Love it or loathe it, the season of tricks and treats is rolling around again. Sure, Halloween is far from being a homegrown festival. From its autumnal Celtic origins as Samhain, through to its supersized reinterpretation via North America, it is most definitely an imported holiday. But what Aussie doesn’t love to play dress-ups? Last year we spent $430 million on the occasion. 

    Our Westie suburbs have certainly embraced the fun, and the streets where I live are thronged with all classes of ghoulish beings out seeking smiles and goodies on October 31st.

    But for all the fun, there’s no denying that the night also produces a terrifying amount of waste from costumes, food, wrappers and decorations. So here are some ideas on how you can Refuse, Reduce, Repurpose, Replace, Reuse and Rot your way through the festivities.

    With a few weeks to go before the big night, there’s time to plan and it will make a difference. With a little thought about the life-cycle of what you buy and distribute on this single night of the year, you can make the event less of a horror show for Mother Earth – while still showing the kids a gruesome time. 


    Say a hard ‘NO’ to fake spider web décor. It is a death trap for insects and birds that share our neighbourhood. Also, prevent lolly-wrapper waste at the source by not handing out packaged lollies. Instead go for bulk-bought, loose treats that you can hand out with tongs or a scoop. Even if you choose recyclable packaging, there’s no guarantee it won’t end up in landfill. 


    Instead of buying new costumes made with plastic, likely under poor working conditions, hold a swap party with friends in the coming weeks and trade existing costumes from your dress-up box. You could also make your own from real clothes. Op shops are a great place to pull together a stunning costume. 


    If you intend to cut up or stain your costume, an even better idea is sourcing already damaged clothes first. Shabby, torn clothes too bad for donating to the Op Shop make great zombie attire – just rip, stain and add face paint! Reach out to friends or in local socials with your dress-up idea and someone might have exactly what you need.


    If you see an opportunity to swap in a greener alternative, take it! How about mandarins with Jack O’Lantern faces or choc-dipped strawberries instead of lollies? Or a homemade skeleton made from white pottery clay – with cardboard box gravestones – to decorate your lawn? Let your creativity go wild!


    Using what you already have makes a profound difference to waste. So, pull out your existing décor for reuse this year. If you have to buy afresh keep longevity in mind and carefully pack everything away for continued use in the future.


    The ultimate measure of environmental sustainability is that an item can be returned to the earth, i.e. composted. Carved pumpkins can clearly head to the compost bin after use. Even better if their innards are eaten or composted too. Or instead of out-of-season pumpkins carve a pineapple or watermelon.

    Ali Manns
    Ali Manns
    Ali Manns is a Permaculture Designer and Educator living in Yarraville and can be found at

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