In the fall, two cherished holidays roll around: Halloween and Thanksgiving. Friends and families gather together to celebrate, hosting parties and lavish dinners for each. With the fun comes the purchase of food, clothing, and decorations, and that itself unfortunately comes with a major downside – overconsumption. While enjoying these festivities is must in the fall, it is equally as important to recognize the environmental consequences of the consumption of said decorations, food, and clothing during these holidays. Decorations have, and always will, be a major part of celebrating holidays, and Halloween and Thanksgiving are no exceptions. Halloween decorations have become significantly more elaborate over the years. Many suburban neighbors feel a pressure to outdo the neighbors with lavish haunted houses, props, and even spooky light shows projected onto one’s home. All of this contributes to massive overconsumption. This causes a significant increase in waste, and according to the Environmental group Hubbub 83% of Halloween decorations are made using non-recyclable, oil-based plastics, sending them directly to landfills. Moreover, producing and disposing of said decorations has a significant carbon footprint.

Even though Thanksgiving is less focused on extravagant decorations compared to Halloween, it still presents a reason to buy crazy amounts of tableware, centerpieces, and other decorative items. These generally end up in storage as they are used only once a year, and contribute to clutter. To combat having to fill storage up with rarely used items, many homes purchase disposable alternatives, generating even more waste.

The focus on both of these holidays, however, is food. Halloween night equates to acquiring candy, and the want to have the best candy possible sometimes leads to unnecessary purchases. About $400 million of uneaten sweets is thrown away each year, and according to USA Today, 40% of all candy from Halloween ends up in a landfill. The production of this candy’s carbon footprint, along with the excessive water use, cause even more waste. In addition, Thanksgiving is known as a day to feast with loved ones. Families usually prepare much more food than necessary, leading to 305 million pounds of food waste annually. From growing the crops for these dishes to transporting and packaging the food, the entire process of food reaching plates at thanksgiving has a substantial carbon footprint.

Clothing, while being essential on any day, becomes an even bigger focus this time of year. Wearing costumes on Halloween is a requirement, yet it has unfortunately evolved into a habit of buying brand new outfits each year. Cheap, “disposable” costumes are more likely than not made from non-sustainable materials and end up in the trash after their one day of use. To add, Thanksgiving dinners often come with an unwritten dress code and a pressure to dress well in front of friends and family. Many buy new clothes for the occasion, which in turn encourages the fast fashion industry's exploitative labor and generation of waste due to poor quality, non-sustainable clothing.

However, there are ways to reduce the waste and environmental impact of these holidays.

Consider using reusable decorations or even make your own for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Choose sustainably sourced and/or locally grown ingredients and meals whenever possible. Reuse costumes or clothing items for Halloween from previous years, from your or friends and family. Buy clothing that can be worn in many different ways, not just for Thanksgiving, and do not buy fast fashion.

Halloween and Thanksgiving are times that bring people together and create a sense of community. However, over-consumption in terms of decorations, food, and clothing takes away some of the magic of these holidays and has extreme consequences for the environment. By incorporating more eco-friendly traditions and approaching the holidays with a more minimalist lens, celebrating these holidays will align more with good values and principles that could help support the earth..