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Halloween’s Scary Environmental Toll

The scariest part about Halloween is how much plastic we produce, according to climate charities – and they’re calling on consumers to be more sustainable this year. In 2013, Irish consumers spent almost €40 million on Halloween, on everything from costumes to sweets and decorations. In 2014, one in five participants in a Webloyalty survey planned to buy their costume in a discount store, while over 16pc said they would shop online and in stores.  That figure has likely grown in the years since, and last year spending hit a four-month high in October thanks to our Halloween habits.

The culprits include not only the plastic from outfits, accessories and decorations, but the inevitable wet wipes used to scrub face paint off your child’s face, many of which end up washed down the drain.


Over 2,000 tonnes of costumes end up being thrown away at Halloween in the UK, environmental charities Hubbub and The Fairyland Trust recorded in their latest report. In fact, they estimate that millions of outfits end up being binned every year.  The charity surveyed 324 costumes from popular retailers like Aldi, Argos, ASOS, Boohoo, M&S, Tesco and TK Maxx, and discovered that the majority were made from polyester.  They found that 83 percent of the materials used in 324 costume pieces incorporated non-biodegradable, oil-based plastics, the same materials you find piling up in landfills and oceans. Overwhelmingly, these clothing items used polyester (which accounted for 69 percent of materials) over non-plastic options like cotton (10 percent of materials) and viscose (6 percent).

From both a carbon emissions and a water-use perspective, producing fast fashion is a climate nightmare. Even without a precise idea how large a contribution manufactured Halloween costumes might make, it seems safe to assume that so many single-use synthetic garments would have a similarly devastating impact on the environment.

Telling your crying toddler that they can’t have the sparkly new princess dress in the shop can be tough, but with a new wave of climate consciousness sweeping the nation, people are being encouraged to avoid the splurge on one-wear costumes.  Shopping second-hand is one way to combat this. In Dublin, Nine Crows are selling a variety of Halloween costumes in their thrift shop, with everything from spacesuits to pirate get-ups on sale – and they’re all typically under €15.

Face Wipes

To avoid using a copious amount of face wipes to remove stubborn red paint for the lips, try DIY’ing masks or not using face paint at all – something that experts are warning can not only be bad for the environment, but also for skin.

Dermatology nurse specialist Selene Daly, from CarePlus pharmacies, said that the aftermath of using face paints “can be scary”.  “Many of these products contain metals and chemicals which can be harmful, especially for children’s skin. Those with chronic conditions like eczema should stay away from face paints as they’re likely to suffer a flare-up,” she said.


If you’re going to shop, buy pieces that will last instead of having to be thrown out after one use.  If you’re looking for compostable partywear, check out Planet Sustie, a sustainable party shop created by two Irish mums. Their “ethically stylish” products don’t cost the earth and you’re supporting local businesses too.

One nice DIY project the children can get involved in is spooky tea-light holders from jam jars. Using the pages of an old book, draw a stencil of a bat or your kid’s favourite Halloween characters, and cut the shapes out. Glue the page to the outside of an old, clean jam jar – and you’ve a light to challenge any pumpkin.


In fact, the UK’s Marine Conservation Society has said that growing pumpkins can also have a bigger impact on the environment than consumers know. “It requires the use of fertilisers which can run off into water courses and ultimately the sea, causing nutrient imbalances which has an adverse effect on the local marine life,” they said.  “If you are going to carve a pumpkin try and make the most of it and use the insides of your pumpkin to make pumpkin soup or pumpkin pie – when done, compost the remains or put them in the food waste bin.”


Bags of sweets often come with excess plastic packaging, so if you’re hosting a party, why not make your own? There are an abundance of recipes online, but maybe avoid giving to the door-knockers in case of allergies.  If baking isn’t your thing, shop local. Irish bakery Oh Happy Treats sells cakes that are both vegan and gluten-free, and their products are available in several Dublin cafés and online. Or, check out Bean and Goose for handcrafted chocolates made in Co Wexford.

Source – Irish Independent

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