Holiday times are often the hardest when it comes to going zero waste. Costumes, candy, and decorations–there are so many single-use goods at Halloween time. Here are some guidelines to reduce your impact on a climate future scarier than any Halloween movie and move closer to a more ocean-friendly zero waste Halloween. halloween skull scary


Eco-Friendly, Low Impact Halloween Costumes

Let’s start with the costume. Whether you are a child or an adult, dressing up for Halloween can be really fun. Well, let’s be honest, you either love it or hate it. But, at least in the US, most of us get in the holiday spirit, which means a costume.

According to Zero Waste goddess, Trash is for Tossers: “On average Americans buy $3.4 billion worth of costumes every year.” halloween costumeThat is a lot of fairies, vampires, and Game of Thrones characters to buy each year! Fast fashion is already the second largest contributor of pollution to our waterways (and remember, all water leads to the ocean). The industry also has notoriously low standards for workers’ rights. On top of that, Halloween costumes are expensive and often poorly made. So poorly made, I bet you many of your costumes have ripped before you’ve even worn them. So why are you still buying them?


You can save some money and spare yourself some climate fear, by following these tips to make an ocean-friendly Halloween costume:

1. See what you already have in your closet: The first rule is always, what do I have? Don’t pick a character before you look. Instead, work backwards. Look at what you have, imagine what it could be used for, create. For example, if you’re a scuba diver, share your snorkel and mask with your child. You can always re-purpose someone’s old soda bottle into a scuba tank.

2. Shop in your friend’s closets: Asking to borrow from a friend can help you make a whole new costume or complete whatever you started from your own closet. Picking from a closet of clothes you likely wouldn’t have bought at the store yourself, can give you a great chance to step outside your box. See who you might be if you dressed like somebody else.
Maybe they have something that helps you dress up as your favorite ocean hero like, Sylvia Earle or Jacques Cousteau. For Her Deepness, a blue suit would be fitting. For Cousteau? A red cap and blue button-down would do the trick.


mermaids this way ocean lifestyle beach sign homemade sign diy halloween pixabay3. Shop secondhand: You’ve gone to all the free places, now it’s time to go secondhand. Secondhand shops, thrift stores, opportunity shops, whatever you call them, are an amazing source for a DIY costume. They are the best place to create something unique. If you need raw materials like fabric or buttons, buy something from the thrift store and cut it up into what you need.

-Buy tube socks, leggings, or pantyhose at the thrift store. You can fill them with recycled materials and attach them to your waist for an instant octopus.

-Find a green, yellow, or orange sweatshirt and cut out “eyes” from an old white t-shirt. Sew them on the sweatshirt (better than glue) and when you put your hood up, you become an instant fish.

Bonus, if you are not very DIY, visit before Halloween a few times and you might find a  store-bought Halloween costume on the racks.

4. Use waste to create a costume that is both memorable and a conversation starter: Many places are making art installations from trash and one of the most popular things to recreate is a jellyfish out of discarded plastic. Why? The animal is already light, see-through, and often mistaken for plastic when washed up in the beach anyway. You could also go as one of the 5 Gyres or you could take a page out of Rob Greenfield’s book and wear all the plastic you created this past month. Just make sure you wash and recycle afterwards. (Image -EcoWatch)


Rob Greenfield Plastic Waste Trash Activist Ecowatch


5. Rent a costume: There are many shops that rent out costumes for all occasions, Halloween included. So, for the non-DIY trick-or-treater, renting a costume is a great way to have a low-impact on the environment but a big impact on your friends and family!

6. Avoid creating costumes that require face paint or plastic accessories: The paint and accessories from the store come wrapped in tons of single-use plastic. If your heart is set on face paint or fake blood for a costume, you can always make your own. 

7. Don’t use glitter: You have heard a lot about microplastics. This is plastic debris that breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces until the smallest levels of the aquatic food chain are eating plastic for dinner. Glitter is already pretty close to microscopic. It gets everywhere, it’s plastic, and when you wear it, you always end up getting some in your mouth. So what chance does it have to go anywhere except in the bellies of marine life once you wash it down the drain?


Dolphin DIY costume cardboard found on Pinterest Make props from natural or recyclable materials: There are some crazy creative costumes made out of cardboard. You can make binoculars and fins out of cardboard and cardboard tubes. Go as a wildlife expert or a fish!

9. Make an outfit you’ll wear again and again: If you are set on a brand-new costume, please remember that the waste you create is a lifetime responsibility, so make something great! If you are going all in, make something that you will wear again and again, that your friend will ask to borrow, that your friend’s friend will one day ask to borrow.

10. Pro-Tip – Think about post-Halloween: Think about what you’ll do with your creation afterwards and consider donating your costumes to a local theater or school drama club. (Image Credit – Pinterest)


Decorating for an Eco-Friendly Halloween

So, we have the costume sorted out, what about decorations? Halloween memories are filled with eerie lights glowing in windows, fog pumping from beneath garage doors, fake spider webs hung in trees. How do you keep the tradition alive and the planet healthy?

Fall is the perfect to find natural decorations, like fallen leaves. You can even take out a hole puncher and make some your own leaf confetti from your leaf litter.

Decorate with compostable objects like gourds, hay, or pumpkins! The best part of Halloween is that the main decoration is a plant that will break down and feed your soil once you’re done with it. If you make a Jack-o-Lantern, you can roast the pumpkin seeds for bird feed and make pie or cookies from the insides. Bonus points if you buy the produce from a local, ethical farmer. For more inspiration, check out this wacky watermelon brain and get creative with natural decorations.


Just like with your costume, the best decorations are DIY projects from things around the house. You could make a cardboard box into a haunted house. Also popular is a series of “surprise” boxes filled with gross things like human intestines! (aka spaghetti). If you use anything outside of these tips to decorate, make sure it is a durable, reusable forever decoration. Just remember the no glitter rule applies to decorations as well as costumes. And, if you want to cut down on energy use and costs, any new lights that you decorate with, make them LED lights.


Get as Ocean-Friendly As Possible at Trick or Treat Time

This one I think is the hardest. What do we do about the candy? Hopefully we can all remember our days as kids and, speaking for myself, I wasn’t too happy if I went to a house that gave out anything other than candy. So, as an adult, you don’t want to disappoint all your eager trick-or-treaters. But, individually wrapped candy for everyone is a lot of waste. Candy wrappers are too far in the plastic cycle to be recycled, so it is all waste. And, since we have been taught to fear poison or harm for our kids in homemade treats, wrappers are a security factor during Halloween. So what do you do to make a zero waste ocean-friendly Halloween night? zero waste halloween candy homemade handmade low impact less packaging1. Choose organic, local made candy to reduce the lifetime impact of the candy.

2. Buy in bulk.  You could buy a few different bulk candies and package them in mini paper bags.  Even if you are not keen to package yourself, buying at the bulk store (in reusable bags) saves on the larger outer packaging.

3. Choose candy with less wrapping. When looking for plastic-free candies, try to find treats wrapped in recyclable materials like paper boxes or foil. Some ideas for plastic-free candies are Smarties, Dots, mini packages of natural Glee Gum, Coco Camino chocolates, Hershey kisses, and those chocolates that come in pumpkin styled foil.

4. Try some candy alternatives: You could give out raw honey sticks. We found some great alternatives at Green Halloween. 

5. Organize with your neighbors and fundraise for a Zero Waste box from Terracycle to recycle your candy wrappers. It’s a bit expensive, but all of the parents on your block are going to be dealing with candy wrapper waste. A few dollars from everyone could go a long way to turning all that waste into something usable once again. Be a leader and say something, plus what better way to break the ice with your neighbors than to collect the wrapper trash from Halloween.

6. Upcycle: If your DIY muscle is strong, you can always upcycle your wrappers afterwards.

7. Trick Or Treat with a reusable bag: Make sure to send your kids out with a reusable bag or pillowcase for collecting candy and an extra bag for any littering!


There is no perfect solution about how to combat climate reality and keep our traditions and lifestyles alive. At Blue Ocean, we are here to explore the answers and the solutions. We hope that you’ll use Halloween to try out how to be less impactful on our planet and also enjoy the holiday. Make sure to let us know what you do for a ocean-friendly zero waste Halloween. Put some Blue in your Boo!


Climate Change Scarier Than A Horror Movie: Tips for an Ocean-Friendly Zero Waste Halloween is part of our Zero Waste series that includes Zero Waste Travel and Living a Zero Waste Lifestyle.


See these Related Blue Ocean Articles:

How can Going Zero save the Ocean?
Zero Waste Changes That Won’t Cost a Thing to Save Our Oceans
Environmental Books: Take One To The Beach This Summer
Living Green: How to get to a Sustainable Lifestyle!

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