Halloween celebrations during the pandemic will look different this year (who knew masks would become a new everyday fashion?) but there are still plenty of ways families can have eco-friendly fun while avoiding the scare of being exposed to or spreading the virus. Sandra Ann Harris, the author of the new book “Say Goodbye To Plastic: A Survival Guide For Plastic-Free Living” has loads of tips for celebrating Halloween—plastic-free.

We all like the fun of experiencing a fright on Halloween, but if you start to think about all that pre-packed foods wrapped in plastic, decorating our bodies with plastic glitter and costumes as well as breathing fumes from plastic-based candles, it becomes kind of spooky—even scarier to see how plastic is infiltrating our every move, especially on Halloween! Check out these easy-to-do tips that can make your Halloween just as scary, just less plastic-y.

1. Choose a Costume That Looks Best with a Reusable Mask
This way your child will get some fun and reuse out of what’s usually a one-time fashion item! Skip the blue disposable masks made from polypropylene, a plastic fabric that’s not recyclable or compostable. Instead, make sure your child’s costume has a mask that fits their mouth and nose snugly and is made with multiple layers of breathable fabric to ward off inhalation of the virus. 

2. Say Goodbye Plastick-y Glitter Face Paints
Did you know glitter is packed with microplastics that are terrible for the environment? When washed down the drain, its tiny polyester bits flow through sanitation systems into our oceans where they contaminate the environment and poison animals.

Skip conventional face paints and choose bioglitter products that are either made from plant starches or mica minerals. Don’t be fooled by PLA (polylactic acid) plastic glitter made from plant plastic polymers claiming to be biodegradable. 

Same thing goes for face paints—stick to natural pigments and ingredients. Resist the urge to buy mass-produced face paint and makeup. Though most face paints say they’re nontoxic, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics reported that 10 out of 10 face paints tested contained lead, a powerful neurotoxin, and other hard metals. Plus, petroleum-based dyes, preservatives, parabens and phthalates, and other scary toxins. 

3. Don’t Burn Plasticky Candles
Candles are everywhere at Halloween. They light up pumpkins and give an eery, flickering glow to rooms. But when burned, common paraffin candles emit toxic chemicals like toluene and benzene that are truly frightening!

Paraffin is a petroleum-derived product, like plastic. Combine the off-gassing of the burning petroleum wax with synthetic fragrances and you’ve got a spooky combination. Especially this Halloween during the pandemic when we’re taking extra care to safeguard our health, choose safe, clean-burning candles made of soy or beeswax. 

4. Create Covid-Friendly Traditions
Trick-or-treating in many communities is discouraged or forbidden this year. So plan something new like a family scavenger hunt for treats in your home, yard, or neighborhood. For eco-friendly bonus points, hide treats in reusable plastic-free containers.

However, if trick-or-treating is allowed, beware of large groups and maintain social distance at doorsteps. Bring hand sanitizer with you for the whole family and touch up as you go. Purchase sanitizer gel in bulk and refill little vials as needed between stops so you don’t create so much plastic waste.

If you’re handing out treats, keep a reusable mask on at all times and wear reusable gloves instead of single-use disposable plastic gloves. Garden gloves, dish gloves, or white cotton gloves sold in fine art stores all work well. To avoid Covid droplets entering the home, provide treats outside your home at a distance instead of having the children ring your bell. 

5. Fill Tummies—Not Trash Cans
Every kid deserves treats—especially this Halloween. The pandemic has already thrown a big wrench in things, so skip the tricks and plan a smorgasbord of fun treats that are healthy for people and our planet. 

There’s no need to fill our trash cans with plastic packaging and our children’s bellies with high fructose corn syrup, dyes, and chemical preservatives. Plus traditionally grown cacao, the main ingredient in chocolate, is frequently grown with lots of pesticides. 

Considering making your own zero-waste candy or baked goods at home as a fun DIY activity. If you’re determined to purchase candy, buy in bulk to avoid wasteful plastic packaging and look for organic products without dyes or chemical preservatives.

6. Up the Fun with Upcycled Costumes
Say goodbye to fast fashion costumes made for mass distribution. Many manufacturers use non-recyclable, petrochemical-based plastic, and synthetic fibers that can’t be recycled and end up in the landfill. Instead, make your own costume from items you have kicking around the garage.

7. Party like a Zero Waste Rockstar!
Whether you’re having a few friends over or doing a virtual gathering, consider using made-by-nature items, like pumpkins and fall leaves. Skip plastic mylar Halloween balloons, fake plastic spiderwebs as a street display, plastic tablecloths, disposable pumpkin carving tools, and other disposable decorations.

Use reusable plates, cutlery, and napkins instead of single-use paper or plastic plates, plastic cups, and single-use utensils, all of which are not recyclable. Who knew that “paper” plates are actually coated with a thin layer of plastic, rendering them unrecyclable?

8. Hit the Streets with a Reusable Bag!
Grocery stores aren’t allowing BYO bags, but if your family is lucky enough to go trick-or-treating, be sure to skip plastic bags, plastic pumpkins with handles, and other single-use totes. Grab a reusable bag (if you’ve got one that’s orange or black, even better) and go in plastic-free st‌yle!