What I’m really scared of this Halloween

Let me first say that I love, love, love Halloween, so I’m not trying to spoil the fun. But lead in face paint, toxic costumes, high-fructose corn syrup and mounds of trash can make Halloween not so sweet. With a few simple changes though, we can enjoy the holiday while protecting our kids’ health and our planet.

Here are some suggestions for a Halloween that’s not so frightening:

Forgo the face paint – The Environmental Working Group tested many brands of face paint marketed to children and found low levels of lead in EVERY SINGLE ONE. They also found nickel, cobalt and chromium, which can cause lifelong skin sensitization and contact dermatitis. To read the full report, click here. The best thing to do is to avoid face paint for kids. You can also try homemade versions (using food grade ingredients) or use mineral-based make up instead. If you have to use face paint, keep it away from kids’ mouths, eyes and off their hands to avoid ingestion.

Look for PVC-free costumes – many Halloween masks and costumes are made out of PVC, the “poison plastic”, which can leach harmful phthalates. When shopping for Halloween masks and costumes, look for those labeled "PVC-free”. The problem is that very few are labeled so you can try asking the store clerk (yeah, right) or the manufacturer (probably more likely) whether the mask or costume is made out of PVC. As a general rule, avoid anything that is or looks like vinyl.

Reduce the plastic – Decorate and entertain with reusable items and fabric instead of plastic. In the interest of honesty, I do have plastic Halloween decorations. Most, we have had for years and we use over and over (unless the dog has chewed them up). But we avoid disposable plastic items like table cloths, bowls, cups and bags. Those just create unnecessary and toxic trash.

Use soy candles – use them around the house and in your Jack-o-Lantern instead of petroleum-based to cut down on air pollution.

Consider the candy – Most Halloween candy is filled with high-fructose corn syrup and artificial coloring; and far from fair-trade certified. While fair-trade chocolate is a bit expensive to give out to hundreds of trick-or-treaters, there many new healthy eco-friendly treat options coming on the market that are more affordable. You can also consider more non-traditional items. We have a large popcorn maker, so we pop popcorn and hand it out in paper bags. So, we’re not the “weird house” that hands out raisins (thanks mom, I still remember that year). Instead, we are the “popcorn house” and our neighbors say they make sure to stop by every year for a break from all that candy.

Use a reusable bag – for your kids to collect Halloween candy. Chico bag makes a cute one just for Halloween.

Host a costume swap with friends and neighbors – save money and avoid buying new.

Try second hand stores or even your own closet when putting your costume together – with a little creativity you can save a lot of money.

These are just a few suggestions for the many ways that you can bring a little green to your Halloween celebration. For lots of other ideas, check out greenhalloween.org, an organization that helps families and communities to go green on Halloween.

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