Saturday, 31 October 2009

Simple, Green, Frugal and Festive

by Francesca

Can we be simple, green and frugal, but also festive?

skeleton costume
~ We make our own costumes. This is a skeleton costume I made for my son some years ago, from a long-sleeved T-shirt, an old pair of yoga pants, and various scraps of white fabric. We studied up on human anatomy a little, turning our costume-making into a fun science project ~

This question occurs to me today, as Halloween is celebrated in many parts of the world, and a season of celebrations begins. And it’s a question that I’m posing to the readers of this blog, which aims to explore ways to achieve a more sustainable lifestyle. How do you celebrate your holidays in a festive fashion that's also simple, green and frugal?

~ We don't actually carve pumpkins: our local variety are too tough, and far better for dinner than for decoration (the flesh is great in soups, and roasted pumpkin seeds, lightly sprinkled with sea salt, are a favorite snack). Last year, my sons painted a Jack o’ Lantern on them instead. Pumpkin peels are compostable ~

First of all, some facts:

In the US of A (the country for which data is available), Halloween is the second largest commercial holiday after Christmas, and has spread to many other parts of the world (here in Italy, for instance, enthusiasm has skyrocketed in the last fifteen years, and is now serious competition for Carnival).

According to the National Retail Federation, the average US consumer will spend $56.31 on Halloween this year, for a total of $4.75 billion nationwide (you can read the complete report here). The NRF says this money will be spent on three main categories: costumes, candy, and decorations. The impact on the environment will be heavy, considering that countless candy wrappers, plastic decorations and Jack o' Lanterns will end up in the landfills.

Can this be what Halloween, or any other holiday, is really about? I don't believe so. One of the wonderful surprises about living a frugal and green lifestyle, we've found, is that simplifying our lives doesn't bring hardship or privation, but actually helps us to concentrate on the important things.

wild boar skull
~ This summer, on one of their walks in the woods, my boys found this wild boar mandible in a stream bed: the perfect decoration for Halloween this year ~

As we prepare tonight to knock on the doors of neighbors we rarely see otherwise, our houses imaginatively decorated and our children thrilled with wearing special costumes, it seems to me that Halloween is a tradition that celebrates community spirit, creativity and fun for children and adults alike. All of which, we’ve found, can easily be achieved for far less than $56.31 per person, and with almost zero waste.

Wishing you a simple, green, frugal and very festive Halloween, wherever in the world you are!