A spooky situation’s brewing in the lead-up to Halloween: Supply-chain issues and shipping delays are causing bottlenecks in the distribution of seasonal goods. Halloween supply stores are reporting 10% to 25% less inventory than they usually have this time of year. But don’t be scared; think of it as a chance to think outside the box and go for eco-friendly homemade costumes.
Store-bought costumes are scary for the environment from start to finish. They’re often made from petroleum-based polyester that’s energy and water intensive to produce. Not to mention the plastic packaging they come in, which isn’t recyclable or biodegradable. These cheap, synthetic costumes are shipped across an ocean, aren’t made to be durable and often don’t last beyond one night of use.
The production and washing of synthetic fabrics drives most microplastic pollution, so even if you keep and launder your store-bought costume, it can still release toxins into water that may be consumed by wildlife. Since the Niagara River corridor is a globally significant bird area, the impacts of this pollution go beyond our local shorelines and affect migratory wildlife, as well.
And if you throw out your cheap, store-bought costume, it will end up in a landfill and may leach chemicals into the environment. One study in the United Kingdom found that 7 million costumes were tossed every Halloween. The United States has nearly five times the population, which suggests upward of 30 million U.S. costumes are trashed every year – the equivalent of filling the seats in more than 400 Highmark Stadiums.
The good news is, there are easy, budget-friendly solutions to wasteful Halloween costumes.
For starters, check your closet – you may have some clothes that can be altered with small additions or accessories. A lot can be done with materials you find around your house like fabric scraps, tape and string. Fun makeup can also be an easy way to elevate an otherwise simple costume.
If you can’t find what you need at home, head to the local thrift store or consignment shop for inspiration – who knows what clothes, home goods and accessories you’ll discover to complete your look. Try to find items you’ll wear again so you can continue to get use out of them.
If all else fails, arrange a costume swap with friends or neighbors so everyone gets a new option without a wasteful trip to the store.
We should recognize store-bought costumes as the disposable disaster they are, as we have with other single-use plastics. There are plenty of better alternatives that won’t come back to haunt us – or the wild world.
Sarah Baillie, of Buffalo, is an organizer at the Center for Biological Diversity.