Question Consumption (and Go Lighter on the Planet) This Halloween

by New Dream   |   October 22, 2019


Halloween is one of those holidays that seems like it doesn't need much questioning: you put on your costume, have fun with friends and neighbors, and gorge yourself on candy and spookery. 

The truth is, Halloween is big business—and it also requires a bit of cultural and environmental sensitivity, so we can be sure we're really embracing the spirit of good old fashioned fun.

Here are some tips from New Dream for a more inclusive, greener, and healthier Halloween:


As Halloween approaches, there are often questions, concerns, and confusions around what costumes are appropriate and safe to wear. In the spirit of advocating for equity, respect for diversity, and inclusion for all, here are some tips and questions you might ask yourself and your community when choosing costumes this year:

  • Learn about what cultural appropriation is, what it means, why it’s wrong, and how it happens in society—particularly around events like Halloween.
  • Does your costume depict or perpetuate a stereotype or stigma associated with a particular race, culture, or religion? 
  • Does the costume include a replication of a garment that is a significant component of a particular religion or culture that the wearer does not identify with? 
  • Does your costume depict a historical time-period where that look/costume is now considered offensive and/or discriminatory? 
  • Does your costume represent elements of a culture or cultural practice that is being commoditized for consumption? 
  • Can you confidently say that choosing to wear the costume would not be considered offensive to a particular race, ethnic origin, gender, or religion?

This Halloween, we urge you to be socially aware and to plan to wear a costume that is fun, and inclusive of all our fellow community members! 

This Halloween, we urge you to be socially aware and to plan to wear a costume that is fun, and inclusive of all our fellow community members!

From an environmental perspective, don’t limit yourself to vinyl masks and polyester costumes wrapped in plastic—make your own! Use natural items, such as leaves and sticks, for a particularly natural look, or use items you have in your house. Want to be Harry Potter? Use a stick for a wand. 

You can also go to a secondhand shop to mix and match pieces for a particularly creative look. Think about engaging your community by holding a costume swap where you exchange previous years’ costumes. Always consider donating or reusing costumes when you're done with them as well.


Gourds, pumpkins, straw bales, and corn husks are seasonally appropriate, beautiful and inexpensive ways to make a home or party look festive without damaging the environment. LED or solar-powered lights can help set spooky vibes with less energy generation. 

Always recycle decorations that you buy or save them in the attic for next year. And while you’re thinking about recycling, be sure to provide recycle bins at any Halloween bash to ensure that guests dispose of items properly.


Fortunately, you’re not limited to individually wrapped Snickers bars. Think about buying all-natural or organic candies, now sold widely. Consider giving out small useful items (pencils, erasers) instead of candy to limit consumption of processed sugary foods. Go to a farmers market to purchase local treats to pass out to kids or have at a party. 

Don’t limit the creativity of the candy bags either. Who wants a boring plastic bag when you can use a decorative pillowcase, purse, flower pot, or reusable bag instead?


Avoid a last-minute purchase at the grocery store and shop instead at a farmers market or roadside stand (to find a locally grown pumpkin, or pumpkin patch, search on Local Harvest). And while you may have tried your hand at toasting the seeds left over after carving, fresh pumpkin puree is also delicious in recipes such as pumpkin breadsweet pumpkin souppumpkin cookies, and pumpkin pancakes.

These ideas are simply the basics! Use the brainpower you exerted in designing your costume to think of more creative ways to use less and reuse what you have. Thinking resourcefully and getting family and friends invested in the season will create very sustainable memories. And that’s really the purpose of holidays, right?