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Go Green This Halloween

Support organic farmers; reduce, reuse, compost; give back conscientiously.

With Halloween less than a week away, the holiday season has officially begun—which means the time is right to consider the effect of the holidays on our environment.

The Green Halloween™ mantra could help kick-start the season with a goal of lessening the impact while keeping the fun. It goes like this: Do It Yourself. Support Organic Farmers. Reduce, Reuse, Compost. And Give Back Conscientiously.

The first rule of thumb is to resist the urge to buy toxic, petro-plastic decorations. Halloween is about crafting and creativity, and the best decorations can be made using your mind, natural fibers and reused items from around the house or the local thrift store.

Scarecrows, headstones, window silhouettes and costumes can be crafted from reused materials, cardboard and non-toxic or eco-friendly window paint.

Single-use, throwaway costumes made overseas are riddled with toxins, travel on fossil fuels and wind up in  landfills. How about hosting a "costume swap" with your friends and neighbors, and watch the magic unfold.

Quick Tips: The Goodwill store at Union and Center streets is a Halloween haven right now. And PinkQuartz Minerals is a vegan, non-toxic, costume makeup company on the Etsy website that passes the Green Halloween test with flying colors.

If you want to support your local organic farmer, take a drive north or south on Highway 1 for some good, old-fashioned, harvest fun, with organic pumpkins, decorative gourds and colorful corn. Stop in to reward yourself for greening up your routine at Swanton Berry Farm near Davenport on Highway 1 for some delicious treats, like warm cider and organic pies.

During your pumpkin-carving party, collect the seeds, remove the stringy stuff to compost and get ready to prepare your roasted pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie. High-protein pumpkin seeds are made by simply spreading them onto a cookie sheet, sprinkling with salt and baking at 325 for 20-30 minutes. For homemade pumpkin pie, follow any number of easy pumpkin pie recipes, such as this one at pickyourown.org

Quick Tip: Lengthen the life span of your one-of-a-kind carved creation by wiping down your pumpkin with a non-toxic disinfectant to keep the mold-causing microbes at bay.

For trick-or-treat time, it's all about reusable bags. Every year, Chico Bags releases one or two limited-edition Halloween designs that you can buy for less than $6, and Nubius Organics, a web-based Santa Cruz business, still has some left. Pillowcases always work, too!

If you pass out goodies to costumed kiddos, go with organic or fair-trade candy like the Endangered Species Halloween-themed candies, Ginger People's Ginger Chews, organic fruit roll-ups and Yummy Earth's Organic Lollipops. Go for goods with the least amount of packaging, and support your local, green economy at Staff of Life and New Leaf Community Markets.

Need a new trick for Halloween this year? Try reverse-trick-or-treating, which is about giving rather than receiving, as well as creating more meaningful holidays. People are going door-to-door bearing gifts, home-made treats and information about progressive causes. You can make your own cards with a cause to hand out or learn more about Global Exchange's Fair Trade chocolate and information cards that help the environment and support fair labor practices for children in the international cocoa industry.

Finally, after the crash of the sugar buzz, is the great Halloween Candy Buy Back Program where dentists pay children $1 per pound for their excess Halloween candy, and the candy is routed to Operation Gratitude, a program for U.S. military troops.

Just remember the Green Halloween™ mantra, and have a Happy Halloween!

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