Halloween has grown to be one of the most popular holidays in America. In 2013, two-thirds of Americans said they participate in Halloween activities, spending $75 on average to celebrate for a monstrous total of $6.9 billion. Many times these costumes and decorations are trashed when the season is over and the ghoulish cycle continues to the next year. The holiday horror doesn’t stop with wasteful spending and disposal. Store-bought costumes can be riddled with questionable chemicals. But save your blood curdling scream for another horror story, because this Halloween can have a happy ending. Don’t scream, instead help your students go green!
Problem: Heavy Metal Madness
The Food and Drug Administration has no authority to require companies to test cosmetics products for safety. Numerous studies have found heavy metals in lipstick and make-up sold in the US. In May 2013, UC Berkeley published their research on Concentrations and Potential Health Risks of Metals in Lip Products and found that the preliminary study of the metal content of 32 lip products suggests that toxic metals in cosmetics should be regulated to protect women’s health in the United States. Strict regulations have already been undertaken in Europe by the European Union through their Cosmetics Directive.
Solution: While waiting for further studies to evaluate metal concentrations in cosmetics and related potential health risks, what can you do? You could avoid face paint all together, make your own safe face paint, or choose a brand approved on the Compact For Safe Cosmetics Champions And Innovators list by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. You can also look up your favorite brand in the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep database to view safety ratings.
Problem: Poison Plastics
Costumes, masks and fake teeth are often made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC). PVC aka ‘vinyl’, is the second most commonly used plastic in the world. It is also the most harmful to the environment. Plasticisers in PVC are not bound to the plastic and can leach out over time. Plasticisers are dangerous because they have been found to contain lead and phthalates. These two chemicals are known to harm children’s learning and behavior and have also been linked to birth defects and asthma. Recently, many governments have banned soft PVC baby toys and teethers because of the risk of softeners leaking into infants’ mouths.
Solution: If you are purchasing a pre-made costume this year, look for the recycle number. Avoid the number 3 to say no to PVC. If you can’t find the label, don’t purchase any plastics with a strong “new toy” odor.
Problem: Single-Use Syndrome
Running to the closest department store might be seem convenient until you run into a zombie consumer horde. Also, single-use that is soon tossed aside when it has served its purpose is never the best environmental choice.
Solution: Reuse and Reduce to the rescue. You can be a hero by hosting a reuse costume swap at your school. Be sure to register with GreenHalloween.org to spread the word. Reduce your spending and look in your closets to reuse what you already have. If you are feeling uninspired, search for DIY costumes on Pinterest. If you aren’t so crafty and want an already made costume, visit the thrift shops or search freecycle or craigslist to find that perfect ensemble. Reusing and Reducing can also be applied to treat carriers. You can make your own bag or simply use the classic and ever stylish pillow case to carry your loot.
Problem: Putrid Pumpkins
Jacko-lanterns can be a wonderful green decoration for your holiday, but the real fright comes when the pumpkin starts to decompose.
Solution: Make sure your pumpkin gets a good afterlife. Add it to the compost or break it up into the garden. While carving the pumpkin, don’t forget to roost the seeds to make a delicious snack or simple addition to a yummy salad.
Problem: Frightful Flashlights
Don’t get caught in the dark with a broken filament, burned out bulb, or drained battery.
Solution: LED flashlights can be a real life-saver! LEDs typically last 100,000 hours (11 YEARS of continuous light), are practically drop-proof, and have a longer battery life. LEDs take the lead on flashlights and can be used to light your jack-o-lantern or safely guide your way down a spooky alley.