Halloween: Environmental horror?

How did you celebrate Halloween yesterday?

I spent my Halloween taking part in activities organized by my friends from my residential college. As part of the celebration, the colleges in University-town came together to plan an Inter-College Halloween event, where each college designs a haunted house.

 Can you spot me in this photo?

In this post, I will discuss the environmental implications of Halloween celebrations, from small-scale ones in school to large-scale celebrations like the Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) at Universal Studios Singapore (USS) and globally.

Inter-College Halloween

To do so, I decided to go behind-the-scenes of the haunted house curated by my college friends.

Behind the scenes of the haunted house

Image on the right by Lam Hoyan

The set-up was relatively simple, and the main materials used were newspapers and trash bags. They also made use of fallen leaves to recreate a forest. I would consider this pretty sustainable given that they used mainly recycled items.

Most Halloween costumes were also made from existing materials. For example, my friend dressed up as a cup of Gong Cha by wearing a white shirt with black cutouts to represent pearls. He then wore a red arm sleeve on one arm such that it would look like a straw when he raised his hand. Almost no one wore store-bought Halloween costumes, which is important because store-bought costumes often contain flame-retarding chemicals, which can be detrimental to human health and the environment (Chow, 2014).

Halloween Horror Nights

In Singapore, the highlight of Halloween for most people would be the HHN at USS. Something cool about this year’s HHN was that the theme for one of the scare zones was centered around the wraths of mother nature caused by the environmental impacts of humans on the planet.

In preparing for this large-scale event, up to 250 litres of fake blood were used (Teo, 2008). Large amounts of energy were also required to produce the props and light up the elaborate set-ups.

Trick or treating

Other than the decorations and costumes, another fundamental part of Halloween that has negative environmental impacts is trick or treating. It is estimated that Americans spend a whopping $2.7 billion on Halloween candy every year (Leasca, 2017). This large amount of candy is usually individually packed, generating waste in the form of candy wrappers. The production of candy is also a resource-demanding process, needing components like cocoa and corn syrup (Leibenluft, 2008). If you wish to find out more about the environmental impacts of sweets, check out this article.

To conclude, I believe that there can be a balance between celebrating Halloween and keeping the celebration sustainable. This can be done if we use our creativity in crafting decorations and costumes from existing materials. Disposable packaging from Halloween candy can also be avoided by buying unpackaged sweets in bulk.

 

References:

Chow, L. (22 Oct 2014). 5 Truly Terrifying things about Halloween.

Retrieved from: http://nationswell.com/5-environmentally-scary-things-about-halloween/

Leasca, S. (30 Oct 2017). Here’s The Very Scary Amount Of Money Americans Spend On Halloween.

Retrieved from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/sleasca/2017/10/30/halloween-spending-halloween-candy/#a8715aa20a12

Leibenluft, J. (28 Oct 2008). Black and Orange and Green.

Retrieved from: https://slate.com/technology/2008/10/can-halloween-be-good-for-the-environment.html

Teo, J. (25 Sep 2018). Halloween Horror Nights 8: Ranking The Attractions, From Scary To Downright Terrifying.

Retrieved from: https://www.todayonline.com/8days/seeanddo/thingstodo/halloween-horror-nights-8-ranking-attractions-scary-downright-terrifying

2 thoughts on “Halloween: Environmental horror?

  1. Joanna L Coleman

    Si Hui, one HUGE problem with your suggestion at the end. You cannot give kids unpackaged items when they come trick-or-treating. That’s a major hygiene and public safety concern. There have been well-reported incidents with horrible people putting poisons or sharps (e.g., razor blades) into Hallowe’en treats and handing them out. I realise this is probably a cultural issue because Hallowe’en isn’t a SE Asian thing, but in Canada, kids live for Hallowe’en and a parent would immediately throw away an unpackaged item, and possibly even report it to the police.

    Reply
    1. Si Hui Post author

      Hi Dr Coleman,

      I did read about concerns regarding unpackaged Halloween items but I didn’t realise it was that serious! In that case, I would think plastic packaging is a necessary evil in order to ensure the safety of the children. Some alternatives I found online to avoid plastic include getting sweets wrapped in foil or paper and giving canned drinks.

      Regards,
      Si Hui

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *