Guide to a Green Halloween

October 28, 2008

Halloween is a good time for kids and adults alike to have fun and let loose. This holiday by nature has nothing green about it, but we’re here to tell you how to make this Halloween a little greener. Think of the hazards that accompany this particular day. Kids are consuming an unorthodox amount of candy, which is not only bad for their health but bad for the environment. Think of all the litter that can come from just one child’s trick-or-treating bag—now multiply that by the millions of kids who trick or treat every year, and that amount is staggering. If you’re like most people, you’re on a budget, and will no-doubt hunt for the most affordable Halloween treats out there–fair trade and environmentally-friendly choices probably don’t even register on the radar. Not to mention all the waste that comes from Halloween costumes we buy for the kids, which they will probably have grown too much to wear for next year, and this one day generates a mini environmental crisis. What can we do to lessen the impact on the earth and those who inhabit it?

For one, there is the wonderful option of donating to Unicef. Be sure to have spare pennies, nickels and even a more significant personal donation ready for those kids who come partolling with their UNICEF boxes. The money from these donations goes towards the funding of human rights initiatives worldwide, including helping children affected by AIDS, providing free education for children, and environmental initiatives to help children gain access to resources necessary for survival. Kick off the holiday season by giving generously to this organization.

In terms of the health impact posed to children by consuming pounds of processed candy, there are healthier options out there, such as Endangered Species Chocolates, which do not contain “processed sugars, hydrogenated fats, and other chemicals like pesticides and growth hormones.” ( The Milk Chocolate Halloween Treats pack comes with 24, individually wrapped chocolates for under $7. While this may be marginally more expensive than what you would usually spend, you’ll sleep easy Halloween night by knowing that the kids you handed out candy to will be consuming a less harmful treats this year. As a bonus, ten percent of all profits go towards supporting endangered species. Who says trick or treating can’t be altruistic? VeganEssentials offers Organic Chocolate Mint Candies by College Farm Organics. Along with being a healthier option, the packaging of the individually-wrapped goodies is biodegradable.

Now to address the pesky issue of Halloween costumes. You may want to keep them to remember all the Halloween’s gone by, but they will likely just take up space in your home until you throw them out. Keep them for younger siblings if it applies, but if not you may want to consider costume donation. has a costume exchange program, which may be just the place for your child’s used costume. If cash is tight, you can also get a free costume for family members of any age from this innovative organization. also has an option to donate your old costumes so someone else can get just as much use out of them as you have.

There’s also the old-fasioned option of making the costumes yourselves, from household items–do this, and you will be reducing, reusing and recycling all in one go!

 Finally, teach your kids to clean up after themselves by hosting a neighbourhood post-Halloween litter pick up. You’ll build community, while keeping the places where your children play neat and tidy.

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The Plastic Bag Debacle

October 22, 2008

A lot of governments have been talking about banning the use of plastic bags for groceries/shopping. San Francisco was the first in 2007, and the cities of Winnipeg and Vancouver are moving towards an outright ban as well. In January of this year, China took a radical step and banned the bags altogether for the entire country.

The question is, what will people use to dispose of their garbage in their homes once plastic bags are banned? Paper garbage bags are also a plausible solution, since they are biodegradable, but what about the use of trees for this alternative? If paper bags are introduced for the disposing of garbage, the government will have to think about legislation mandating that paper garbage bags be made of recyclable materials.

Practically speaking, though, even paper garbage bags may not be the answer. It is difficult to imagine throwing out kitchen waste, which can be often grimy and damp (Think: greasy residue or rotting leftovers) into a paper bag, which would most-likely end up leaving a mess in the garbage bin under the sink.

It seems that biodegradable bags may have to be the answer, and will raise the cost of garbage bags for consumers who rely on free grocery bags for disposal purposes. Biodegradable bags are avaibale at EcoSafe, which is avaiable to both US and Canadian consumers. They charge $3.99 Canadian for 30 medium sized biodegradable bags.

As of now, with plastic bags still in circulation, enviro-conscious shoppers can purchase reusable bags for their groceries and other shopping needs. Just a few retailers who offer this relatively inexpensive option at the check-outs are Bluenotes, Safeway, Co-op, Zellers, and Wal-Mart. These reusable bags are also available for purchase online, and come in stylish options for those who do not just want an inexpensive, green alternative but also want to make a statement. http://Bringyourownbag.caoffers satchels with slogans such as “Live Like You Give a Damn”, and David Brower’s quote “There is no business to be done on a dead planet.” These sassy totes start at $15.00 and will spread the word that plastic is not okay.

To bridge the gap between the new, plastic-free world we strive for, and today, we have come up with a list of ways to re-use plastic bags you may have lying around the house–your own personal recycling program:

Ten Ways to Reuse Plastic Bags

1) Use plastic bags to clean up after your pet. You know what we mean. No one wants to step in your dog’s poop, and it’s better than having the bags clogging up space underneath your sink.

2) Use them to line waste-paper bins in your home. If they’re just for paper and other non-messy items, you can reuse them again and again.

3) Do your community a favour: gather together a group of neighbours, take your plastics, and go on litter patrol. Your kids will thank you for it.

4) Need to pad a parcel with Christmas just around the corner? Use the bags to stop the kids from telling what you got them by shaking their gifts. Not only does it lead to waste reduction, but it sends the message that others should be thinking of ways to reuse and recyling too.

5) This year, instead of sending your kids out with plastic pumpkins or vinyl trick-or-treating bags, have them use plastic grocery bags instead, for a green Halloween.

6) This one is rather obvious. Bring your plastic bags back to the grocery store and use them to shop again. Alternately, some stores now have plastic bag recycling programs. Ask around at your supermarket. If they don’t have one, petition to start one.

7) Instead of buying brown paper bags for your lunch, take it in a plastic grocery bag and save some trees as well as some money.

8 ) Use them to wrap shampoos and lotions in your suitcase when you’re travelling. You’ll avoid the messy explosion.

9) Take them to the gym and stash your wet bathing suit and loofah in them after your swim in the pool.

10) Avoid making a mess on your floor. Lay down the bags when painting your nails,  helping the kids with an art project or anything else that might leave a stain.

Let’s all work together for a cleaner, greener world!