What is scarier than Saw I, II, III and IV combined? How about spending too much money on a costume for Halloween, only to wear it for a few hours and dump it. In fact, we spend $5 billion on Halloween in the U.S. and can you even imagine all the trash? Yikes! Bypass freaky consumption and scary spending with these eco-alternatives that are healthier for you and less wasteful for the planet.

The Joker -- Heath Ledger (a blessed memory) absolutely dominated summer 2008's smash hit "The Dark Knight" as the depraved "agent of chaos," The Joker, all without a mask. This Halloween, follow his lead and go as the Joker or another scary villain with sustainable makeup instead of a mask. Most costume masks are made from Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a non-recyclable plastic known to release cancer-causing dioxins into the atmosphere. More information is coming out every day about phthalates, used to make PVC flexible, and the correlation with male genital development. Especially when pressed up against a child face, PVC is a definite no-no. Better to do face-painting with least-toxic, eco-friendlist makeup lines like Gabriel Cosmetics, Peace Keeper and Mineralogie -- far safer and equally fun.

Pretty princess -- A major new advance in eco-beauty, eco-body glitter from Nezza Naturals, is a great starting point for any aspiring princess. "Golden Amber Glitter" is made with 14 karat gold, and when paired with a "gown" already in your possession (for your five-year-old, that might mean tights and her ballet tutu and leotard, or for an 18-year-old, your friend's junior year prom dress), you are absolutely ready to make your own magical evening. A great site with ideas for costumes made from materials found around the house is Homemade Halloween Costumes.

Slutty nurse (or naughty schoolgirl, sexy sailor, seductive vampire, etc.) -- Head to your closest thrift store (which you can find in The Thrift Shopper database) and check the lingerie section (bustier and corsets for beer maiden outfits and Madonna wannabees), the uniform section (extra scrubs and city-workers jumpsuits for the vampy doctor or sultry janitor), etc.

Michael Phelps -- Fellas: borrow your sister's bikini bottom, make a medal (see mask instructions above and follow the same construction tips) or buy one at local thrift store, grab a pair of goggles, and you are ready to go. Now if we could all just look that good ...

Politician -- The best Halloween costumes come out of election and/or political scandal years. Last year's election is a great source of inspiration, but going as a candidate is oh, so obvious. Forbes, of all places, offers some unusual-suspect, and truly scary, celeb and politico downloadable masks.

For other ideas, make-it-yourself costumes at Halloween Ideas That Don't Cost a Fortune and Green MSN are good places to start. And have a frightfully good time!

Story by Margaret Teich. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2008. The story was added to MNN.com in October 2009.

Copyright Environ Press 2008

See also:

Halloween music

Cheap Halloween costume ideas

Homemade Halloween costumes