Tips for a Sustainable Halloween

by | Oct 18, 2021 | Culture, Environment

October is upon us, which means lots of pumpkin carving, scary movies, and of course, trick-or-treating! While Halloween brings on childhood nostalgia, there’s more than one spooky thing about the holiday: waste. Making some simple swaps to your Halloween habits will ensure a sustainable Halloween this year and beyond.

Dressing up is arguably one of the best parts of Halloween, but it’s important to consider the resources and materials that go into that process. Every year, over 80% of the components of Halloween costumes are plastic, and a whopping 2,000 tons of plastic waste is generated from those costumes being thrown away. That’s equivalent to 83 million plastic water bottles! 

Have you thought about the aftermath of your Halloween costume? Do you donate it? Reuse it? Throw it away? Whether you’ll be out and about or handing out candy from your doorstep, there are several ways to make your costume both scary and sustainable. 

Go Thrifting

Thrifting is a great way to bring life back to an item. Whether you need a few staple pieces or want to revamp an old dress into a princess gown, thrifting allows so many creative liberties. Fast fashion cycles lead to millions of tons of clothing in donation centers, where they await a new owner, before a large amount ends up in landfills. Textile waste accounts for about 8% of all solid waste, or 10.5 million tons a year! Not only does thrifting give clothes another round of use, but you can likely piece together your costume at a discounted price, as thrift stores are typically much lower cost than buying new.

Thrifting can also help you find decorations to use year after year for a sustainable Halloween now and into the future! Look for candle holders, seasonal platters and plates, and even bed sheets to drape over furniture for a spooky feel.

Get Crafty

Need a superhero cape? Grab a bed sheet that’s been sitting in the back of your closet. An old pair of cowboy boots can make a great costume accessory. Using recycled materials and articles of clothing that you have is a great way to minimize purchases, and implement reducing and reusing into your Halloween costume. The more we can repurpose items that already exist, the less consumption we create, which saves resources and your wallet. Be creative with it!

Rent a Costume

Some Halloween or costume companies will allow you to rent a costume. Renting ensures that you and others get to use a great costume through multiple uses, without anything going to landfill. Circular economies decrease the amount of resources needed, as the original item is used, worn and loved more than once.

Buy a Closet Staple

If you do need a specific costume piece, find ways to incorporate it into your wardrobe. It might be difficult to find an exact piece in a thrift store, so find ways to wear a newly-bought clothing piece 10 plus times! Current fast fashion cycles encourage consumers to keep up with the latest trends while promoting “affordable” clothing. However, the number of microtrends continues to increase every year, deeming looks from just a few weeks earlier “out of style” and driving goods to landfills unnecessarily. Buying a costume piece that you can wear regularly helps ignore the pressure of fast fashion and discourages a high consumption lifestyle.

Be Respectful

Your costume should not appropriate or disrespect any cultures or marginalized groups, which should go without saying. Cultural appropriation finds itself in the form of costumes that rely on cultural signifiers or negative stereotypes. While some people may not have the intention of harm, appropriative costumes continue to belittle marginalized groups and perpetuate violence and hostility towards the targeted culture or group. Be considerate of your costume this Halloween season; if you feel that your costume may potentially offend or harm anyone, simply find an alternative. 

Ultimately, the most sustainable costumes are the ones that require you to buy less. Reusing items that you have saves money AND the resources that go into making costumes. This Halloween, enjoy creating a fun costume that is scary in only one way!

Candy Considerations

Give some extra thought to your candy selection this year to fully complete your sustaiable Halloween. Try opting for organic and fair trade options for a more planet- and people-forward selection. We love these brands:



  • Anna Larson

    Anna is a junior at Concordia College-Moorhead studying Environmental Policy and Biology/Political Science, with specific interest in environmental advocacy and community outreach. She is extremely passionate about advocating for future generations through environmental education and is a member of her college Student Environmental Alliance as well as a volunteer for Citizens' Climate Lobby.