How some Canadians are treating the planet with a more sustainable Halloween

There are scary aspects to Halloween aside from the traditional goblins and ghouls, and they’re linked to the annual festivities that can impact the planet.

“There is so much waste involved in Halloween from the costumes that we purchase and only use one time that often come with cheap plastic components, to the candy wrappers, to the decorations,” Emily Kerton of Thunder Bay, Ont., told CBC. “The whole thing is just a massive, massive problem,”

Kerton runs an Instagram account dedicated to her family’s journey as they pursue low-waste living, focusing on cutting down on items like single-use plastics.

She said that early on, Halloween festivities were a big challenge for her family of three to navigate, realizing it was hard to avoid plastics, including when it came to handing out candy for trick-or-treaters or even in costume preparation for her eight-year-old son.

“That for us is probably the biggest area, is just, you know, when you’re handing out 200 mini-chocolate bars, is there something else we could swap out that was a little bit more low waste,” she said. “So we’ve done a few different things. Every year, I try to come up with some different solution and sort of test of what works best.”

Tricks and treats for Halloween candies  

Kerton said she’s tried everything — from only buying candy packaged in cardboard boxes, to buying candies in bulk,  eliminating additional packaging and even non-candy alternatives such as buying bulk crayons and packaging them in twine.

“I didn’t get egged the next day, so I feel like a non-candy alternative was actually probably OK,” Kerton said with a laugh.

She recognizes not everyone has the means to come up with low-waste festivities, but says even the smallest of changes can help make a difference in the long run.

“I think taking little steps that work for your family has always been my stance with this,” she said. “You make little changes that work for the place you’re in, the situation that you’re in, and that’s the best you can do. If everybody did that, you know we would see bigger effects overall.”

Kathleen Wowchuk of Kath’s Costume Rentals in Thunder Bay has curated costumes for the past 30 years and rents them out by donation. (Olivia Levesque/CBC)

For Kathleen Wowchuk, recycling and reusing around Halloween has always been a part of her life.

“I kind of started collecting all my costumes from home,” she said. “There were like 11 of us, so we had to reuse, recycle all the time. So then as I ventured out on my own, I just collected anything and everything from anyone that would give it to me.”

Collecting costumes for 30 years inspired Wowchuk to start renting out her collection on a by-donation basis.

She has over 400 costume pieces, including everything from wigs to full group costumes.

Wowchuk said her hope is to help others enjoy the Halloween season in a more cost-effective and sustainable way.

LISTEN: Tour Kath’s Costume Rentals 

“I just find things are very costly, like a total outfit for Halloween from head to toe could cost you $60 to $120,” she said. “So it’s mainly just to help others out to get them to still go out and celebrate Halloween, or it could not be just for Halloween — it could be for any occasion throughout the year.”

Pumpkin composting offered

While some green Halloween initiatives are just beginning to take shape, one longstanding program in Thunder Bay continues to divert waste from the holiday.

The Great Pumpkin Compost Collection organized by EcoSuperior will begin collection starting Monday until Nov. 9, giving Thunder Bay residents a chance to compost their jack-o’-lanterns at various locations throughout the northwestern Ontairo city.

Melissa Davidson, co-ordinator of the EcoSuperior program, said that since the composting program started in 1995, over 360 tonnes of pumpkins have been diverted from the landfill.

Pumpkins can be dropped off at three different locations in Thunder Bay this year. (Yvette Brend/CBC)

“It’s definitely a really great waste diversion piece, but it also prevents greenhouse gases as well,” Davidson explained in an interview with CBC.

“When things are composted properly, rather than organics ending up in the landfill and anaerobically breaking down, it’s a lot healthier for the environment. And again, it prevents a lot of waste as well from entering into the landfill.”

Three collection bins can be found at:

  • County Fair Mall on Dawson Road.
  • Westfort Playfield off Neebing Avenue.
  • The Intercity Shopping Centre overflow lot on Fort William Road.

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