When we think about Halloween, in addition to the usual scary fun and sweets, the colors orange and black generally come to mind. Historically connected to commemorative masses for the dead, one explanation says unbleached beeswax candles were orange and caskets were draped with black fabric, with the Celts and Druids said to be responsible for the “theme.”
But this year, traditional colors withstanding, why not also opt for a “green” Halloween–and no, we’re not talking about slime! How about creating an earth-friendly holiday where nature’s decorations, paperless party invitations, soy or beeswax candles (instead of petroleum-based), recycled and recyclable costumes, organic make-up, and no-bake treats that use less energy in their preparation (and use local ingredients when possible) substitute for the usual plastic, paper, vinyl, synthetic and chemically-treated materials.
For starters, if you’re planning a party, instead of purchasing conventional paper invitations with pre-conceived messages, e- invitations are a great opportunity to show your creativity through personalized missives that don’t require deforestation. Websites like Evite, My Punch Bowl, Zoji, Pingg, Purple Trail, Socializr and others allow you to customize your online invitations, some with images (theirs or yours) or music, depending on the site, and others that also manage RSVP’s.
Whether decorating indoors for a scary-festive holiday or creating a ghoulish backyard haunted house, jettison the idea of plastic pumpkins, masks, statues and other synthetic props, which can off-gas toxic chemicals. Instead, opt for colorful natural items from autumn’s explosive bounty such as pumpkins, gourds, pinecones, fall flowers, fresh hay or straw, artfully displayed outside the front door, on shelves and mantles or as centerpieces around glowing candles. These will fill your home with fragrant, attractive, environmentally-friendly conversation pieces that will delight family members and party guests alike.
Stuff old pillowcases or sheets with newspaper, tie at the “neck,” and suspend from doorways, swing sets, jungle gyms or trees for ghastly ghostly effects, or stuff a plaid shirt and some overalls for the quintessential headless scarecrow.
Get the family together and reuse paper grocery sacks (the ones you accumulated before switching to cloth!) to paint and cut out black cats, witch’s hats, bats, broomsticks, headstones and more, and string together for mobiles in every room — or string across the yard for a unique Halloween clothesline. Make an “authentic” witch’s broom by tying straw or hay with a black ribbon to an old (recycled) baseball bat. If you use garden stakes, repurpose them by painting scary images (skeletons; jack-o-lanterns; headstones with the names of party guests) on cardboard and affix to the stakes, placing them along the pathway to the party. Here, repurposed flower pots lined with foil can also double as outdoor votive candle holders.
If you think Halloween make-up and costumes have to be store-bought, probably never to be used again, think again. Instead of purchasing synthetic costumes, visit area thrift stores for oversized or unusual coats, hats, belts, and scarves or better yet, raid your closets for little-used or outdated clothing and accessories. A dash of ingenuity can turn a 1980s off-the-shoulder sweatshirt with dolman sleeves into a smashing toddler’s superhero cape or flawless bat-winged costume, with items like old bathrobes, long gloves, caps, boots, and even old uniforms finding new life as integral components of this year’s trick or treat festivities.
And while the temptation to purchase spine-chilling make-up may go hand-in-hand with making All Hallows Eve all it can be, homemade non-toxic options are both thrifty and earth-friendly, as they won’t end up in landfills. Tomato sauce, red food coloring (use sparingly so it doesn’t permanently stain) and cornstarch make for excellent blood, and substituting green food coloring for red makes oozy slime easily attainable. For a white base (and who doesn’t want the total zombie look?), combine 10 teaspoons cornstarch, 2 teaspoons flour, 5 teaspoons vegetable shortening and ¼ teaspoon glycerin. Fairy princess glitter for arms, legs and face (watch out for the eyes) can be attained by mixing aloe vera gel from the drugstore with actual glitter. Apply and be sure to let dry before moving about.
Finally, what’s the quintessential Halloween party without homemade devil-icious treats?! To conserve energy, instead of baking which entails heating up the oven, try using ingredients like natural peanut butter, chocolate pudding, nuts, raisins, marshmallows, cheese, coconut, pretzels, breakfast cereal, crunchy chow mein noodles, and fresh fruit to create healthy, scrumptious, environmentally-respectful snacks. The quick and eek-sy recipes below should help speed you on your way to a fun, festive, and bloodcurdlingly green Halloween.
Peanut Butter Coconut Eyeballs
Mix equal parts natural peanut butter, finely chopped nuts, and shredded coconut in a bowl. Roll into balls and coat lightly in sugar. Add a raisin for the eyeball. Refrigerate for firmness before serving.
Cut a soft cheese (such as Muenster) into 2”-by-1” rectangles. Insert three chow mein noodles on each side for legs, and one noodle — broken in half — into the front as antennae.
Cemetery Dirt Cups
Make instant chocolate pudding per the directions on the box. Pour into individual cups and top with crumbled brownies or chocolate cookies. Add a cookie “tombstone,” and gummy worms or marshmallow ghosts for extra screams!