Green Halloweenâ??s Amy Ziff, left, executive director, and Adrienne Peres, program and marketing director, dress for Halloween in straw hats and overalls. The nonprofit works to promote healthier and more sustainable holidays. / Gannett/Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal
Kathy Puffer's kids can't eat candy because of food allergies but that doesn't stop them from having a great Halloween.
"It's their favorite holiday," said Puffer, a resident of Tillson, N.Y., who with her husband has two children, 4 and 6.
On Halloween, Puffer packs goodie bags with non-edible treats that she plants at homes where her kids go trick-or-treating ahead of time.
"They're able to participate in some sense of normalcy and not end up in the emergency room Halloween night," said Puffer.
Replacing Halloween candy with non-edibles not only benefits kids with food allergies, but also is a step toward celebrating the holiday with a green sensibility.
Amy Ziff, executive director of Green Halloween, a nonprofit aimed at healthier and more sustainable holidays, said greening Halloween is about just that - having a healthier, more sustainable holiday. "It's really important for parents to realize that they have options - even on a holiday like Halloween," said Ziff, who also is founder of Veritey, a Web site dedicated to healthy services and products. "They can make better, healthier, more sustainable choices without sacrificing an ounce of fun."
For instance, this year Green Halloween offers an online guide for a healthy Halloween with its Candy Cheat Sheet, www.greenhalloween.org/candy. The page's tips include a list of do's, like choosing organic goodies and those made without preservatives, as well as candy substitutions, such as giving out trinkets instead of candy or swapping treats in a "switch witch" with your kids for healthier goodies or points that could earn them a toy.
"If you haven't bought your costume yet, I'd say try and make your own or be sure to buy one that's made from natural products and doesn't contain any PVC, plastic, or phthalates, which are particularly harmful for kids," Ziff said. Likewise, choose natural face paint for made-up looks without lead or other heavy metal additives.
Having a healthier Halloween, said Ziff, goes beyond the holiday, since people may come to realize that if they can celebrate a green Halloween, they can incorporate healthier practices into their everyday lives.
Ziff's business partner, Adrienne Peres, program and marketing director for Green Halloween, said by making better choices, people can improve their health, their children's health and reduce their environmental impact.
"Halloween lasts one night, but the candy often lasts for months," Peres said. "When we re-use costumes and decorations, or compost leftover candy, or choose to buy treats without artificial colors and preservatives, we are each making a contribution towards a healthier, greener lifestyle which has long-lasting effects."
This year, Puffer's oldest child will celebrate Halloween in a bird costume, thanks to her great-grandmother's handiness at sewing. Her younger child will be a fairy, the costume of which will be assembled with various dress-up clothes.
"Nothing too over-the-top," Puffer said.
While Puffer's kids voluntarily pass on candy, since they know it'll make them sick, it's Puffer's hope that others will develop a greater awareness of options to candy during festive gatherings, perhaps the valley's own apples or pumpkin crafts.
"Redefining what a treat is for a child with special needs or multiple food allergies is very important," she said.
In fact, Puffer's family has incorporated several green practices into their lifestyle, including re-using goods when possible, shopping at local farmers markets, maintaining a whole foods diet and growing vegetables with their soil-less vertical aeroponic gardens, an especially engaging project for her eldest, who has autism.
Recently, Puffer worked with the Roundout Valley Growers Association on its State of the Farms summit in support of small farmers.
"It's really up to us to make changes," she said.
Elizabeth O'Connell, campaigns director of Green America, said having a green Halloween helps consumers save money and shop with their values.
"At Green America we define 'green' as both environmentally responsible and socially just, so to have a 'green' Halloween you need to be thinking about both aspects," O'Connell said. "And, since Halloween is so focused on candy and junk food, it doesn't hurt to (look) through (it) in a third lens, focused on health - of our kids and our community."
Ronnie Citron-Fink of Rhinebeck, N.Y., is managing editor of Moms Clean Air Force, a national movement dedicated to protecting children's right to clean air, and is founder of Econesting, which focuses on sustainability and social-consciousness.
Citron-Fink, who has written several articles on ways to celebrate a green Halloween, said the best way to keep Halloween green is by cutting down on waste and curbing candy.
"While a healthy Halloween almost sounds like an oxymoron, with a brew of trans fats, high-fructose corn syrup, sodium and dyed confectioneries making their way into the bellies of trick-or-treaters, look for healthier alternatives," she said, such as little toys or snack-size bags of pretzels or crackers.
Beyond that, she said, avoid non-recyclable polyvinyl chloride costumes, plastic Halloween bags and decorations made from petrol-chemicals that end up in our local landfills.
"To create plastic, power plants burn poisonous smoke," Citron-Fink said. "This pollutes not only the air that our kids breathe, but it also harms our environment by adding carbon into the atmosphere. Use a re-usable tote bag and head to the thrift store and create a costume."
Citron-Fink said the U.S. spends more than $6 billion on candy, costumes and decorations. In fact, the National Retail Federation's Halloween Spending Survey revealed total spending on costumes, treats, festivities and pets will hit $6.9 billion this year, down from $8 million last year. Still, that's a significant amount and it's not just on kids.
Spending on adult costumes is expected to reach $1.2 billion this year, slightly higher than the $1 billion for children's costumes.
"That's a whole lot of spooky and unnecessary waste," Citron-Fink said.
How to green your Halloween
--Start by getting educated on what's in your Halloween treats. Read the labels and choose options that are free from artificial colors, flavors and preservatives, do not contain high-fructose corn syrup, and are Fair Trade produced. We look for organic, genetically modified organisms-free treats.
--Hand out treasures instead of treats. Art supplies (confetti, crayons), nature gifts (polished rocks, crystals) and trinkets (stickers, cards, temporary tattoos) are popular options.
--Do a candy trade. Let your kids trade their candy toward other little gifts or give a "pumpkin point" for each piece of candy collected. Use pumpkin points to "buy" a toy or do a special activity with your child.
--Make sure you eat a good, healthy dinner before trick-or-treating. And, bring lots of water to drink while out and about.
Source: Adrienne Peres, www.GreenHalloween.org
Copyright 2013 USATODAY.com
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