For some people, it’s all about the candy. For others, the costumes. I love Halloween decorations. Why? They’re fun. They’re kitschy. They make me feel like a little kid all over again.
Image: Ginnerobot on Flickr
That’s why pumpkins have already shown up on my porch, I’ve hauled out the candy plates shaped like witches and goblins, and I’ve brought out my special cookie cutters to make shortbread ghosts and bats. But Halloween can get expensive -- and wasteful! Here's how I square my spooky holiday with my desire to make my Halloween green.Invest in Smart Decorations
In our neighborhood, people have started lighting their homes and landscapes the way they do at Christmas, though they use orange and white lights rather than red and green. I have high-efficiency, ENERGY STAR-certified energy-saving lights that I string up the stairs to our porch; primarily as a safety precaution, but also because they’re so festive. You can get them shaped like pumpkins or ghosts, or just twinkly lights.
When the kids were little, we used recycled construction paper to cut out our own bats, ghosts, and pumpkins to hang on the front door and windows. The few commercial decorations I did buy were made from sturdy cardboard and have lasted for ages.
Bales of straw are useful for propping up pumpkins and stuffing scarecrows (wearing recycled clothes, of course). A day or two after Halloween, I put the straw in my garden to use as winter compost.
Soy and Beeswax Candles:
Once we carve our pumpkins, we use non-paraffin candles to light them. I prefer beeswax over soy, but either is better than paraffin or candles made with other petroleum products. Tea light candles work perfectly to illuminate a carved pumpkin.
Local and Organic:
I’m lucky to have a farmer’s market in my neighborhood on Sunday mornings, which right now is brimming with pumpkins grown both locally and organically. That’s good, because the day after Halloween, my vegetable decorations are getting cooked (more on that later).
What’s Halloween without a scary soundtrack? Years ago, I bought a CD full of eerie sounds that I put into a CD player and hide under a chair on the porch. I’ve used the same CD over and over again for years; it’s probably lasted because I only play it one night a year!
Leaves, Branches, Twigs:
For super-easy and fun Halloween centerpieces, I fill shallow bowls with a mixture of colorful leaves gathered from my yard. On the porch, my urns brim with twigs and thin branches, dried hydrangea flowers, and pretty much anything else that will look spooky in the dark.
Orange and Black Streamers:
I used to buy orange and black crepe paper to wrap around the porch rails, but if it rained, the paper would become a soggy mess. It was so frail it never lasted beyond one holiday season. It makes more sense to go to a fabric store and buy a few yards of orange and black cotton fabric. Cut the fabric into long strips that you can use as streamers and reuse again.
I generally don’t buy the phony, stretchy, synthetic spider webs that many people get for one night and then throw away. Years ago, I cut an old white sheet into thin strips that can hang around the porch in web-like fashion. No expense, no trash. However, if you want something that looks like a genuine web, here’s one that’s reusable, and good for indoors or outdoors.
Scary Pumpkin Holders:
If you just don’t have time to carve a pumpkin, paint it with white and black paint, or any other colors that will stand out against orange. Or, get a set of reusable pumpkin holders that will turn pumpkins into spiders and owls. I’ve also bought a couple of terra cotta carved pumpkins that I’ve used year after year. All I need on the night of October 31 is a new candle.
Whatever is left of the pumpkin stem and the rind can be used as compost. Both will disintegrate pretty quickly in the garden. In fact, if this all sounds like too much work, but you hate to throw a perfectly good pumpkin away, just put it in some out of the way place in your garden. The squirrels will nibble on it, and it will disintegrate pretty quickly.
Make Roasted Pumpkin Seeds:
- Lightly oil a cookie sheet and spread the seeds in a single layer (let the kids do this; it’s a mess, and they’ll love it).
- Put them in the oven on low heat for a couple of hours.
- When you remove them, sprinkle lightly with course salt.
Cook the Pulp to Use for Pies, Soups, and Breads:
- After Halloween, cut the pumpkin in half and scrape out the top layer of pulp into the compost pile (there might be wax or a few bugs on it).
- Then, put the two halves cut-side down into a two-inch deep baking pan filled with enough water to cover at least part of the rind.
- Put the pumpkin in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit, checking occasionally to make sure there's always water in the pan.
- Depending on the thickness of the pumpkin, it'll take at least 1 - 2 hours for the hot water to cook the pumpkin. You'll know it’s done when you can pierce the skin of the pumpkin easily with a fork. Pull the pumpkin out, and use a spoon to scoop the pulp out from the rind.
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