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Going 'Green' For Halloween?


They say it takes a village to raise a child but maybe you just need a few moms in your corner. We visit with a diverse group of parents each week for their common sense and savvy parenting advice. Halloween is now around the corner, and maybe, like me, you've gotten tired of buying new costumes for the kids every year and are trying to convince them they really want to be Batman again. Well, if you're recycling Halloween costumes, you can consider yourself an eco-mom. Okay, there's a bit more to it than that. And to hear about it, we turn to Lynn Colwell and Corey Colwell-Lipson. They're the co-authors of "Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family." Also joining us is TELL ME MORE parenting contributor Jolene Ivey. Welcome to you.

Ms. JOLENE IVEY: Thanks. Good to be here.

Ms. COREY COLWELL-LIPSON (Co-author, "Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family."): Thank you.

Ms. LYNN COLWELL (Co-author, "Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family."): Great to be here.

LUDDEN: Corey Colwell-Lipson, tell me, what is a green Halloween?

Ms. COLWELL-LIPSON: Well, actually we started an initiative called Green Halloween in 2007, and the idea was to see if we could get people excited around the idea of being a little bit healthier, being a little bit more Earth-friendly while keeping all the fun and great traditions that we remember as kids. And we weren't really sure how people would respond to this idea. It was a little bit of an experiment, and what happened was amazing. I mean people came of the woodwork to be involved in this initiative. And we're heading into year three, and we have neighborhoods, schools, churches, individual families who are doing all kinds of things.

LUDDEN: Lynn Colwell, is part of this basically just dialing down on the consumerism?

Ms. COLWELL: That's definitely a part of it, because when you think about the basics of going green, they really are reduced, reuse, recycle. So definitely, you want to be thinking about what you buy when you buy it, whether it's necessary, is there a substitute, do you already have something that you can use? So certainly, when you're talking about costumes for Halloween, most of us don't need to buy costumes. We can make them.

LUDDEN: Lynn, are there what, like special energy-saving little pumpkin light bulbs or something? Can I find that in the CVS?

Ms. COLWELL: You sure can.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLWELL: You might want to check with Corey on that one. She's our lighting expert.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. COLWELL-LIPSON: Yeah. You know, there's - the lighting is a really great question, because it's a big part of holidays, especially around Halloween. And incandescent lights that are kind of the typical-type holiday lights that are available use a lot of energy and they also burn hot, so there's a safety issue with them. LED lights are a really great option and there are so many fabulously colored and decorative lights that are now available on the market. And they burn cool and they also use 90 percent less energy than incandescent lights and they will last a lot longer. You can also find little LED lights that you can put inside your jack-o'-lanterns if you don't want to use candles.

LUDDEN: Now wait a minute.


LUDDEN: Isn't a candle more eco-friendly than that?

Ms. COLWELL-LIPSON: Yup. And I was just going to say that for those families who want to use candles which we, you know, my mom and I personally love, we choose beeswax candles - 100 percent beeswax, and not only is it more sustainable than paraffin, which is oil based, but it burns more cleanly and, of course, you're supporting the honey and bee industry, which is a great thing to do as well.

LUDDEN: Okay. Jolene Ivey, a green Halloween. Does this work for you?

Ms. IVEY: Well, what we basically do is we recycle our decorations every year. Just yesterday, I was pulling out all the tombstones out of the attic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IVEY: And, you know, we bring them out to the front lawn. It takes us, you know, 10 minutes to set them up. So we do that. I do want to get some more cobwebs this year.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IVEY: They're probably not eco-friendly, but I love those things. And, of course, we recycle the costumes. I mean every child has been a ninja.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IVEY: And whenever someone decides they want to be something else, I'm like no. You really want to be a ninja, because I've got the costume, kiddo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: And does that cause a little bit of drama there Halloween night?

Ms. IVEY: In the end they just want to go out and trick or treat. They're not real picky.

LUDDEN: Corey Colwell-Lipson, how can parents get schools maybe involved in this whole effort?

Ms. COLWELL-LIPSON: On our Web site, GreenHalloween.org, we actually have a downloadable action kit for teachers now with all kinds of tips for decorating and for incorporating some healthy and eco-friendly ideas into the school celebration. And a lot of schools now are not doing Halloween per se, but they're doing harvest or other kind of fall things. And, of course, one of the best ways to bring the fall into your home or classroom or any other event is to go outside and go into nature and see what's out there and see what you can decorate with. Kids love to go on, you know, natural treasure hunts to haul in their finds and to help construct some decor.

LUDDEN: Lynn, I understand there is now a way to put all that leftover Halloween candy to a non-fattening use. What is a post-Halloween candy composting party?

Ms. COLWELL: Well, just what it sounds like. You get together with your friends. You bring that average of 10 pounds of candy that the child brings home and hopefully doesn't eat all of it but maybe wants to get rid of some of it. And instead of just trashing it where it goes to the landfill, you can compost it and bring - everybody comes together, unwraps the candy, puts it in a compost bin, and what's neat too is a lot of wrappers now, people - I don't know if you've seen this, but there are some really cool things that people are making out of wrappers. And they're making purses and wallets and picture frames and all sorts of things. So, one of the suggestions is, after you've had your composting party, go on Craigslist or Freecycle and offer your wrappers, and you'll be surprised, somebody may just snap them up.

LUDDEN: Jolene, you going to have a composting candy party?

Ms. IVEY: No. But I am available if you have any leftover chocolate...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. IVEY: ...you can drop it at the Ivey's house. We have five boys. We're ready for you.

LUDDEN: Yeah. I don't think my colleagues here would appreciate missing the annual leftovers. Corey, what are three ways parents can save money by going green?

Ms. COLWELL-LIPSON: Well, our number one tip is - on the treats and treasures, when whatever you're giving out, no matter what you choose to give away to trick-or-treaters just give one. We've become such a super-size nation. You know, when I went trick or treating as a child, I remember getting one or two pieces at each door, and now kids are getting handfuls - thus, the ten pounds of candy that they're taking home. You know, you'll save money. You're going to save on the resources. The kids are going to consume less and it's going to create less waste. It's better all around. And another thing to do is to compost your pumpkins, when they're finished using them, instead of putting them into the landfill, to compost them. And the last thing I would say is taking care of the decor that you have. Wrap it up. Keep it out of the elements so that you have it, you know, in great shape for next year and you can reuse it.

LUDDEN: Even if that little spooky sound doesn't work anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Corey Colwell-Lipson and Lynn Colwell are the authors of "Celebrate Green! Creating Eco-Savvy Holidays, Celebrations and Traditions for the Whole Family." They joined me from member station KUOW in Seattle. And TELL ME MORE's parenting regular is Jolene Ivey, and she joined me here in our Washington studio. You can find out more about green Halloween ideas at the TELL ME MORE Web site, NPR.org.

Ladies and moms, thank you so much.

Ms. IVEY: Thanks.

Ms. COLWELL: Thank you.

Ms. COLWELL-LIPSON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.