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Eco Mom's Halloween: The Good, the Bad, and the Tiny Candies

Our Halloween morning started earlier than I would have liked. I still had a few last minute touches to do on my son's handmade costume. My daughters' costumes were easy this year. I found larger versions of the costumes they requested at Goodwill, so all I needed to do was to alter them to fit smaller people. My son, however, requested to be Wally, the Red Sox mascot, and it was a tall order, but I managed to put it together mostly on time and I'm pretty proud of the results.

I sent the kids off to school with their reusable grocery bags stuffed with costumes and hoped their classmates would be kind about their homemade and makeshift outfits. Last year, when my daughter went dressed as a my attempt at a hummingbird, she went all day answering to "narwhal" and "unicorn", but she was feeling more optimistic about being Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia (little did she know, few of her classmates had read the books). My youngest, in her hemmed ready-made bee costume, and my son, in his obvious Wally attire, were good to go.

When I picked up my preschooler a couple hours later, my first pangs of eco-anxiety began. Her class was still deeply involved in a Halloween party and so I waited fifteen minutes in the classroom watching carton after carton of store-bought bakery goods, tiny wrapped gummies, and juice boxes opened, consumed (or not), and thrown into the trash along with the paper napkins and plates. The kids were in sugar ecstasy and I was trying not to think about the healthy lunch I planned to feed my daughter or about the rising pile of trash. Looking around at these teeny people, each with their own machine-made, presumably brand new costume was also getting to me.

Costumes. Every year millions of children in this country buy a new costume for this one day. Then the next year, we do it again. What happens to all the costumes? Why do we need to buy a whole new costume each year? It blows my mind! I know not everyone can sew and I feel very lucky that I can, but I do know everyone is capable of going to Goodwill and other thrift stores as well as ordering pre-used costumes online and asking friends, family, and neighbors for hand-me-down costumes. Why waste the money and the resources on a newly made costume each year?

On the way home from picking up my older kids from school, my son reminded me that we hadn't yet bought any treats to put out for trick-or-treaters. Now, you're probably expecting me to say that I put out apples we picked ourselves or homemade cookies or something, but no, we put out tiny individually wrapped candies just like everyone else. Why? Because people are scared of each other and of germs and I know only our neighbors and friends, who know me, would take something like that. Plus, my kids wouldn't have it. Even they have their limits and they don't want to be known as the house that gives out apples anymore than anyone else's kids do. So we bought two bags at our local Rite Aid on our way home.

After a quick snack (apples!), we went to our annual neighborhood Halloween parade and then off to trick-or-treat. As my kids grabbed handfuls of tiny wrapped candies, I couldn't help thinking about how pointless plastic wrapping is. First, the candies are made. Then they are covered in plastic. Then the plastic is ripped off and trashed. Then the candies are eaten. Even if you buy chocolates at a local candy shop (my favorite is Granite State Candy Shoppe in Concord), the chocolates are taken from their tray, wrapped in paper and then handed to you so you can unwrap them (I ask them to be handed directly to my children who immediately pop them into their mouths).

Candy. I don't know how Halloween candy could be done better, but there must be a way to do it that doesn't involve so much plastic waste. Our family avoids plastic candy waste the rest of the year by avoiding candy (unless it is handed to us over the counter as I described above), but at Halloween we are throwing out just as many wrappers as any other family because I can't deny my kids trick-or-treating. I guess maybe that is what we can do about it. Save wasteful things like wrapped candy for special occasions, like many cultures save meat-eating for holidays.

Headed home with tired children after a long walk, we were greeted by our spooky Jack-o'-lanterns carved from local pumpkins and lit up by beeswax candles (I only grow pie pumpkins, so we support local farmers and buy our carving pumpkins from them). That last moment felt good again... before I went inside and raided my kids' Halloween bags. Hey, when you only eat Starbursts once a year, it's hard to be patient!

Happy November - Don't forget to plant your garlic!

- Hannah


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