Thursday, October 2, 2008

Three Tricks to Greener Treats

1) Costume Slostume: Remember when you were a kid and you trotted your one of a kind costume up and down your street? Maybe your mom spent weeks making a costume that looked exactly like a chicken. Or maybe you pieced it together yourself - out of your dress up box, your grandmother's closet, and some aluminum foil. The handmade costumes of our youth were not only more eco-friendly than the current rows of polyester Sponge Bob and Power Ranger costumes. They were more meaningful, too.

If handmade costumes don't ring your doorbell, though, you can still go green by reusing a costume (This very well may be my son's third year as Thomas the Train.), swapping one on the mothers' club board or with friends, or scouting out local thrift stores.

2) Green the Halls: Decorating for Halloween can be truly sustainable. Fall leaves gathered from sidewalks can grace tables. Colorful pumpkins, locally grown and hauled home from the farmers market, are transformed into pies, soups and muffins once autumn's holidays are memories. After several years of preschool, I'm stocked for life with Halloween art. Construction paper Frankensteins lounge over the mantel. Ghosts made from small footprints peer out the windows, accompanied by their friends, tissue paper candy corn and thumbprint pumpkin patches. Even the centerpiece of Halloween - the Jack O Lantern himself - is Mr. Eco. He's locally grown, stuffed with a clean burning, farmers' market beeswax candle and the result of some true quality time in both a field alongside the coast and on the kitchen floor with a sharp knife. In the end, all of Halloween's decorations end up in our stomachs, the compost bin or the art box.

3) The Not So Sweet Treats: Here's where Halloween gets a bit tricky for me. I have yet to find something truly "eco" to give the little goblins and ghosts who bang down my door on All Hallow's Eve. Last year, I blithely passed out candy bars only to later learn about the dark side of chocolate. Most chocolate is grown in the rainforest. It's ever-increasing demand has resulted in massive deforestation, dramatic pesticide use, and child labor. Fortunately, those bitter side effects can be ameliorated simply by choosing fair trade and organic varieties. Whole Foods carries some brands, as well as organic lollipops, and other varieties of fair or ethically traded chocolate can be found here and here. Organic raisins, fruit leather or similar healthy snacks that could subsequently be packed in a lunch are also great alternatives. If you want to skip sweets entirely, other treat options include handing out coins, pencils, soy crayons, stickers, tattoos, or others item that will not become landfill fodder.

Happy Halloween!


Robj98168 said...

Cool Ideas- I like to give quarters out- some years I give out microwave popcorn. Last year my mom gave out bags of chips. I re-use my latex pumpkins that I carved 2 years ago with battery operated LED lights. But i suppose I could carve one of my pumpkins I grew- but I plan on eating them

amanda said...

great treat ideas...i have been trying to think of something other than candy! i may try organic lollipops or raisins...

MamaBird said...

Interesting idea to give out quarters. Tooth Fairy Pumpkins! And could I be more lucky? EGirl wants to be a butterfly again. Can you say, leotard w/dressup box wings?! Now if the SmartMama would just make safe makeup for me to glitter her cheeks with...

Bugs and Brooms said...

Great ideas! We probably won't have any trick-or-treaters this year since we are so far off the road with no neighbors... BUT, I would love some advice on how to handle my little ones bag of goodies! I will be rationing the contents anyway but I would love to have mainly good-for-her yummies to enjoy. Of course, she will have a few 'bad' ones but it would be great if our local farmers, co-ops, etc. would do something for Halloween. I will have to inquire with them on that!

Abbie said...

My students expect to get candy from all of their teachers. I'm seriously considering bringing in apples for them.

eco 'burban mom said...

Oh, I wish I could get my boys to pass on the candy. It just doesn't happen, they get together with all their friends and trick or treat until their legs give out. Though, I do usually pass out play-doh to the little kids instead of candy, which has been a big hit.

kale for sale said...

Would you please put a gold star on your green cape from me. I have been looking for bite size fair trade candy for the office as we keep a perennial pumpkin full of treats and I'd risk being let go if it were suddenly pulled. Through the blogs I only recently learned of the dark side of chocolate (you put that so beautifully) and have wanted to make a responsibile change. Now here are the sources. Many thanks!

Lisa Sharp said...

I'm so excited to see all these eco-friendly Halloween posts! I hope there are tons for Thanksgiving and Christmas as well.

Susa Smith said...

Dear Green Bean Dreams Blogger,

On behalf of the chocolate/cocoa industry, I wanted to respond to the inaccurate claims in your post.

First, we are working hard to teach farmers better farming practices on the more than two million family-run cocoa farms in West Africa by supporting organizations such as the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF). WCF is supported by more than 70 chocolate companies, including my employer – the National Confectioners Association.

Specifically, we are helping farmers earn more (25 to 55 percent) by:
• teaching them better growing techniques, reducing crop loss, and collective bargaining for cocoa farmers.
• improving the quality and health of cocoa trees and the quality of the cocoa product.
• introducing farmers to environmentally-friendly farming practices, including non-chemical methods of pest and disease control.

Through organizations like WCF, public-private partnerships are created and developed to address these kinds of issues on cocoa farms.

Secondly, many cocoa farms in West Africa do have children who help out as members of the family. Without question, there are some serious issues here: children helping out instead of attending school and child injuries due to kids performing unsafe tasks.

On July 1, 2008, Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana (the world’s two largest cocoa producers) made separate announcements that they have put a certification process on child labor in place across an area that produces at least 50 percent of their cocoa. In both countries, the data collection element of the certification system has been completed and reports detailing the preliminary results of these surveys by the respective countries can be found here for Ghana and here for Cote d’Ivoire.

It is education offered by the WCF’s “farmer field schools” approach that empowers these farmers and creates lasting, widespread change.

I hope you and your readers will take the time to learn more about the efforts the chocolate/cocoa industry has taken to change the labor practices on cocoa farms by visiting

Finally, I wanted to address the myth that fair trade (or any other label on chocolate) guarantees that chocolate was produced without any type of abusive labor practice – in reality, there is no such guarantee.

Susan Smith
National Confectioners Association

Donna said...

In the summer when Andrew was 2, I found a really cool fireman's coat and hat (size 5) in a 2nd hand store. I bought it, hoping I could persuade him to be a fireman that Halloween. I needn't have worried since that October he announced he did NOT want to wear a costume, he wanted to wear a fireman jacket! This year, he is again adamant that we wants to dress as a fireman. The coat, of course, still fits, although it was a litte cuter when it was 3 sizes too big! Glad I'm not the only one with a kid in a rut!

Don't know what to think of Susan Smith's comment. I've heard a lot of stuff about chocolate growers in Ghana, too, and I'm wondering how she's so sure they've put an end to child slavery there. I'm glad they're working to improve the situation, but for now I'm still buying fair trade. I hope if you look into it, you'll give us an update. :)

innercitygarden said...

Well Susa Smith, I reckon your organisation wouldn't do anything at all to improve practices in the chocolate industry unless you were feeling pressure from fair trade organisations. So when I buy chocolate I'll cheerfully keep buying organic and fair trade, and hope that you keep working to improve the mainstream.

Shaina said...

Hey there! Just a little note to let you know that I love, love, love your blog, and I'm adding you to my blogroll.

Khloe said...

Cool idea..! I always prefer Eco-friendly Halloween celebration and decorations.

N. said...

We just came back from our local Goodwill and they had a TON of different costumes so if you aren't up for making your own or you child wants so more choices you should give it a try.

CindyW said...

My handing out crayons and tatoo stickers invited appreciation from the parents and disappointments from the kids last year.

So this year I may go back to candy, probably organic lollipops. I've also decided to be a neighborhood scrooge lady, one lollipop per child. Personally I get really annoyed if my kids come home with buckets full of candy, 'cuz I end up eating too much of it.

CindyW said...

My handing out crayons and tatoo stickers invited appreciation from the parents and disappointments from the kids last year.

So this year I may go back to candy, probably organic lollipops. I've also decided to be a neighborhood scrooge lady, one lollipop per child. Personally I get really annoyed if my kids come home with buckets full of candy, 'cuz I end up eating too much of it.

Abbie said...

Yeah, so what about the latest recall of white chocolate candies from China that contain MELAMINE!!!

Diane MacEachern said...

I've given out boxes of organic raisins in the past - most kids hate 'em! My neighbor gives out little dixie cups of organic apple cider - kids seem to need a thirst quencher by the time they get to her house.

Gray Matters said...

Great post - I've never thought about giving out coins before!

Mama said...

With the thoughts on commercialization of the holidays, it is making me want to just throw a private party at home with a few other families. That way, we can have yummy homemade treats, and fun games, without all the hullabaloo. At first I was imagining I needed to give my kids the same memories I had of toxic face paint, cheap costumes and way too much candy....but then I realized they don't know any different, and a fun party with their closest friends is way better. Then I don't have candy to restrict forever!
BTW, thanks for your good wishes on our new business!

Mary said...

If companies wanted to catch a trend, one look down this list will tell them exactly where they need to be in the coming years. Great topic!

Green Bean said...

Rob: Never thought of bags of chips or the like but why not snack food that the kids can eat in their lunches.

Amanda: Thanks! It's so hard to find stuff good for the planet and fun for the kids to get out.

MamaBird: Totally stole it from an elderly lady who lives one street over. Sweet! B-fly again! Gotta love the repeat costumes.

Bugs: I'd be interested what you could find at the farmers' market. Honey sticks?

Abbie: Sure! Buck the system. Why not apples.

EcoBurbs: Play dough is a good idea! And yes, we get the middle schoolers who trick or treat hard core here.

Kale: Why thank you! I'll paste a gold star right now. ;-)

Lisa: You've got some great ideas too.

Susa: I am delighted to learn that your company is working to improve working conditions and the environmental impact of the chocolate business. Indeed, one of my links is to an article which mentions your company and describes both the progress made and the progress to be made. For now, I think I'll stick with the Fair Trade certification - which I understand to be very reliable.

Donna: Gotta love the repeat fireman costume! ;0) I looked at the information regarding Susa's company and it does look like progress is being made and Ghana (I think it is) has come down hard on child labor and child slavery in the cocoa plantations. Still, as I said in my comment to her, I'm going to continue to buy Fair Trade. Why not? Everywhere you turn, everyone writes that it is a reliable certification and that it makes a big difference in justice and environmental impact. Hopefully, Susa's company will continue to make great strides and one day all of our chocolate will be ethically traded.

InnerCityGarden: right on, sista!

n.: Isn't it amazing to see what you can get at the second hand stores? Almost any costume you want if you look enough.

Cindy: It's so hard to balance between what is good for the earth and what the kids like.

Abbie: Extra melamine please!

Diane: Someone up the street did that (or maybe it was hot cocoa). Only problem was that the cups were styrafoam and littered the street for days to come.

Gray Matters: Thank you!

Mama: Private party sounds fun. And then you get to control everything. :)

Mary: You are so right! I think companies would be jumping all over this and striving to make the stuff we are looking for.


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