Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Green Halloween

Halloween is still a couple of weeks away, but the pressure to spend our way through another holiday has been mounting since before Labour Day. Thanks to the magic of marketing, Halloween has become very big business. Gone are the simple homemade costumes and hand carved pumpkins. In their place we now have a complete industry dedicated to increasing consumer spending. Stores are well stocked with decorations, lights, costumes and even greeting cards. In terms of consumer spending, Halloween is now the second biggest decorating holiday after Christmas.

Halloween marketers have been so successful, that there's even a magazine "Selling Halloween", dedicated to Halloween retailers. Its publisher, Dorene Van Houten, estimates that consumer spending on Halloween is $6.9 billion annually, and growing.

Halloween has become so heavily packaged and over processed that we wouldn't recognize the real thing if a ghoul dragged us away in the night!

Enough! It's time to put the fun back in Halloween and money back in your pocket. The easiest place to start is recycling old clothes into one-of-a-kind costumes. Have your kids look through magazines and books for ideas. Rummage through your closets to see what you can find that can be adapted into a costume. While you're at it, keep a carton handy for items you might want to donate to charity.

One of the easiest and most effective costumes that I ever made was a Mickey Mouse costume for our son Matthew. We started with a pair of Mickey Mouse ears we'd brought back from Disney World the year before. We added an oversized pair of red sweat pants, a white dress shirt, red suspenders, and a black silk hair ribbon for a bow tie. With a little face make-up and a piece of black string for a tail for the finishing touch, the costume was perfect.

Rather than buy a ready-made mask, invest in a set of children's face paints. Most masks are make from some form of plastic, (derived from petroleum, a non-renewable resource), and are disposable (more garbage to worry about). In addition, masks can be extremely dangerous, especially for small children, since they can seriously impair vision.

Make-up kits, on the other hand, can be reused. There are a variety of kits available on the market at this time of year, so check and make sure that they are made from non-toxic materials that won't harm your child's skin or the environment.

"It's the Great Pumpkin!'

Pumpkins aren't just for carving. Pumpkin seeds are considered a super food and are rich in amino acids, zinc, protein, iron and phosphorous. They also make a perfect snack for school lunches.

When carving your pumpkin, remove the seeds and place them in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water to loosen the fibrous material. When the water has cooled, drain the seeds. Use a vegetable brush to remove any stubborn fibers, and then toss the seeds with vegetable oil. Spread them out on a cookie sheet and bake them in a warm oven (around 275 degrees Fahrenheit) until crispy. Once they're cooked, briskly rub the seeds with a clean tea towel to remove any remaining membranes, and sprinkle lightly with salt. Make sure to allow the insides to cool before attempting to eat them. What you can't eat, the birds will love.

After Halloween, peel your pumpkin, cut it up into chunks and then cook in them water until they're tender. Pumpkin can be cooked on the stovetop, similar to turnip, or in the microwave to save energy. Mash the cooked pumpkin, and place it in two-cup portions in the freezer for making holiday pies. Remember to throw what's left of your pumpkin in your green bin or on the compost heap.

Providing treats for trick or treaters can also be done with the environment in mind. Although some packaging is necessary for health and safety reasons, don't buy heavily packaged candies or chocolate bars. Try natural treats like raisins or fruit snacks. You can also purchase small bags of pretzels, sunflower seeds, or air-popped popcorn.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!


This year, UNICEF has done away with the traditional Halloween coin boxes and is encouraging kids to fundraise anytime in October.

Seeing is believing. Check out


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