Falling leaves are covering the ground, trees are turning red and the air is now fresh and pungent. It’s that time of the year again, and with it its most famous date, October 31, knows all over the world as Halloween.
This tradition has ancient roots and goes back to the pagan day of the ancient Samhain Gaelic celebration used to take place. It was a pivotal time of the year, which marked the changing of seasons. It was on this day that the line between this world and the next were told to be getting in contact for 24 hours, allowing the living to connect with the dead. Since Christianity became widespread in Europe,the holiday's ancient undertones became less and less celebrated, however, holiday's simple rituals transformed themselves into a popular, modern celebration.
Unfortunately, the festivities have a very dark and often dismissed side effect, and that's the huge amount of waste that is produced for Halloween. We believe that traditions should never exist at the peril of our beautiful planet and nature and that there are always ways to change things without having to give up on long-established customs.
So this year we have decided to compile an extensive guide of how to enjoy this family-friendly festivity while also making it friendly for the environment and cutting down on the waste! Here’s our best tips and tricks for a spooky zero-waste Halloween!
1. REUSE THAT PUMPKIN!
Pumpkins are great fun to carve into terrifying-looking faces, and after Britain has adopted the tradition of pumpkin carving from North America, now roads up and down the country are showing off over who can make the most creative patterns. However, this fun activity can also be incredibly wasteful as the majority of Britons admits not using any of the pumpkins for anything other than decoration purposes. This year the number of wasted pumpkins for Halloween in the UK could hit a new record: it has been estimated thatmore than 8m of them– meaning around 18,000 tonnes of completely edible pumpkin flesh – will be thrown away as the vast majority of consumers will not eat it.
This is a terrifying number, considering that the effect on the environment this creates is enormous. Why, you may say? At the end of the day, pumpkins are biodegradable right? Yes but while rotting they still release methane, which is a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Even though the methane released by rotting squashes would only be a fraction of all human emissions, it still has a considering effect, let alone the fact that it takes a lot of water and energy to grow these pumpkins, that are chucked away without a single bite ever been eaten. What an awful waste, especially because there are so many things you can do with it.
Despair no more, we have come to the rescue with our best tips and recipes on how to use up all your Halloween pumpkins!
a. Pumpkin seeds
Once you start carving the pumpkin and taking both the pulp and seeds out, put the latter aside. Put them in a bowl of cold water to wash them while swishing them a little, then pull them out as they rise to the top.
At this point, put them in an oven tray with some olive oil or coconut oil (whatever you prefer, some people even use butter!) and roast them at 180Degrees Celcius for 20, 25 minutes until golden brown. Make sure you turn them every now and then so they get nicely roasted on both sides!
Let cool and store in a glass jar, they are great in your cereal granola or muesli, alone as a yummy and healthy post-workout snack or heavenly on a sweet potato and goat cheese bruschetta!
b. Pumpkin pulp
Pumpkin pulp can be used for a wide variety of use, first and foremost for making pumpkin puree, which can then be used for a wide variety of recipes: pumpkin soups, pumpkin bread, and pumpkin muffins. These last two can either be freezer or kept moist by keeping them in an organic cotton bag, ready to dip in whenever you fancy something sweet!
I personally love using it to make pumpkin hummus, it’s great for your falafel wraps or just on it’s own, with some toasted pita bread and every time we have people over for dinner around this time a year, I am always asked for the recipe! And you can easily keep it in the fridge in a bowl, just make sure you cover it with a super eco-friendly wax wrap!
But the queen of low waste Halloween has to be, without the shadow of a doubt, the legendary pumpkin pie! As pumpkin is indigenous to the North American continent, it became an early export to France from where it was subsequently introduced to Tudor England. There its flesh and pulp quickly because a well-regarded pie filler, so much so that pumpkin pie recipes have been found in English cookbooks from as early as the seventeenth century!
My favourite pumpkin pie recipe is this one, it is very easy to make while still being quite faithful to the traditional version; it goes incredibly well with a cup of tea and a scoop of yoghurt or ice-cream, and it’s a must-have for any Sunday lunch!
c. Pumpkin Soup Stock
What about all those stringy bits? Don’t even think about wasting them, they are great for making veggie stock! It is incredibly easy to make, all you need is put it all in a pot full of water, together with any other veggie scraps you may have in the house, such as carrot peels or celery tops —they'll add taste. Some peppercorn will guarantee extra flavour. Boil the brew in your cauldron about 30 minutes, then strain the veggie bits out and there you have it! You can keep it in the fridge for up to 10 days or freeze it for up to 6 months!
It’s absolutely brilliant to use for making veggie gravy, stews, soups or casseroles! And it’s the best type of broth for the ultimate pumpkin risotto!
d. What to do with all that pumpkin skin?
The answer is easy! Pumpkin skin chips! Cut them in chunks after having removed the pulp, sprinkle with paprika, sea salt and some chilly, drizzle with olive oil and bake in the oven at the lowest setting with the door slightly ajar. They are really yummy!
e. Anything left? Let’s take care of your skin too!
If you still have some pumpkin left, you can also try and make your own DYI PUMPKIN FACE MASK! All you need is:
2 Tbsp pumpkin puree
1/2 tsp organic honey or coconut oil
1/2 tsp milk (you can substitute soy or almond)
Mix ingredients and apply on face and neck using your fingers or a wide soft brush. Allow the mask to set for about 20 minutes to enjoy the full benefits of this natural skin purifier. Then gently wash off the mask using a warm, damp washcloth and apply a moisturizer. We recommend this eco-friendly vegan one only made of natural ingredients!
So there you have it, you can have so much fun carving your pumpkin while still keeping fun and traditions alive, as well as making sure there is no waste involved!
Just remember if you have any bits left, please DO NOT DISCARD them in the rubbish bin, chop them up instead and add them to your home compost. If you don’t compost at home, add them to the composting bin given by the council or google for community composting facilities in your area! Remember, this year’s Halloween challenge is to waste as little as possible of our precious pumpkins.
2. NEW HALLOWEEN OUTFITS? NO THANKS!
It is reported that around 7 million Halloween costumes are disposed of annually in the UK. As the overall plastic weight of a costume is about 297 g, the total annual plastic waste generated by these outfits is around 2,079 kg, more than 2 tonnes!
Yes, because the problem with Halloween costumes is that they are for the most part made up of polyester, which is basically plastic! This is an especially problematic type of plastic as it is not only the most commonly used material used by the clothing industry in general, but it is also very difficult to recycle, so much so that only 1% of polyester garments are estimated to be recycled every year. 1%! Where does the rest goes? You guessed it, to the tip or into an incinerator, aka either polluting our ground or our atmosphere.
Although I am a HUUUGE fan of fancy dress parties and wearing costumes, this level of waste is absolutely abhorrent and can’t be justified.
But there is no need to worry, I am not telling you to give up on a fun night out trick or treating dressed as a scary mummy or an evil witch, the solution again is in REUSING what we (or someone else) already has. When it comes to Halloween costumes, our best tips for a true environmentally friendly night are:
a. Check first what you have in your wardrobe, you may be able to pull out a super easy outfit without having to buy a single thing!
Don’t you believe me? Here is a photo of us a while back, dressed up as Olive Oyl and Popeye! I used a toilet roll to make my hair bun sticking out just like the famous cartoon character, and some creased used white paper to make the collar of my red jumper and the buttons! As for Popeye, a wooden stick with a wine work turned into a fantastic DIY pipe, and a kitchen towel tucked into Jason’s jumper became the perfect version of the sailorman’s outfit!
Just google easy DIY Halloween costumes and there’s plenty of ideas there, some witty, some more elegant, most of them easy to make without the need to buy anything new. Or if you lack something, why not ask a friend of a family member to borrow something for the night?
If you really want to get a costume, instead of buying a new one, ask a friend if you can use one of their old ones, you can swap costumes and have a great time getting ready together!
b. Get your outfits or clothes that you can use to create a new one from a charity shop, a second-hand store or a community clothing exchange group.
And once you are done with yours, either keep it for another year or donate it again to charity so that someone else can benefit from it next year. This is the beauty of a circular economy that reduces waste, and reuses what we already have available!
c. If none of the previous options works for you and you left it very last minute, why not rent a costume instead of buying a new one?
It’s a great alternative, you can find loads of companies online or locally and it really helps to reduce generating new waste, plus you will probably end up supporting a small local business which is always great!
We hope you enjoyed our tips and hacks for a truly low waste Halloween, if you follow any of our advice, make sure to tag us on Instagram at @earthbits_, we’d love to see your zero-waste Halloween ideas for 2019!
Have a spooky time!