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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Green Halloween

Green witch's hatKeeping with the spirit of recycling, here's a regurgitated post. Emma turned 5 yesterday and it's party weekend so I haven't had the time to generate new content. But this is seasonally appropriate.

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I keep hearing a tremendous amount of press about "Greening your Halloween", but it seems like the take home message from the news has been "No Candy - Cheap Plastic Crappy Toys Instead". At least this is how it has been reported to me from people reading these news pieces. How green is that message?

Now, I know this isn't the actual message organizations like The Nature Conservancy are promoting, but it's what people who hear about it seem to bring away from it.

On the other hand, suggested food alternatives are either expensive (and not realistic if you get upwards of 100 kids like we do), seemingly dangerous (open packaging like raisins that parents will throw away thinking their kids will get poisoned or worse), or, frankly, inedible (tea?). What child is going to be gleeful at a bag of fruit leathers, raisins and organic fruit drink boxes? Throw in a sandwich and call it school lunch.

Unless every house hands out these kinds of everyday "treats", these well meaning handouts will be ignored or, even worse, thrown in the trash. So much for green.

As for the toy alternatives, the same problem arises. Most eco-friendly toys are expensive and unaffordable for most households. The affordable toys are cheap plastic that are "Hecho en China" and aren't exactly green. Even if you could afford a boatload of recycled pencils, shells (are these sustainable?) and hand-hewn wooden trinkets, are these toys that kids want?

Again, will they end up ignored and eventually thrown in the trash? Most kids are too polite to look at your selection and refuse to take anything, whether they want it or not. So, while I totally applaud the intent behind all this, I really don't see this as a real, green solution.

Here's my take on it - maybe mixing in some of the "greener" items with standard ole candy and let the kids decide. I ended up putting in some alternatives last year, mostly because I was running out of candy and went through the cabinets looking for additional treats. I was quite amazed at how a couple of kids chose the 100% fruit juice gummies and some PediaSure nutrition bars my mom bought (yes, I was desperate) over the remaining candy.

Obviously, there are the exceptions. This year I'll huck in some Halloween pencils for sport and see what happens. It would be fun to do a more statistically useful study, but my sample would only represent my neighborhood and probably wouldn't tell anyone much of anything. I suspect the non-candy choosers would be in the minority.

I remember being a kid and mentally planning, even while I was still out trick-or-treating, to toss all the mealy apples, popcorn balls and other things I didn't like. I don't want to inflict the same waste on a new generation of kids.

What are the rest of you guys doing about Halloween? Do you have any suggestions? And, I'm not looking for the "turn off the lights and hope your house doesn't get egged" alternatives.

29 comments:

Robj98168 said...

I assume you are not talking about my biggest pumpkin which hasn't ripened yet. One thing I do is give out money. Now consider we don't get maney trick or treaters, before we go up and terrorize the Capitol HIll neighborhood, so it costs me about $2-$3. But that is better than having the usual 10 bags of candy which won't treat my diabetes very well.

Kel said...

here's a novel and very green idea. take the trick option! scare the beejesus outa the kids, sounds like they wont be expecting that!

koolchicken said...

I live in a community and we don't have too many kids, so I didn't have to buy too much. I'm still getting to know my neighbors and was planning on affixing mailing labels to the candy I give out. I figure parents will be less likely to throw my stuff out that way. Maybe by next year I'll know everyone and it'll expand my options. Once I know everyone I might be able to give cookies and cider or something like that.

Oh, and in another attempt to save my candy from being tossed, I chose regular Skittles and Fun Dip. Both are free from the following allergens, gluten, dairy, nuts, peanuts, egg, soy.

undacova mutha said...

MY children are truly happy to get trail-mix, fruit leather and organic juice boxes... I don't buy candy for them very often and when I do it's the healthier versions. I resent the fact that so many people have this burning need to fill my kids up w/ "crap-food" to celebrate Halloween.
When I was a child, my Mom gave out quarters, one for the unicef box and one for the loot bag.

badhuman said...

I think we are going to opt for the lights out option. We don't have kids and apparently our new neighborhood gets about 300-400 tricker treaters. We can't afford and don't agree with purchasing plastic wrapped candy (organic or otherwise) and I know that parents aren't going to want their kids to eat it unwrapped. I'd rather participate in a church or group function where things like cookies or brownies would be acceptable.

N.

JessTrev said...

I went for the spendy fair trade candy (it's still chocolate, I don't think anyone's going to chuck it -- mostly they are just going to sneer at the microscopic SIZE of it) and organic lollipops from Trader Joe's. Plus I was going to try to scavenge up some cute Halloween pencils and non-food options for the kids with allergies (and those who just want them!). I like your idea about having a range - hope the bday was fun!

Katherine said...

We had a trunk-or-treat at our church last night and I was surprised at the number of kids who chose pretzels over the chocolate candy. And one year when we were running low on candy, we put some cheese crackers and peanut butter crackers in the bowl - and again a surprising number of kids chose them. So, offering options seems like a good idea for us and the kids.

Alana said...

I think Halloween has gotten a lot scarier since we were kids. I also cringe at the thought of my daughter collecting gobs of HFCS.

We are the lights out type of people, but participate instead at a trunk-or-treat. People know you, there's less kids and mostly the ones you like, and you can give out cool stuff, my favorite is the carmel apples (still a lot of sugar, but a better choice).

As for being worried about your house, more than half of our street turns out the lights and we have a pitbull, so we've never had any problems.

Anonymous said...

Until I came down sick with the latest preschool cold virus (it mad me dizzy), we were going to trick or treat at the local farmers' market and attend the local Halloween festival downtown this weekend. We are still participating in the Suzuki Halloween concert at the public library this afternoon. Next weekend, when hopefully all are well, we will carve a pumpkin and have a Halloween meal with our neighbors who have two toddlers also. In the future, I would like to replace trick or treating with some sort of party that both our parents and kids can enjoy. Costume contests, fun games, crafts, storytelling, and good but festive foods. If any one has good ideas, I would like to hear them.

--Ave

Oldnovice said...

We're in the category of having hundreds of trick or treaters. I enjoy the spirit of halloween and even dressed in costume when I took my kids trick or treating when they were young. What other day can you be anything you want to be?

I settled on a big bag of some kindof tootsie-roll pops type things, 300 to the bag for $8.00
which come in a plastic bag, but are individually wrapped in more of a waxpaper.

When my daughter's snake lived with us, I wore him around my neck to answer the door and all the kids enjoyed petting him. He's back living with her now, so I'll probably think of some other simple costume for their pleasure.

Sarah said...

Oh, and in another attempt to save my candy from being tossed, I chose regular Skittles and Fun Dip. Both are free from the following allergens, gluten, dairy, nuts, peanuts, egg, soy.

Skittles, alas, are not vegetarian.

Maeve said...

Kids like all sorts of things. I generally get tons of stuff, everything from chocolates to chewy candies, to knick-knack stuff like pencils and stickers, and then mix it all up and fill a big bowl. I let the kids pick a couple items each (how many depends on how big a give-away budget I have that year).

Things kids got the most excited about that were non-candy, were the fruit snacks, pencils, and fake plastic spider rings. I remember one kid who got all excited about some candybar (it had coconut or peanut butter in it I think. one of the kinds I loathe.)

I try to remember some treats that can be given to toothless cuties, to give to parents who have a small one in the bunch. They really appreciate it. :)

novemberjuliet said...

I don't know, Crunch. I have a feeling the kids 'round these parts would like pencils, especially recycled ones. I can just picture the students I used to student teach over at Salmon Bay coming in and showing off their cool new pencils. Making sure they have to walk in front of everybody to get to the pencil sharpener to sharpen at pretty much the most inappropriate time to make sure everyone saw them.

Heather @ SGF said...

We do candy. Just plain ole candy. This is the one time a year that I swallow hard and go with the flow. It's my favorite holiday. All the kids are so cute and we get 500-600 of them. What bothers me more than anything is that everything is individually wrapped. I hate all the plastic, but organic or not, fair trade or not, that will always be the case. The days of homebaked goods and apples are over :(

knutty knitter said...

We don't have Halloween round here. Some peeps tried to start it but it never really got off the ground. There are odd Halloween parties but thats about it.

We do Guy Fawkes instead. Lots of lovely fireworks!

viv in nz

agwh said...

Halloween is one holiday when we actually see our neighbors. When our kids were little, my husband and I would take turns taking them around the neighborhood. He would take them one direction, then we'd trade off; he'd stay home to hand out candy and I'd take the boys around the other way. Standing on the road while our kids ran up to ring doorbells, we had a chance to visit with other parents in the neighborhood. It always was a community-building experience. We get fewer kids each year at our house for halloween, but it is still one day when I get to see my neighbors and exchange a few words as their kids go scampering back up the driveway.

Because there are precious few other chances to visit with our more distant neighbors (further than a couple of houses away), we do the junk-food candy thing that everyone else expects. Every year, someone stops to talk about the food-garden out in our front yard, or to ask about the flowers. Maybe someday we can all trust each other enough to give out REAL treats, but for now, the exchange of Hershey's candy for talking with neighbors we wouldn't otherwise get a chance to know seems like an okay exchange.

A Beautiful Mind said...

My best friend's dad was a dentist and they used to give out floss and toothpaste for Halloween.

Jenette said...

We usually just have candy. One year we had wands left over from my daughters birthday and gave those out ... they went really fast. As a kid I enjoy pencils, rings, $ and the candy. Anything home made or unwrapped got tossed :(

Lily said...

Our Halloween isn't very green. We give out the glow in the dark necklaces/ bracelettes for safety (not green but inexpensive & safety minded)& pencils. Actually the kids love them and we get called the "Cool house." We get between 100-200 treaters and wanted to give them something besides candy/food. They get plenty on this neighborhood.

The Purloined Letter said...

I was the weird kid who collected all those apples and popcorn balls you and the other popular kids discarded. So don't feel guilty about the waste you thought you produced.

My son seems to be following in my footsteps. At a recent party, he traded all his candy for pencils and little notepads. Kids don't always want what adults think they want.

My sweetie and I fell in love on Halloween, so we're always drinking champagne as we hand out goodies. Definitely recommend it.

Katy said...

I give out candy. I know, its not sustainable, but I don't normally buy that stuff and well... its Halloween. Since we don't keep candy in the house its a big deal for my daughter to get to have those treats once a year.

Oh, and a tip for what to do with all that candy you will never eat? We save it and use it to decorte gingerbread houses at Christmas.

Rosa said...

We don't get many little-kid trick-or-treaters - there's a spat of them early in the evening (and now I'm at work then) and then later, around 9-10 pm, crowds of teenagers barely wearing costumes. Our city also doesn't have official trick or treat hours, so you can walk for blocks and only find a few people handing out candy. It's very sad.

So I just opt out. We went to a Halloween dressup movie thing at the central library last weekend, and this weekend the big Halloween extravaganza (this year featuring a chariot pulled by giant puppet-bulls that breathed fire, sowing dragon's teeth that turn into spiky warriors with flaming swords - Barebones Halloween 2008, in Hidden Falls park in St Paul, this Friday). My kid isn't going to have trick or treat memories, but I think this is better.

maryann said...

Guilty, we had out candy, it's not organic or fair trade or green by any means. It's once a year and we generally get a lot of kids, two big bags from the wholesale club cost us about $25 but I enjoy seeing the kids. My neighbors daughters usually stop by with a big group of girls and I usually give them an extra treat of homemade lipbalm, this year I haven't had time to make any though.

story girl said...

One thing I remember that was cute when I was growing up: an older couple in my neighborhood used to make little ghosts by wrapping change in small pieces of tissue paper and tying with string. Some had pennies, some had nickels or dimes, so it was luck of the draw what you got. It was fun, cute, and different, and didn't ever go to waste (except the tissue paper - which you could maybe use recycled or even reused).

Sharlene said...

I give out candy and yes all the wrapping is wasteful but its the only time of year I buy it. Seeing the kids is so fun and I LOVE Halloween. People who turn the lights off and don't participate make me sad. All the kids in costume with big smiles on their painted faces is worth $25 in my book.

Moonshadow said...

I love seeing all the little ones Trick or Treating - we buy full size candy bars for our favorite little neighbor goblins and give the rest dimes or quarters.

The only frustrating thing to me are big kids - high school age are out - no costumes - expecting treats, but what can you do?

Alison said...

Usually I take the kids out and if hubby is home he doesn't open the door!

My kids gather enough candy at Halloween and Easter to allow them weekly candy time all year (a handful of candy after their weekend chores). Since my son is allergic to peanuts he gathers candy then trades it for the same weight of candy later at home. I go out to buy the trade candy the day after Halloween when it is on sale. My son has also done a coin collection for food allergy research instead of candy gathering a couple of times. Some people were happy to give coins, some insisted that he also take candy, and some said they were only offering candy and turned him away when he asked for coins.

I take the candy we can't use to the local elementary school and put it in the collection they do for a local food pantry. These aren't exactly green options, but there is no gorging and no waste so we feel pretty good about it :-)

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

We also live in a neighborhood with 100+ trick or treaters and we've struggled with what to hand out. This year we chose bags of pretzels, stickers, and fortune cookies. It's definitely not the greenest alternative but at least there's no corn syrup! My husband and I tried to think of things that we wouldn't be horrified to see in our toddler's basket.

Condo Blues said...

Wow I think it's really interesting that everyone's favorite Halloween treat be it a type of candy, apple, or pencils is another's "no way - I hated getting that stuff."

As for us, we're doing a combination of things. We get a lot of toddlers (my favorites who mix up the order of saying "Thank You" and "Trick or Treat") so they're getting small bags of animal crackers. The older kids are getting gummy vampire fangs and suckers (wax paper wrapper + paper stick.) The dogs are getting treats that my dog got from a Humane Society Pet Parade that he can't eat due to food allergies.

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