As a wise frog once said, “It ain’t easy being green.” That’s especially true around the holidays, when even the greenest parents tend to go a little crazy. Let’s face it, no parent wants her kids to miss out on all of the fun and traditions that holidays have to offer. But one mom, Green Parent Corey Colwell-Lipson, got tired of selling her soul in an effort to celebrate holidays with her two children, aged 10 and 4. So she decided to challenge the way we look at holidays. Her first target: Halloween. Through her organization, Green Halloween, Corey found ways to involve the whole family in keeping the great parts of the holiday while losing the wasteful, unhealthy stuff. Here’s what she had to say about candy, costumes, and turning tradition on its ear.
Jenn Savedge: What did you decide to start Green Halloween?
Corey Colwell-Lipson: Last year, when I took my kids trick-or-treating, I noticed that a few of the houses gave away non-candy items like stickers or bubbles. I was so excited to see this, and even more excited that my kids, and all of the other kids we ran in to, were so excited about it. It suddenly occurred to me that Halloween didn’t have to be about candy; that it could be healthier. And that got me thinking that if it could be healthier, why couldn’t it be more earth-friendly? It seemed to me that the time was right to introduce this to people.
I started sharing my idea with people and every single person who I spoke with, both young and old, thought it was a great idea. Initially I was focused on trick-or-treating but it gradually expanded out to the whole holiday, because trick-or-treating isn’t the only unhealthy, un-earth-friendly tradition that’s involved in Halloween. There are lots of ways that we can overhaul the holiday and still keep it fun and family-oriented to create the good memories but lose some of the things that a lot of us were feeling guilty about.
What advice do you have for parents who want to have a more eco-friendly holiday but don’t want to give up all of the fun?
When it comes to human nature, you need to focus on the glass being half-full. If you just make it sound like you are trying to take away the goodies, then kids will probably say “no, thanks.” But if you don’t discuss what you’re not getting, and instead you discuss what you are going to do, then my experience is that everyone will be on board.
Parents need to look at what the alternatives are, and how they can keep them fun while maintaining your family’s traditions. It’s not about deprivation; it’s about doing something good, feeling really good about it and keeping all of the great things about your holidays. Science backs the fact that people feel good when they do good things for other people and for the planet.
What are you thoughts about the other holidays?
It’s always been written in to Green Halloween’s mission to eventually address all of the holidays. There can be healthy and earth-friendly alternatives woven in to any holiday, just like with our daily lives. It’s really no different. But certainly, there are some holidays that cry out for a little bit more overhaul than others. Halloween was an obvious place to start, but other holidays like Easter, Valentine’s Day, and the winter holidays, where there is a lot of excess of unhealthy and un-earth-friendly traditions, those are the one’s we’re going to address next.
How do you get your kids involved in the Green Halloween spirit?
I think that getting your kids involved is really the best place to start. What is so fascinating to me is that it seems to be the adults who are stuck doing things the way they have always done it; whereas the kids are open to trying something new. Most children nowadays have some information about the fact that our planet is not in the best state right now and that it’s their responsibility to find ways to take care of it. It seems that school-aged kids are so excited about finding ways to help the planet and to help other people. So they just need to be given the opportunity and the chance to be heard and let their creativity go from there.
My suggestion for parents is to have a conversation with your kids and let them know that you’re looking for ways to make your family holidays better for the environment and for other people. Ask them: “What are your ideas about that?” Teenagers seem to really get in to the details about what’s going on with the planet and feel empowered when they realize that they can do things about it. For young ones, like my 3 year old, we just make the decision and set the example as a parent. Because for kids this age, it’s our job as parents to make the decision on issues of nutrition and consumerism. Children aren’t going to do the research as to the long and short term implications of various chemicals and things that are in candy. That’s the parent’s job.