Halloween is a very wasteful holiday (plastic costumes, plastic decor, plastic wrappers, plastic everything) but it doesn’t have to be this way! Reducing your plastic is one thing, but you may be overlooking a different kind of preventable waste – your pumpkin. Don’t just set it out with your green bin (or worse, your garbage can) on November 1. It’s so much more than a decoration!
The great thing about pumpkins is that a good many of us visit the pumpkin patch to get one. Somewhere along the way we forgot that pumpkins are FOOD, and visiting the farm helps folks of all ages engage with food production right at the source.
Honouring the resources that go into your food is key to shifting your thinking on its end of life. The act of visiting the farm, choosing your pumpkin, carving it, eating it, and finally composting it helps us (but especially children) understand the natural life cycle of plants and appreciate that food doesn’t come from the grocery store. Click here for a wonderful guide on teaching kids of all ages about food waste.
According to Statistics Canada, nearly 2600 farms had pumpkin patches in 2016, amounting to approximately 3300 hectares of land, 83000 metric tonnes of pumpkins, and $29 million in sales. When we also factor in the tremendous amount of resources needed to grow them (land, water, fertilizer, pest and weed management, labour, transport) it seems silly to use them only for decor.
Pumpkins and other natural decor (straw, corn stalks, gourds) are all organic waste and do not belong in the trash. Food waste is a significant, but preventable, contributor to greenhouse gases. Due to the anaerobic conditions in landfills, nothing truly breaks down – not even food. Instead, methane gas is released, a greenhouse gas that is much more potent than carbon dioxide. That’s pretty scary, even for Halloween!
So What Are Your Options?
Let’s break it down using the generally accepted five Rs of zero waste living. Choose options that work best for your family and access.
Opt for a reusable pumpkin instead! Look for one secondhand (after the holidays is the best time to find one for the following year) or click on the tutorial below for how to make one out of trash bound for the landfill. Your trash pumpkin can be sealed with an exterior varnish to last for years to come.
Hello October! It feels like it was March both 10 seconds and 84 years ago, doesn’t it? Around this time last year, my friend Ellen took the world on a journey in her Instagram stories when she documented her creation of a trash pumpkin. Yes – a pumpkin made of garbage. While I prefer holiday […]
Only buy what you can reasonably eat and/or compost. Yes, a collection of dozens of pumpkins might look cute on your porch, but shift your mindset and remember that this is a food crop. Select the imperfect (and unlikely to be chosen) ones and carve as close to Halloween as possible to prevent them from rotting if you plan to eat them.
Use the hollowed out halves as a planter for fall mums, as a seed starter for your winter garden, or roll around them around whole in your yard as balls for biodegradable dog toys! Your pumpkins also double as Thanksgiving decor, so store them in a cool (but frost-free) place to keep them in good shape. If you are really ambitious, there are preservation tutorials out there too.
A quick Pinterest search reveals that there is a LOT you can do with your pumpkins that you may not have considered! For example:
- EAT IT! Most pumpkin varieties are edible and cooking them is a great option if you don’t have access to composting. Pumpkins were destined to be more than just pies! Zero Waste Chef has got you covered with a plethora of recipes, from pasta to dal to roasted seeds.
- Make a face or body scrub for a little autumnal self-care.
- Arrange a “Pumpkin Parade” with your neighbourhood or town. When we lived in downtown Toronto, folks would line up their lighted pumpkins along the paths of Sorauren Park for everyone to enjoy on November 1. The city provided bins for organics collection. It’s a truly magical community experience.
- Donate your pumpkins to your neighbour with chickens, or a nearby farm or animal sanctuary to feed the animals (but please do not leave them out to feed wildlife – this can have unintended and potentially harmful consequences).
Compost whatever flesh you don’t use! You may need to chop it up to make it fit your bin or to carry to your drop off location. Many municipalities allow you set them out at the street as is, so check your local rules. Be sure to remove any candles and non-compostable decorations.
Need even more tips? Check out my zero waste Halloween roundup post for more ideas on costumes, treats, parties, and more!
What will you be doing with your pumpkin this year? Share your ideas in the comments!