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Go green this halloween

All Hallows' Eve is quickly approaching, and as we get closer to the spookiest night of the year, talk about Halloween costumes is everywhere. Store-bought costumes may seem like an easy solution if you don't have a lot of extra time on your hands, but they're rarely as interesting as homemade ideas, and they're not so great for the environment.

Many store-bought costumes bear a huge carbon footprint. Most are made overseas, and they get trucked across the country to make it to your local store. But more than that, most costumes are also made with cheap materials made from chemicals or oil. For example, many plastic or leather-look components are made with PVC, which contains the carcinogens dioxin and vinyl chloride. And PVC is an endocrine disruptor, not to mention the fact that chlorine is highly toxic to wildlife.

Moreover, when you're done with store-bought costumes, they often get tossed out in the trash, or they sit in the back of a closet, never to be used again. Homemade costumes, on the other hand, are made with things we no longer use, things that are destined for the trash, or things that we can use in a new way for Halloween.

So if you need some help with creative, easy, last-minute, and low- or no-waste costume ideas, we have you covered. Some of these ideas are best for adults, but many will also work for your kids if they're stumped for an idea.

The Paper Bag Princess

The beloved title character from Robert Munsch's "The Paper Bag Princess" is a cinch to pull off. Little kids can use a paper grocery bag, and a yard waste bag is the perfect size for a teenager or adult. Cut holes for the head and arms and scrunch up the bag for a rumpled look. Top your messed-up hair with a tiara or a crumpled crown made from yellow construction paper. Wear a flesh-colored shirt and leggings under the bag to stay warm. Bonus: You can recycle or compost the costume at the end of the night!

Pirated Music

This concept costume is subtle, so it's best for adults at a party as opposed to kids. Upcycle some old CD-Rs and go out as "pirated music" this Halloween. Looping thread through the center hole and pin the CD-Rs to your all-black clothes. People will be asking you what you are, but they'll love the cleverness of the costume when you tell them.


Get out your green dress, a pair of old pale colored nylons that have a run in them, and a coat hanger. Bend the coat hanger into the shape of wings and stretch one leg of the hose over the frame, tying the hose off with a knot and trimming the excess. If you want extra-special wings, use a clear, non-toxic glue to add some sparkles. Hang on to the wings for the kids' dress-up time, or donate them to a friend or relative who has kids if you don't.


This one's easy since so many of the things you'll need are trendy this year. Cowboy boots, a cowboy hat, a plaid shirt, and jeans or a jean skirt are all you'll need to be a cool cowboy or a cute cowgirl. Don't forget to tip your hat to people throughout the evening.

With your green costume set, all you need to do is have a happy and safe Halloween!

(Cara Smusiak is an environmental journalist and the editor in chief of NaturallySavvy.com, a website that educates people on the benefits of living a natural, organic and green lifestyle. For more information and to sign up for their newsletter, visit www.NaturallySavvy.com).

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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