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When your kids knock on your neighbors’ doors shouting “Trick or Treat!”, is what they collect in their Halloween bags really treating them and the environment well?
I get it. Traditions are hard to break. We all grew up trying to gather as much candy and Halloween trinkets as possible (you know, like those plastic spider rings). But that was then and this is a whole new now. We know that sugar isn’t good for our physical or mental health. In fact, it can cause our kids to feel anxious or depressed. We are also facing a real issue with plastic waste. Unfortunately, so much candy is wrapped in plastic and there is an abundance of plastic junk that comes along with the holiday.
Here are a few ways that you can make trick-or-treating healthier for your kids and the environment:
Use Green Trick-or-Treat Bags
One of the most frustrating Halloween traditions is using plastic bags or plastic pumpkins to collect candy while trick-or-treating. There are so many other options to choose from rather than plastic. Try using cloth bags, pillowcases, and natural wooden or wicker baskets. You can even coordinate with your costume, such as a basket for a Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz costume or a pillowcase when dressed up as a baby.
Avoid Plastic Junk
When you replace sugary treats with Halloween trinkets, be careful which ones you choose. Many are simply plastic junk that we throw out as soon as possible like spider rings, figurines, bracelets, glow in the dark sticks, fake teeth, and more. Instead, choose more useful giveaways like pencils, erasers, crayons, note pads, mini art kits, journals, books and coloring books, hair accessories, and small games. Also, please don’t give away Halloween treats in those small plastic bags. If you must use a bag then choose paper.
Ditch Plastic Wrappers
If you want to stick with some candy, look for options wrapped in paper boxes or foil so they can be recycled. Some ideas for plastic-free candies include Smarties, Dots, Hershey kisses, and chocolates wrapped in pumpkin-looking foil.
If you end up with some plastic candy wrappers, you can recycle them by participating in Terracycle’s Candy and Snack Wrappers Zero Waste Box. This is how it works: choose the size box you need, purchase it, throw your used wrappers in it, and ship it when filled. The collected waste is separated into fibers that are recycled or composted and plastics that are molded into new plastic products.
You can also reuse the candy wrappers by getting creative with your kids. You can now find items like artwork, clothing, handbags, wallets, and jewelry made from candy wrappers. Donate your wrappers to a local artist or try your hand at making a masterpiece.
Look for Sugar-Free or Low Sugar Options
This is a little tricky because some sugar-free candy contains artificial sweeteners that are not exactly healthy for kids. Consider alternatives like dried fruit, fruit bars, pretzels, hummus and pretzel snacks, veggie sticks, rice cakes, and popcorn. Here are some additional ideas.
Choose Sustainable Treats
If you are not willing to give up sugar entirely, you can look for sustainable options. There are now several organic candies on the market like Wholesome, Yum Earth, Black Forest, Annie’s (gummies), and even Jelly Belly now offers organic jelly beans. Check out Green America’s Chocolate Scorecard that rates companies based on their environmental, social justice, and human rights practices.
Do a Treat Trade-In
Here’s a fun and philanthropic idea. Tell your kids that they can trade in their bag of Halloween candy for something more special that they want like a toy, app, trip to a museum, or a fun event with their friends like a sleepover. You can donate the candy to a local charity or a national program like Operation Gratitude that sends the candy to soldiers overseas. Check out more ways to give here.
Focus On Nature
Another trick is to take the focus off of the food treats entirely. Halloween takes place during a time of harvests. Instead of putting the attention on what your kids collect on Halloween night, take them apple picking, go to a pumpkin patch, carve a jack-o-lantern, work on creative nature crafts, enjoy a hay ride, go on a family hike, or decorate your home with what nature has to offer like colorful gourds, sunflowers, dried fall leaves, wheat, or even a bale of hay. Nature has so many incredible benefits to help our kids feel calmer and happier, so take advantage of that!
How will you help make Halloween healthier for your children and the environment?