It's Not Too Late to Green Your Halloween
Try these ten tips for an eco-friendly holiday.
It's Halloween and you're thinking green. You've already repurposed last year's Halloween costume. You've decided not to go overboard on candy this year. What else can you do?
Choose your pumpkin wisely. If you're planning that last minute pumpkin purchase, pick one that was grown locally, preferably straight from the vine. "Go for one that has a good heavy feel for its size and sounds sturdy when thumped on," said Katie McCormick, a Germantown resident committed to eating locally-grown food. "You do not want it to sound hollow." At the grocery store, select the smaller, tastier "pie pumpkins" in the produce section over the larger pumpkins displayed outside.
Keep your pumpkin cool and dry. Bring it inside when frost is predicted. Frost-bitten pumpkins turn "mushy and yucky" when they thaw, said Angela Butler of Butler's Orchard. According to Butler, a pumpkin can be stored in the basement for several months. Prior to storage, wash the pumpkin and wipe it down with a weak bleach or vinegar solution to deter mold and fungus. Pumpkins, acorn squash, and butternut squash "can get us through the winter still eating local produce," said Butler. "They are meant to keep for a long time."
Decorate your pumpkin with non-toxic paint. That way, after a quick bath, your pumpkin is ready for baking. "I cut mine in half, scoop out the seeds [for roasting], and place them cut side down on a cookie sheet with a skim of water," said McCormick. "I bake them in a 375-to-400-degree oven for about 45 minutes." Exact baking times vary, depending upon the pumpkin's size. Scoop out cooked pumpkin from the hull and puree the remains. "If your recipe calls for one can of pumpkin," said McCormick, "you can measure your pureed pumpkin by weight."
Save your pumpkin seeds. Pumpkin seeds can be dried and fed to wildlife. Remove all of the pulp and place the seeds evenly on a glass baking dish. Set the oven to 250 degrees and bake them until they are dry. If you'd rather eat the seeds yourself, use a higher temperature and sprinkle them with salt before roasting. "You've got to roast your seeds," said Butler. "There are so many health benefits to eating pumpkin seeds."
Reuse your pumpkin as a vase. Floral pumpkin arrangements are a hot trend. This video shows you how to make your own.
Use soy or beeswax candles in your jack-o-lantern. If you've got your heart set on a jack-o-lantern, these eco-friendly alternatives to traditional candles are a great choice. Unlike wax candles, they burn cleanly and don't rely upon paraffin, a derivative of crude oil.
Give your pumpkin back to nature. After Halloween, compost your pumpkin or jack-o-lantern. If you live in a rural area, consider leaving it in the woods to feed wildlife.
Leave your car at home. To reduce your carbon footprint, trick-or-treat by foot and get to know your neighbors.
Enjoy old-fashioned autumn games. Why not bob for apples harvested in Maryland? According to Butler, Stamen, Rome, and York are probably the best varieties of apples to store. "You can have them through the winter and still eat local food."
Hand out eco-friendly Halloween treats. If you still need to pick up some Halloween candy, consider YummyEarth organic lollipops and Surf Sweets organic Sour Worm Halloween Treat Bags. Whole Foods Market - Kentlands in Gaithersburg carries both.
Use old pillow cases to collect your candy. Not only are they environmentally friendly, they hold lots of treats. Happy Halloween!