How To Have A DIY Halloween

Have a spooky good time this Halloween without creating scary amounts of trash or spending tons of money.

September 28, 2012
halloween jack-o-lanterns
Daniel Schweinert/Shutterstock

When I was little, we'd spend joyous weeks before Halloween delving into the dress-up chest in the attic, and cobbling together bits of this and that to come up with creative costumes. The creating was at least half the fun, but Halloween these days seems to be mostly a celebration of cheap and disposable plastic. It also seems that, just like Christmas, we have to start planning earlier and earlier, before the “best” costumes and all the good candy sell out. But it doesn't have to be like this; there are ways to enjoy Halloween while avoiding conspicuous spending and waste.

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halloween treats
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Take the trash out of trick or treat.

Whether you decide to make your own treats or buy them, hand out something other than artificially flavored and colored sugar or disposable plastic. Check out for a great list of ideas. The coolest ecotreats sell out early, so stock up now on Endangered Species Chocolate Company’s Bug Bites, small chocolate squares that come with trading cards devoted to insects—perfect for Halloween. In keeping with Fair Trade Month, the nonprofit group Global Exchange sells a Fair Trade Trick or Treat Kit that includes mini Fair Trade Certified chocolates along with cards explaining fair trade that you can hand out.

Related: 11 Natural Candies Trick-or-Treaters Will Love

bulldog in halloween costume
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Make your own simple DIY Halloween costumes.

If you have kids and don’t already have a dress-up chest, this is a great time to start one! Haunt thrift stores and yard sales for gaudy garments, jewelry, and wigs to fill it with. Elementary school-age kids love playing dress up any time of the year, so any modest investment will pay big returns long after the Halloween costumes have been returned to the collection. And the kids will enjoy the hunt for costume components almost as much as creating and wearing their outfits.


If you or your children want to dress up as something for which human clothing won’t suffice, buy something you will be able to wear again and add temporary trimmings. When my kids were little, I turned hooded sweatshirt sets into costumes by sewing on felt horns or ears, webbed wings from arm to side, and tails, to create a wide range of animals and mythical beasts. After the big night, snip the threads and you have a good set of sweats. If you feel the need for a totally awesome costume, rent one! You’ll save a bunch over buying one and it will get reused again and again, rather than gathering dust or getting thrown out once you’re done with it.