Some things are scary: monsters under the bed; redrum; the Bates Motel; Michael Jackson's Thriller video; Michael Jackson's pants in the Thriller video; Michael Jackson's face.

And some things are really scary. Like global warming. Or the degradation of precious ecosystems that sustain animal and human life. And then there are hurricanes, dying coral reefs and the 12 million barrels of oil needed to produce the 100 billion plastic checkout bags Americans use each year.

Halloween produces more than its fair share of landfill junk, but there are ways to indulge in a little fright-night tomfoolery without generating all the fearsome rubbish that causes really scary stuff like climate change. Here, to get you started, are just a few:


Make a costume out of stuff you've already got. You don't want to be one of the 12 Lamesky McLamersons to show up at your Halloween party as a generic, costume-in-a-bag catwoman. Lame. Instead, go with one of these homemade costumes ideas:

The hungry caterpillar -- Wear all green, and pin 16 white socks in two rows down your frontside. Great for kids.

A Freudian slip -- Write obscene words on your slip. Not great for kids.

Nudist on strike -- Wear clothes (you own some of these, we hope), and make a "nudist on strike" sign out of a paper grocery bag.

A whiteboard -- Wear an old white T-shirt, and tie a sharpie around your neck with a string. Let people sign you.

Static cling -- Wear all black and pin laundry items to yourself. Use gel to make your hair stand on end.

If you can't think of an interesting, waste-free costume, consider taking a moment to revive your inner child and earn back the right to play dress up in the first place.


Send kids off with pillowcases for candy collection, instead of plastic bags, and use the opportunity to explain why it's important to avoid paper and plastic in general. The little ones look up to you, even if they are dressed as punk rockers. If you're making the rounds with them, walk or bike from house to house. Consider carpooling -- if you absolutely must drive -- because who doesn't love a car full of kids on sugar high? Finally, as far as treats to keep in a bowl by the door -- go for items that are low-trash, organic, or benefit a good cause (like Endangered Species chocolate).

Vampire power

What better day of the year than All Hallow's Eve to slay the vampires lurking about your home? Yes, your home. Every single appliance you plug into an outlet -- toaster, microwave, coffee maker, TV, cell phone charger, DVD player, stereo -- can cause bleeding (to your wallet) by sucking expensive electricity from your home, even when it's not in use. In fact, Americans spend more money powering home audio products and TVs that are technically "turned off" than ones that are in use, as noted in Treehugger's short film on Vampire Power. It's estimated that consumers and businesses lose anywhere between 1 and 3.5 billion dollars per year to vampire, or phantom, power. And here's another scary stat for you: 40 percent of microwaves use more power in standby mode than when cooking food. Put an end to the ghoulish nonsense, and plug your appliances into power strips (like Smart Strip) with kill switches. Whenever you leave home -- or when you are home, but not watching TV, charging your cell phone or using the microwave, toaster oven or coffee maker -- flip the kill switch on your surge protector, and rest easy, out of Dracula's lethal grip.

Or ignore this warning, if you like. But beware, my son, the jaws that bite, the claws that catch, the three-pronged-plug's fangs that kill.

Story by Tobin Hack. This article originally appeared in Plenty in October 2007. The story was added to Copyright Environ Press 2009

Be scary this Halloween without going psycho on the planet
Go green for Halloween -- you can green your costumes, treats and even home appliances.