How to have a sustainable Hallowe’en!

While many of us expect Hallowe’en to have a few frights in store for us, we don’t want the environment to suffer and give us further frights down the road.

Believed to have its roots in old pagan festivals, Hallowe’en or All Hallows’ Eve is traditionally the day in which the souls of those who came before return to the land of the living, to haunt us all and to leave a chill in our bones. Who doesn’t like a good scare once in a while?

It gives us all a chance to indulge in a bit of harmless fun in the run-up to Christmas, but as with many major celebrations, it can come at a price for the planet.

So many ways to carve a pumpkin

Large, round, plump and orange, pumpkins are the instantly-recognisable face of Hallowe’en itself. Also known as jack-o’-lanterns when carved into a distinctively spooky design, they are a bright and memorable way to celebrate the day. But just how sustainable is it for us to grow pumpkins, only to carve them up and throw them away without using them for all their worth?

While it can be a fun activity to carve up a pumpkin and put it on display in front of your home, a lot of resources went into growing every one of them. If you feel curious about making the most of your pumpkin this Hallowe’en, seeing the waste caused during Halloween might motivate you to use every ounce of the fleshy and autumnal members of the squash family.

In 2016, Hubbub revealed that as many as 15 million pumpkins are grown in the UK and carved up for use as jack-o’-lanterns. However, a survey found that only half of Britons actually considered Hallowe’en pumpkins as food. As many as a third of respondents also didn’t even realise carving pumpkins were actually edible.

These millions of pumpkins which are grown and carved up each year are estimated to be equivalent to as many as 65 million bowls of pumpkin soup, or one bowl for every person in the UK. All those rotting carved pumpkins produce a lot of what could be considered food waste every year. There’s got to be a greener way to make the most of them.

Our pumpkin soup recipe

Rather than letting them go to waste, why not make a delicious pumpkin soup for everyone to enjoy? All you need to do is follow these cooking instructions:

• Take two chopped onions, sizzle them in olive oil until they turn nice and soft
• Wash your pumpkin, cut it into neat chunks and put them into the pan
• Let the pumpkin pieces sizzle until they turn golden and then add stock (vegetable or chicken)
• Bring the mixture to boil, adding salt and pepper to season it
• Add some double cream, boil it some more and then purée the mixture with a blender
• Soup’s up!

Pumpkins are a rich source of vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene, a red-orange pigment which is converted into Vitamin A when consumed. This helps give the pumpkins their distinctive colour. These vitamins are all essential for healthy skin, and play a valuable role in maintaining a healthy immune system.

So, by making good use of your pumpkin this Hallowe’en, you can cut down on food waste, and produce a tasty, healthy meal for all. As an added bonus make sure you get yourself an organic pumpkin, as this goes some way towards ensuring that you are more likely to end up with a pumpkin grown sustainably.

Decorations aren’t just for this Hallowe’en

In the run-up to Hallowe’en, you get the predictable surge in shops selling all kinds of costumes, masks, decorations and trinkets to put up around the home. A large volume of these items are often plastic and may seem recyclable at first. However, it’s more than likely that some of the items can’t be recycled properly, and could end up in landfill.

A survey was carried out in October 2019 between Hubbub and the Fairyland Trust, on the sustainability of Hallowe’en costumes. The report found that two thousand tonnes of plastic waste were generated from discarded costumes and decorations during their study.

The quantity of waste plastic produced as a result was equivalent to 83 million bottles of Coca Cola. The survey included in the report also found that 83 per cent of the material used in Hallowe’en costumes as sold online were made from oil-based plastic. When plastic is discarded, it often breaks down into smaller particles called microplastics.

Microplastic doesn’t degrade or decay as organic materials do, and can linger in the natural environment like a ghost at the banquet. It could even wind up the human food chain. To avoid the perils of microplastics coming back to haunt future generations, it pays to recycle your old Hallowe’en costumes, decorations and other items you buy this year by keeping them and wearing them again the year.

Rather than embracing the disposable mindset, you could just retain them or hand them down to someone else who might want them.

All it takes is more of us up and down the country taking this approach, and we can cut down on the amount of plastic waste we produce each year. Reusing your old Hallowe’en items year after year can also save you some extra pennies, so you don’t have to keep rushing back to the shops each time for the latest accessories.

Have a green Hallowe’en

One of the underlying themes of Hallowe’en is the concept of remembering the past and the idea of being visited by people who used to live in the world of yesterday. In the future, what will our descendants think, as they imagine us coming back to haunt them? While we may no longer be there in person, the consequences of our behaviour on Earth will linger for many years.

Our reliance on plastic, a culture of disposability and the amount of food waste we produce are clearly legacies we don’t want to leave for future generations to have to clear up. Just as a reminder for the future, here are some useful tips for a greener Hallowe’en…

Make your own fun – instead of heading to the shops for pumpkins and various other plastic items from the shops, you can design your own special Hallowe’en-themed decorations. Why not use leftover paper or other decorations lying around the house and repaint/repurpose them with a spookier design?

Resort to less glitter/plastic-based make-upbelieve it or not, but the glitter you use as make-up for Hallowe’en is actually a form of microplastic and can damage the planet if it ends up on the oceans. Instead of resorting to glitter, why not try more eco-friendly glitter substitutes? This can include spray-on products and organic-based particles which degrade easily.

Compost your pumpkin – rather than just throwing your pumpkin in the bin, you could let it become biomass once it has fulfilled its purpose. As the pumpkin starts to decay into compost, it will become rich in the kinds of nutrients which you can go on to use in your own garden. That saves you having to use chemical fertilisers on your garden, which might pollute the soil.

Grow your own pumpkin – if you keep a hold of those pumpkin seeds when you’ve finished carving or turning your pumpkin into soup, put them somewhere safe. If you plant them somewhere suitable, preferably an allotment, you could grow your own pumpkins. This gives you a potentially never-ending supply of pumpkins to keep you going for many Hallowe’ens to come. Check out the Royal Horticultural Society’s tips for growing your own pumpkins here.

All of us here at Volta Future Positive hope you have a happy Hallowe’en!

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