September 24, 2010

Green Your Halloween.

“Halloween candy sales this year will top $2.23 billion” – LA Times

Let’s painted-face it. Halloween is big business. A 5.8 billion dollar business in the United States alone.

Of the 43.4 million children ages 3-12 years old in the United States, 9 out of 10 will go trick or treating, consuming 600 million pounds of Halloween candy. With each trick-or-treater outfitted in a costume, at an average spend of $23 each, US consumers shell out more than .8 billion dollars on largely disposable children’s costumes.

The crazy joy of running about in a cape, fangs or a crown, not to mention the cheerful extravagance of a pillowcase full of candy aside, it’s worth noting that our modern celebrations have some significant downsides on the health of children, and the health of the planet.

More than 1/3rd of America’s children are overweight, with more than 17% of them considered obese. One in three children born today will get diabetes, and 2 million children suffer from high blood pressure. This adds up to a generation of children with a shorter life expectancy than their parents.

In addition to the added calories and sugar, conventional candy can contain any of 6,000 chemicals that are used in the manufacturing of processed foods, artificial dyes accused of causing cancer, and a variety of synthetic additives that have been linked to hyperactivity disorder and other ailments. Non-organic coco beans used for chocolate that are grown in full sun (as opposed to shade) are susceptible to disease and therefore require heavy doses of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers.

The news gets worse. Pippa’s sparkly polyester princess dress, complete with a bejeweled plastic tiara, may contain phthalates, cadmium, lead or other toxins. A recent test of multiple brands of face paint found detectable levels of lead in every one of them. According to UNICEF, coco-bean plantation owners are notorious for child slavery, and paying low wages to farmers due to market deregulation.

These downsides weighed heavily on Corey Colwell-Lipson, a Seattle area mom, in 2007. In response, she  founded Green Halloween – a non-profit community initiative to create healthier and more earth friendly holidays, beginning with Halloween. Working with her local Whole Foods Market in Bellevue Washington, Colwell-Lipson approached individuals, businesses, and other local organizations to help make Halloween in Seattle more sustainable.

Colwell-Lipson hit a deep chord of discontent. Almost overnight, her grassroots Green Halloween movement spread from Seattle across the country through wide-spread media exposure, word-0f-mouth marketing and online buzz.

Now in more than 33 cities across the US, Green Halloween activities and events are being coordinated by volunteers with the help of local and national sponsors like Larabar, Cascadian Farms, HGTV, KIWI magazine, Celestial Seasonings, and Whole Foods Markets.

Volunteers set up family-friendly events to support the Green Halloween goals of the 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle). Green Halloween events replace conventional candy on trick-or-treat trails with healthier snacks like popcorn, nut bars, organic chocolates and natural gum; focus halloween activities on candyless fun like spooky games and pumpkin painting; and sponsor local costume swaps for a low-cost way to recycle and reuse last year’s Halloween costumes.

The message seems to be catching on. An increased number of PVC free costumes, lead free paints and reusable trick or treat bags are on the market, organic candy offerings are up 170% since 2004, and conventional candy companies like Cadbury are exploring the organic and Fair Trade markets.

Visit www.greenhalloween.org to learn more about Green Halloween events in your community. If Green Halloween hasn’t reached your community yet, perhaps consider volunteering to help get a local movement started in your town!

Note: For residents of Boulder, Green Halloween and Clementine Art are partnering with the Downtown Boulder Association to green our very own Munchkin Masquerade on the Pearl Street Mall, October 31st. Look for the Green Halloween logo in the window of mall retailers for healthier treats! Contact [email protected] to get involved with our local Boulder Green Halloween efforts.

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