkin-shaped cookies, or fill candy bowls with bulk options rather than individually-wrapped treats.

cloth pumpkin bag on a sidewalk


When it’s time to canvas the neighborhood, bypass the plastic pumpkin or bag. Instead, employ a reusable shopping bag or even a standard pillowcase to haul treats. You won’t be able to avoid the plastic that others hand out in their homes, but you can take charge in deciding what treats you give the goblins and superheroes that appear at your door.

Stay away from plastic trinkets and give out wooden pencils, small books, reusable straws or friendship bracelets instead. Look for individually paper-wrapped candies to skirt the plastic waste. You can also offer homemade goodies, although many parents will pass on accepting them as a safety precaution. Small apples also make a waste-free option. Of course, you could avoid the “treat” portion altogether and perform your best joke, imitation or magic gag to fulfill the offered “trick” option instead.

Halloween is a fun season full of parties and festivities. With a little forethought, it can be free of plastic, too.

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