The VU Community Garden will be composting pumpkins, such as this one carved by junior Reilly Menchaca, after Halloween season. (Photo by Maya Sandel)
The VU Community Garden will be composting pumpkins, such as this one carved by junior Reilly Menchaca, after Halloween season. (Photo by Maya Sandel)

Environmentality: Sustainable activities during Halloweentime

Check out some tips and events you can attend to help make Halloween a greener holiday

October 28, 2019

(Photo courtesy Kailey Newcome)

Halloween is just around the corner, and with it comes all the festivities, costumes and candy. While Halloween is easily my favorite holiday of the year (I love a good horror movie!), I can’t help but notice how much waste is generated by it each year. In fact, approximately one pound of trash is generated for every trick-or-treater on Halloween. In total, that’s nearly 41 million pounds of trash generated annually by the holiday. By taking part in a few campus activities and making a couple sustainable swaps, Vanderbilt students can quickly reduce the amount of waste we as a campus produce.

Run by juniors Maya Sandel and Reilly Menchaca, the VU Community Garden has been rocking the sustainability game for about a year now. Between their Adopt-a-Plant events, gardening hang outs and ever-inspiring sustainable instagram feed, this organization has changed students perspective about the ease of cultivating homegrown plants, producing organic foods and adopting sustainable processes. VU Community Garden has quite literally been making Vanderbilt a greener campus. 

In November, the group will be hosting a pumpkin composting event. They are hosting the event to help combat the waste generated when students throw away their carved pumpkins, Sandel said. According to the Guardian, 18,000 tons of pumpkins end up in landfills annually, producing methane and other greenhouse gases that are driving global climate change. The group will be joining forces with campus dining to utilize the school’s composting facilities. Tables for pumpkin collection will likely be outside of Rand, but more information will be available via the VU Community Garden instagram page. 

In preparation for Halloween, the NPHC is hosting a Halloween costume swap to reduce the massive amount of consumer waste generated every year by the holiday. Every year, U.S. citizens spend about $2.8 billion on Halloween costumes alone. If trends follow that of the textile industry as a whole, nearly 85 percent costumes get thrown out after they’re worn once. Instead of purchasing a new costume for this year’s Halloween parties, the NPHC hopes students will consider coming to their Halloween Costume Swap from 8-9:30 p.m. on Oct. 28 at the Zeta Tau Alpha house. At the swap, students can try on and exchange Halloween costumes from their peers. Not only will it be a fun and sustainable activity, but it can also save students some money, as all the organization is asking for is for a $1 donation per clothing item, or for you to bring an old Halloween costume of your own to exchange. For more information, visit the NPHC website.

If the swap doesn’t fit into your schedule, there are still some easy ways to make your Halloween costume sustainable. First off, check out the clothes you already own. If you’re anything like me, you might have an extra plaid skirt, old sports uniform or flannel lying around. These items can quickly be transformed into a school girl costume, sport team costume or cowboy/cowgirl costume. Ladies, this might give you an extra excuse to wear those cowboy boots outside of just tailgates! You can also consider reusing an old costume. Between high school and college (and admittedly costumes my mother wore when she was my age), I have a large horde of clothes I could wear for the holiday. By slightly altering the costume, you can change the look completely and have a whole new, revamped Halloween costume. Lastly, if you are truly done with a costume, just keep it around one more year. You can trade it in at the Halloween swap next year!

The spookiest thing about Halloween for me is the environmental degradation that comes with pumpkin, costume and candy waste. By taking a few of these events and tips into consideration, you can help Vandy reduce the impact we make as a campus. Stay safe, and happy Halloween, Vandy!

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