Halloween is scary enough, not to mention the significant amount of waste that usually results. The good news is there's any number of ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle Halloween stuff -- here are a few to start.  

By UVA 3rd-year student Halle Krantz

It is SPOOKY season! Halloween is right around the corner, and students all around the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville area are deciding how they will celebrate the holiday weekend.

Family dressed in DIY costumes for HalloweenCostumes are one of the most essential aspects of the holiday. People dress in a wide array of costumes, from vampires to angels to everyday objects like tables. People are buying candy to give away for trick-or-treaters, and of course, for themselves. Many students and community members are decorating their houses with pumpkins and scary signs. All of these activities can be wasteful, so I am going to give you some ideas to make this holiday a Green Halloween.

DIY Costumes: Many of us do not realize what we have in our closet that can make an original costume for Halloween. Shop in your own closet! Look what pieces you already have that can make a cute costume so you can save money and reduce your consumer impact. Do It Yourself costumes, have become very popular in recent years. These costumes use what you already have, with maybe a few small purchased items to create your own costume rather than buying it from online or a Halloween store.

Thrifting: Thrifting has become extremely popular in recent years. Rather than buying new clothes online or going to a store to find a costume, you can go to your local thrift store to make it a more sustainable holiday. There are many original costumes you can put together by thrifting, such as Cher and Dionne from Clueless. Check out this article for more ideas on thrifting for Halloween. There are many second-hand stores in Charlottesville to find clothes for Halloween and year-round, including ReThreads, Goodwill, SPCA Rummage  and Twice is Nice. A more comprehensive article on thrift shops and second-hand stores is linked here.

Post-Halloween Costumes: After the holiday, make sure to dispose of your costumes sustainably. There are multiple options to recycle Halloween costumes. You can donate them to a thrift store or a clothing drive, give them to friends to use next Halloween or use them for another dress-up event. You can also sell your costumes so it is reused and you make a profit. The only thing you should not do is simply throw your costume away!

Sustainable Decorations: Halloween decorations are essential to make it a spooky holiday. There are ways to create DIY decorations that are sustainable and reduce waste. Some examples include egg carton bats and yarn spider webs. There are a variety of different decorations that you can make, which you can find at this link. If you do not want to DIY, another option is to find compostable or sustainable decorations online and use those for your Halloween décor.

Organic Candy: Candy for trick-or-treating contributes to the Halloween waste. A great alternative to candy like Hershey is buying organic candy. Some possible options for organic candy include Justin’s and Alter Eco. There are more options you can find online, including at this blog discussing organic candy alternatives.

Chiles Peach Orchard in Albemarle County

Local Pumpkins: Pumpkins are an important Halloween tradition. Kids and adults love to carve faces and shapes into pumpkins and make jack-o-lanterns. To make carving pumpkins a more sustainable activity, you can get pumpkins that are locally sourced and organically grown. There are many places in Charlottesville to go pumpkin picking, including Chiles Family Orchard and other orchards. 

Pumpkin carved with COMPOST ME Composting: Your family can start a new tradition of composting pumpkins and other Halloween supplies. The UVA Office for Sustainability Service Learning team is planning to participate in a pumpkin take back, meaning you can bring pumpkins to the designated area and they will bring them to Black Bear Composting. If you do not live in the area, you can bring your old pumpkins to a local composting area or compost in your own household.

If you decide to make just a few of these changes to your typical Halloween, you will be doing your part to make Halloween a more sustainable holiday. Some of the changes are easy while others are a bit more difficult — do whatever you are ready to do! Anything helps. Let’s make this a Green Halloween!


Halle-KrantzHalle Krantz is a third year at UVA studying Public Policy & Leadership and Global Sustainability. She is an employee of the UVA Office for Sustainability on the Service Learning team and is interested in environmental policy and law. At UVA, she is involved in many other organizations, including Camp Kesem, TEDxUVA, and Pi Beta Phi Sorority. She loves the beach, good food, and quality time with family and friends.