Ditch the dollar store décor for eco-friendly alternatives

In a few weeks, homes across the city will be spooked out.

Lawns will be transformed into eerie cemeteries, windows will be covered in cobwebs and giant spiders with glowing eyes will guard doors. But this Halloween, Calgarians can make sure that the scariest night of the year doesn’t turn out to be a nightmare for the environment.

Amanda Barker, who organized Calgary’s National Costume Swap Day, says “Calgarians are interested in not only choosing healthier alternatives but also finding ways to be friendlier to the earth, including making Halloween green.”

It’s easy to turn your home into a haunted but eco-friendly house with a few tricks.

One of the preferred haunts for Halloween décor is the dollar store — stocked full with ghoulish delights at incredible prices, it’s no wonder. But come Nov. 1, many Calgarians’ black bins will be filled with remnants of plastic skulls and witch brooms.Buy quality decorations so you can re-use them each year. But compost your pumpkins. Photo: Devon Jolie

Amanda Kostler, an eco-adviser at Only Green Canada (educators and supplier of eco-friendly products and services), says “Single-use things, products from the dollar-store … people end up throwing out.” Those bargain buys won’t last long and they will ultimately end up in the dump, taking up precious landfill space.

This thinking goes against the efforts of many Calgarians to make their lives and city green. Calgary was deemed the No. 1 eco-friendly city in the world by the 2010 Mercer survey. Despite this acclaimed status, the Waste and Recycling Services annual review says that Calgarians tossed “193,000 tonnes of residential garbage– equivalent to the weight of 18 Calgary Towers” in 2010.

Barker, owner of the eco-friendly baby boutique Edamame Kids, also cautions against the attraction of the cheap.

She says to “consider the quality of the items instead of basing buying decisions solely on price.” You may spend a little more up front, but the decorations will be re-usable from year to year, she notes.

“A lot of things [that people buy] are not made locally…the cost of transportation and the affect that has the environment and using up resources in other countries [all] pretty much benefit us so that we can have nice stuff” –Amanda KostlerKostler admits that pulling out the same box of hanging skeletons and glowing pumpkins can get boring. She suggests trading decorations with friends, or heading to one of Calgary’s many thrift stores to look for gently used Halloween decorations or even browse the online free classifieds.

Another tip to keeping your Halloween environmentally friendly is to think with the environment in mind. Pumpkins are not only the quintessential Halloween decoration but they are eco-friendly.

What to look for in the store

Here are Amanda Barkers’ top tips for finding eco-friendly buys:

* The logo Green Halloween®

Green Halloween is an organization dedicated to keeping this holiday eco-friendly.

They endorse products that are gentler on the environment.

* The FSC logo

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international certification system for forests and forest products supported by WWF Canada, Greenpeace, and the David Suzuki Foundation. Products with the FCS logo are guaranteed to come from “healthy forests and strong communities.”

* Bio-degradable plastics

Not to be confused with the recycle symbol (these must be recycled). Any product that is labeled as ‘bio-degradable’ will naturally decompose in a landfill.

Barker says to source your soon-to-be Jack-O-Lanterns’ from a farmer’s market to support local agriculture and to use LED lights to make those pumpkins glow. But make sure you compost them after the festivities are done, whether in your own garden or through the city’s Leaf and Pumpkin Composting Program.

However you decide to decorate your home for All Hallow’s Eve, it’s about making a conscious decision.

“A lot of things [that people buy] are not made locally….The cost of transportation and the affect that has the environment and using up resources in other countries [all] pretty much benefit us so that we can have nice stuff,” Kostler says.

Buying locally made products, natural decorations, and re-using from year to year will all help to reduce the negative effects that our consumer lifestyles have on the environment. And all it takes is a little effort.

Barker says, “Being eco-friendly isn’t just for certain people. Anyone can go ‘green’.”

djolie@cjournal.ca