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Sustainable costume ideas to help you go green on Halloween

(Daily Collegian Archives)

(Daily Collegian Archives)

It’s that time of year again when the leaves start to fall, the pumpkins make their debut, and the spirit of Halloween is in the air. It’s also the time of year when Americans spend nearly $8.4 in consumer sales for Halloween, roughly $83 dollars a person according to The National Retail Federation.

According to the same article at the NRF, 69.1 percent of people are planning to celebrate the holiday in some degree whether it be by handing out candy, decorating their home and yard, dressing up, trick-or-treating, or throwing or attending a party. Regardless of the festivities, it’s plain to see that costumes tend to be what Americans, and many college students, seem to dish out the most cash on an outfit they’ll most likely never wear again.

So why spend so much money on one day of the year? That average of $83 spent per person could go to so much more, such as 20 cups of coffee, or even 10 burritos. So if you’re looking to deliver on your Halloween costume this year without breaking the bank, the most efficient solution would be to wear a sustainable costume.

Sustainable costumes are both cheaper for consumers and better for the environment. Instead of going out and spending a fortune on your costume, you may already have everything you need right under your nose.

One convenient place you can start your search is in your own closet. Many costumes can be achieved by wearing simple articles of clothing. If you have a striped shirt, you could easily be a mime, a bandit, or even a pirate, requiring little other accessories. Even a flannel could serve as a useful costume, possibly a lumberjack or a cowboy.

Many costumes depicting characters from TV shows or movies are often simple to recreate with clothes you already have. If you have a suit, you could even go as one of the presidential candidates, an all too popular theme this year.

Another, maybe less appealing, place you can look is your trash. I wouldn’t recommend trying to use a banana peel or last weeks’ dinner, but the plastic and cardboard in your trash can come in handy. The cardboard boxes from 30 racks can be very useful. Secure together enough cardboard, add some paint, and with a little artistic talent you can be anything that is rectangular. Using this idea, you can easily be anything from a juice box to a robot.

Plastic bottles can be utilized as well. If you take two liter bottles and strap them to your back, you can have a makeshift jet pack. Or to be even lazier, you can just go as “garbage” and wear whatever you can salvage.

Pun costumes are also an easy way to get away with wearing what you already have. You can use a cereal box from the trash and be a “cereal killer,” cover a sweatshirt in candy wrappers to be a “candy rapper,” or even be witty enough to put a quarter on your back to be a “quarterback.”

You can even make a completely compostable costume from things in your backyard. Using twigs, leaves, and whatever else you can find, you can be anything from simply camouflaged, to a tree fairy.

But if making a costume isn’t your thing, there are still other sustainable ways to dress up for Halloween this year. You can take a trip down to the local thrift store and see if anything strikes you. Thrift shops usually have some interesting outfits, and even costumes to choose from. This is still a sustainable way to dress up since you are just recycling clothes rather than having to buy new costumes. And if all of this still doesn’t help you decide what to be, buying a used costume or clothing off of eBay still qualifies as being sustainable.

There are so many possibilities for being kind to yourself and the environment – in a season where everything else is spooky – this year by wearing a sustainable costume for Halloween.

So next time you’re about to take a trip to Spirit Halloween or whatever pop up Halloween store appeared in your town this year, think again. Sometimes you don’t have to look too far to find what you’re looking for, you just need a little creativity and inspiration.

Jessica Chaiken can be reached at jchaiken@umass.edu.

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