Each October, amidst San Francisco’s second wave of summer, parking lot pumpkin patches, and midterm season — Halloween arrives — closing out the month and much of the fall hype. The origins of the holiday stem from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, in which people would light bonfires and honor Catholic saints. Yet the way we celebrate it now is very different and leads to a lot of controversies.
Every year, the topics of cultural appropriation, nutrition, and textile waste pop-up on blogs, news articles, and social media. However, most years, we ultimately fail to change and address these issues. At the Foghorn, we believe people should be more conscious of how they are celebrating Halloween, particularly in regards to costuming and waste.
In the past, costumes were worn in order to scare off malicious spirits, but in the 21st century, we have moved away from this tradition. Now, we tend to recreate pop culture outfits, historical looks, and other day-to-day uniforms. But sometimes people are ignorant to the point where they are appropriating cultures, with “Native American” or “Hawaiian” being common costumes. People should continue to be mindful of how they are dressing and how it might impact those around them.
It is also important to keep in mind that individuals are not spokespeople for entire groups, meaning that just because one person says a certain costume is okay, it doesn’t mean others can’t be offended. Also, what might’ve been “okay” 10 years ago might be understood as being inappropriate now. Students and parents, both young and old, should be educated on how costumes could be potentially offensive and hurtful. While the larger attitude around cultural appropriation has shifted for the better, it still remains an issue, and we need to continue to learn to be respectful.
While the larger attitude around cultural appropriation has shifted for the better, it still remains an issue, and we need to continue to learn to be respectful.
Costumes are also extremely wasteful, as many of us buy one costume each year and never wear it again. Students should head to their closet or a local thrift store to find cost-effective and more sustainable options before heading to Amazon or their local Spirit Halloween store. DIY-ing is also a great way to be more economical and add a touch of personal flair to your costume. Donating your Halloween costume so it can be reused, re-worn, or turned into something new is one good way to be more eco-friendly long after the celebrations are over.
Costumes aren’t the only source of waste during spooky season. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, 1.3 billion pounds of the two billion pounds of pumpkins grown in 2014 were trashed instead of eaten or composted. It seems that most jack-o’-lanterns are destined for the dump above anything else. While eating pumpkin won’t solve America’s food insecurity crisis, it’s important to keep in mind that there is a lot of water that goes into growing the pumpkin crops.
Beyond this, pumpkins release methane, a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, once they are decomposed. While those fumes make up a small portion of human emissions overall, they do pile up as we continue to throw out millions of pumpkins each year.
Candy also makes up a lot of the hype of Halloween. Many of us remember looking forward to filling our treat baskets with all the candy our parents had deprived us of in previous months. Interestingly enough, even with the consistent health-conscious messaging and policies implemented over the past 25 years, the distribution of candy on Halloween has remained.
More than 30% of the trash in the U.S. comes from product packaging, which includes those bulk candy wrappers we give out on the night of the 31st. On average, around $2 billion worth of candy is sold during the Halloween season, which equates to 300,000 tons of non-recyclable, mixed-material candy bars and other wrapped treats, all of which goes straight to the landfill. This Halloween, students should consider skipping the candy wrappers for alternative treats that uses less plastic and waste. Some options include bulk candy from Whole Foods, which you can self-serve into a reusable container, boxed candy, canned soda, or recycling your candy wrappers by sending them through a Zero Waste Box.
More than 30% of the trash in the U.S. comes from product packaging, which includes those bulk candy wrappers we give out on the night of the 31st.
The Foghorn staff believes that we should work to change the way we celebrate Halloween by making our practices more inclusive, more economically friendly, and more appropriate for the times we live in.