Back in the day – which day?, you ask – the mid 60's and early 70's, it was neat and groovy to have a homemade Halloween costume.  At 10, I was a green Martian complete with green eye shadow all over my face and an iridescent little jump suit with a hood made from left over material from some 60's fashion mistake of my mother's.  My grandmother, with help from my surgeon father (he was the only one in the family who knew how to sew), made my costume based on my drawings.  I fashioned antennae (Martians do have antenna, right?!?) from slightly used aluminum foil.  


I was the coolest kid on the block even though I wore a parka over my alien outfit to keep warm. By the time I got to the neighborhood party my green face was smeary and I had a rip in my outfit from falling down trying to keep up with the older neighborhood kids.  Some things just don't ever change – did I say that out loud?


According to the National Retail Federation's 2009 Halloween Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, Halloween spending is estimated to fall 18% but still be at $4.75 billion, down from $5.77 billion last year.  That's still a lot of plastic trick-or-treat pumpkins, petroleum-based outfits and  masks – just imagine how much of it ends up in a landfill!


The silver lining in all of this belt tightening is an opportunity for recession weary consumers with a nascent eco-sensibility to have a new-old kind of Halloween this year.   Going recycled, non-toxic and re-using for Halloween is going to be HUGE  – trust me.  


You can save a little moola and reduce your eco-footprint while still having a Halloween blast.  Check out some of these ideas to get you thinking in a green direction: 


  • For Adults Revelers – Don't feel silly, last year, 58 million people dressed up.   If you are going to dress up, go as a real person – Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcet, and Kate Gosselin (3 of the hottest Halloween costumes of 09 according to a writer) don't require a purchased outfit or mask.  Dig in your closet for an outfit and the right make-up.  I've always believed that accessories make the outfit.  In fact, an Ove Glove might just do the trick for M.J. impersonators and it is re-useable.


  • Rent rather than own – If you insist on a non-homemade version of Michael, Farrah or Kate, rent it rather than buy it.  Who wants to go as the same dead or tired star 2 years in a row?  If you have one of last year's top 3 – quite possibly Sarah Palin, Amy Winehouse or The Joker from Batman – don't let it sit home alone this holiday,  loan it to a not so hip and with it friend.


  • DIY Trick-or-Treat Tote – Make a trick-or-treat container out of an old empty and washed out non-toxic brand paint can.  Cover with construction paper or a collage of bats, pumpkins, witches or Brett Favre  (he is my October hero!).  Or you can sew a Halloween motif fabric onto a re-useable cloth grocery store bag.  Either of these can be used year after year.


  • Earth Inspired Costumes – This Halloween, try making your child's costume. Try creating a nature inspired costume like a caterpillar from a matching green sweatpants and a hoodie with pipe cleaner antennae.  Or make wings from old scarves stitched together and attached to the underarms and side of brown or black hoodie.  See 16 costumes that you can make with a sweatshirt and tights at


  • Non-Toxic Face Paint and Pencils - Instead of a plastic or rubber mask try a non-toxic brand of face decorating, Nova Naturals Face Pencils.  Made from plant oils they are easy to apply, wash off and you can use them over and over. Or make your own face paints with plain yogurt and a few drops of food coloring.  It will dry shiny with some texture – I'm not kidding.


  • Edible Scary Show – Having a party for the teenagers?  Hang a white sheet from the ceiling with audience seated on one side and a table that is backlit on the other so the scene is projected by shadow on the sheet.  One person (the surgeon) stands and another person (the patient) lies on the table.  With the audience side of the room dark the surgeon pretends to do surgery removing body parts that are made from organic and local food - linked sausages for intestines, cold multigrain spaghetti noodles for brains, locally grown cherry tomatoes peeled for eyeballs.  Pass around the dark room and enjoy the tactile feeling – ok, this one is a little gross.  


  • Party and Home Decorations – Use LED candles in pumpkins rather than candles.  They burn cool and you can use them for other things throughout the year.  Corn stalks and hay from decorative hay bales can be dismantled and spread on garden beds to help protect plants and shrubs from snow and ice. 


  • Pumpkins – Use up every part of the pumpkin – make salted and roasted seeds.  Keep the meat of the cut outs for soup, dessert or roasting.  If you do have pumpkin leftovers from jack-o-lanterns that are past their prime, compost them in your backyard.  It will turn into nice black nutrition rich dirt for your spring gardens.


I will be in Los Angeles this year over Halloween and I haven't decided who or what I will be.  Maybe I can still fit into my green Martian outfit – hmmm, now that would be recycling!  


Got any other good and green Halloween ideas?  Please tell us.

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