How to hold a low-waste Halloween party

As Halloween comes around, it’s the time to plan our parties and games. But how can you have fun without creating lots of waste? Here, Scott Hawthorne from gives us some top tips on how to have a spooky night without the rubbish. 

Every year when the spooky season rolls around, we all get excited about the prospect of parties, costumes, sweets, and decorations. But, although this occasion is fun, it causes a massive amount of waste. Single use plastic, disposable decorations and costumes, and packaging and mess created at parties — it all adds up by the end of the festivities. In 2019, research done by the charity Hubbub alongside the Fairyland Trust found that seasonal outfits produce 2,000 tonnes of plastic waste, and Halloween dressing up is certainly a part of this.

With this in mind, how can you create a fun low-waste Halloween party and enjoy spending time with family and friends, while reducing the amount of rubbish you’ll be left with afterwards?

Make your own costumes

One of the biggest things we all look forward to at Halloween is creating fun fancy dress costumes. But rather than buying them, we can find ways to make our own outfits using old clothes. This way, instead of acquiring new garments for single use, you’re giving a new lease of life to something that you were going to throw away.

There are plenty of easy, low-waste Halloween costumes you can try, and this is a great way to encourage your kids to be crafty too. Just wearing black and adding a witch’s hat will get you into the spooky theme, and cutting eye holes in an old sheet is a classic way to create a ghost costume. You can also turn an old red hoodie or blanket into a cape for a Little Red Riding Hood costume. Even normal clothes paired with some spooky makeup can get you ready for the party, and this way you can save money as well as create less waste.

You could even ask people to come to the party a bit early and make your costumes together as one of your party activities. This is especially fun for younger children. If you want a more elaborate Halloween costume, you can also rent an outfit from a party or costume shop — just be careful not to spill anything on it while you’re apple bobbing!

Find low-waste food options

It can be tempting to buy lots of sweets and ready-made dishes when you’re holding a party, and while Halloween wouldn’t be complete without some sweets, there are ways you can reduce how much you throw away. Buying lots of ready-made food creates more packaging waste, so try to make as much as possible. Try cutting your own crudites, making dips, and exploring spooky dishes that you can cook yourself. These include roasted cauliflower that can look like brains, carrot sticks that can be fingers, and pumpkin pies and soups make out of the spare flesh from your lanterns.

You can also find low-waste versions of the things you buy too. Try finding dressings and dips in glass containers rather than plastic ones, as you can re-use these for other things. Pick sweets that are not individually wrapped, as this cuts down on your plastic rubbish greatly. Then, patronise smaller shops and markets, especially zero-waste shops, if there are any in your area. Getting your little ones involved in the cooking can also make Halloween even more fun, as they can try the things they make.

Get crafty with decorations

Making your own decorations is one of the easiest (and cheapest!) ways to make your Halloween more low-waste. For example, you can use old toilet roll tubes  and bits of fabric to make bats that you can hang up around the house — paint them black and draw on eyes and mouths, and you’re all done. Or, why not decorate mandarin oranges with scary faces and display them in a bowl for people to grab from?

The classic Halloween Jack-O-Lantern can be a great zero-waste option too, if done right. Carve out the middle of your pumpkin and add a face to turn it into a lantern. Then, take the inside of the pumpkin and turn it into soup, pie, hummus, or casserole. When your lantern begins to go bad, you can put it on the compost heap or in the food waste bin, rather than in the general waste bin. Again, all these ideas can be fun activities for party guests of all ages. Just make sure to stick with easier decorations for younger kids, and leave the pumpkin carving to the adults!

Find zero-waste party games

As well as crafting and cooking, there are lots of games that you can do with your guests without creating lots of rubbish. Rather than opting for activities revolving around packaged sweets, try old-fashioned apple bobbing, hide and seek, and even wink murder. Children will enjoy the opportunity to get out into the garden and play things like tag too. If you are having a Halloween party for kids, try some outdoor activities and light the garden up with fairy lights and homemade decorations.

If you take your kids trick or treating, avoid buying plastic bags for them to store their sweets in. Instead, buy them paper bags, or use things around the house such as pillowcases and Tupperware. This way, they’ll get their Halloween stash of sweet treats, but with less disposable plastic.

Get your guests involved

No matter whether you’re having a Halloween party for kids or adults, family, or friends, you can get your guests involved with making it lower waste. This makes it easier for you as the host, and it also makes going low-waste for your celebrations much more fun. So, encourage people to bring food to the party, as well as a few storage containers so that they can take away some of their party leftovers. This will reduce food waste and give everyone the chance to take some Halloween treats home.

If you are running a kids’ party, talk to the little ones’ parents about bringing old clothes and recyclable materials to make costumes and decorations. Ask that each child bring their own paper or fabric bag if you are taking a group trick or treating. All these little things will add up to you having a low-waste Halloween celebration, without doing every part of it yourself.

Halloween, like many festivals, creates a lot of waste. But by adopting some simple measures and including your guests (or their parents) in your ideas, you can create a fun, spooky evening that will be just as exciting as the Halloween parties you remember — but with less rubbish.

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