3 Tips for a Zero Waste Halloween

Guys, it’s here. Leaves falling, sweater weather, pumpkin spice...well, everything. Halloween is fast approaching and I’m here for it—the costumes, the festive treats, the campy decor. And yet, I have love/hate relationship when it comes to the holiday’s waste.

There are the candy wrappers, the disposable decor, the flimsy costumes that look like they might blow off if the wind’s too brisk. I used to buy into it all. Literally.

I filled my shopping cart and apartment with cheap and tacky halloween decor that would break or disintegrate after one use. I would buy the horrible ‘sexy’ [insert the blank] costume that would be used once. Not a good look.  

Luckily, with age and more self and environmental awareness, I’ve come to appreciate the holiday while ditching the disposables. Bring on the pumpkins (real ones, not plastic), the treats (homemade) and pumpkin spice lattes (in my own reusable cup, please).

Here are some of other ways to keep the holiday low-waste:

zero waste halloween

1. Home Decor: Truthfully, with a newborn son, we aren’t doing much in the way of decor this year because...priorities. But, if I were going to decorate, I’d go the repurpose or reusable route. I love the idea of making your own decorations—like construction paper spiders or black crows or witches hats. There are plenty of DIYs out there where you can repurpose household items like these egg cartons bats. I’m also a fan of gourd arrangements (especially ones you can cook with afterwards), candles and reusable or secondhand decorations, especially ones made from compostable or recyclable materials like cotton or metal.

2. Costumes: Call it convenience or thrift, but I am a big fan of shopping my own closet when it comes to costumes. A few years ago, I went as Frieda Kahlo with a dress I already owned from Reformation, a gifted scarf from a friend, vintage booties, some eyebrow pencil and red lipstick. The only thing I bought new was a bouquet of flowers for my hair. I felt comfortable, festive and I even won my work’s halloween costume contest. Win, Win, Win. There are lots of easy costumes you can put together with your own wardrobe and a little creativity. You could also borrow from a friend, or hit your local thrift store for inspiration.

3. Treat-Or-Treat Candy: When it comes to sustainable candy options, it’s pretty slim pickings. Almost all halloween candy is wrapped in plastic, and even candy that comes in cardboard boxes (dots, junior mints, milk duds) still come in a plastic bag. You could pass out something different, like cans of soda? Or do the whole fruit or “treasure” option like books, pencils or feathers (I think it’s cool that people do that, but I’m not for me). Last year, I bought Junior Mints that were packaged in a cardboard box. This year, I think we might pass out Alter Eco truffles—kind of pricey, but we don’t get many trick-or-treaters. Check out my post from last year for more ideas.

There you have it. Lots of ways to celebrate the best holiday while also staying zero waste. This year, we’ll probably be laying low and passing out (and eating) candy with a good classic movie. I’d love to hear what other tips you all have for staying low waste on Halloween!


Lily Cameron

Hi Rachel, I love the rainbow abacus too! I got it at a vintage faire in Alameda and on the bottom there is a label by “Wonder Products Inc”. Hope that helps!

Rachel Lillian

Wonderful ideas, thank you! My eye was also caught by the lovely rainbow abacus type item in the picture for this post. Could you please provide any info as to who makes it or where to find it? Thank you!


Halloween isn’t really a thing where I live, but boy, do I love it anyway! I decorate sparingly with just a big paper pumpkin decoration that I hang on the wall, and I display my favorite spooky books on piles around my bedroom. I’d like to bring in some pumpkins, but they’re quite expensive and I’m not a fan of anything pumpkin-flavored.


I know passing out fruit sounds like a good way to get your house egged, but it has actually been the surprise hit here. When my oldest was 4, I drew Jack O Lantern faces on tangerines for her preschool class. The kids loved them so much I put a bowl out on Halloween night as an option for the many little kids in our neighborhood. To my surprise, ALL the kids went nuts for them. Teenagers saw what their little siblings had and came back to ask for one. A Halloween tradition was born. I do still have a bowl of (palm oil free) candy, I admit, but I will always have a bowl of tangerine Jack O Lanterns, too.

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