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Image: Jack-o'-lantern
Lisa Poole  /  AP file
Instead of using paper streamers and plastic ghosts to haunt your house this year, why not opt for biodegradable pumpkins instead?
By
TODAY contributor
updated 10/13/2008 4:45:23 PM ET 2008-10-13T20:45:23

I’m working to go green this Halloween because I spent so many years of it in red. Red plastic. Yes, I celebrated the majority of my childhood Halloweens decked out as a red devil. A red plastic devil. I sported a red plastic cape (it seems that I was some unique breed of super-devil), red plastic horns and a red plastic pitchfork.

And if memory serves me correctly, each year I also slid into a shiny pair of red plastic pants — plastic pants! Granted, it was the early 1980s, a period not known for its use of organic materials or colors, but all that plastic continues not only to clog up my recollection of Halloweens past, but it’s also most likely still sitting in a landfill waiting to biodegrade.

Halloween can be an especially eco-unfriendly holiday. There’s the single-use plastic of red devil costumes, countless candy wrappers (not to mention the refined sugar, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial color of the candies themselves) and disposable decorations. According to the National Retail Federation’s Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, Americans will spend more than $5 million on Halloween paraphernalia this year. That’s more than $5 million worth of stuff that ultimately ends up impacting the earth.

So this year I’m going to seize the opportunity to right my wrongs. As I get ready to introduce my child to his first Halloween, I’m making sure that I add a bit of earth awareness to the preparations. This is how I plan to make Halloween green:

Organic treats
I am not of the Halloween school of thought that believes it is at all acceptable to substitute sweet treats for, say, an apple (potential hidden razor blades aside) or a box of raisins. But I do think it’s important to give little trick-or-treaters goodies that are made from all-natural, organic ingredients.

This year, kids who knock on our door will be receiving Endangered Species Chocolates organic dark chocolate Bug Bites. Each .35 ounce square of delectable organic chocolate comes with one of 32 insect trading cards. Endangered Species also gives 10 percent of its net profits to help support species, habitat and humanity. Creepy, cool and conscious — just the way I like it.

Another twist on the Halloween treat is individual bags of organic cookies. I’m a big fan of Immaculate Baking Co.’s Pumpkin Gingerlies (pumpkin ginger goodness) and Sweet Georgia Brownies (chocolate on chocolate) — both available in 1.25 oz bags. Immaculate’s cookies are made with organic ingredients and the company has also created a “Soul-Food fund” that supports folk artists of every age and ability.

Creative costuming
The best way to outfit yourself or your little one with a costume that will respect the earth while scoring big points at the Halloween party is to reuse and recycle. My little one will be a cowboy thanks to the generosity of my upstairs neighbor. Her 4-year-old son wore the costume for his first Halloween and now my boy’s carrying on the legacy — ten-gallon hat and all.

Before you purchase anything new, ask friends if they have anything you can borrow and dig into your own closet to see what you can find. A quick peek into the depths of my wardrobe has revealed the makings of a Solid Gold dancer or at least a 1920s flapper. And if you have time to craft, homemade costumes are always best. Use fabric that you have lying around the house, nontoxic fabric markers and major imagination.

Skip the streamers
This year, trade the black and orange streamers and plastic ghosts and witches for an earthy Halloween look. Pumpkins are one Halloween symbol that can’t be beat. Created by nature, they also biodegrade quickly once they’ve served their purpose. Make spooky jack-o’-lanterns or place mini pumpkins on your front porch and in your windows. You can also use autumn leaves to bring a seasonal touch to your home. Fill baskets with colorful leaves or place branches with leaves attached in your windows or by your front door.

Marisa Belger is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience covering health and wellness. She was a founding editor of Lime.com, a multiplatform media company specializing in health, wellness and sustainable living. Marisa also collaborated with Josh Dorfman on “The Lazy Environmentalist” (Stewart, Tabori, and Chang), a comprehensive guide to easy, stylish green living.

Please note: Neither Marisa Belger nor TODAYshow.com has been compensated by the manufacturers or their representatives for her comments or selection of products reviewed in this column.

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